Huge relief for shippers as “paperless port” takes off

September 5, 2017
Source: l Ghana
Huge relief for shippers as “paperless port” takes off

It seemed a little over-ambitious when the Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, announced somewhere around the first half of the year that importers and exporters could soon be able to get their consignments through the country’s seaports in less than 4hours.

Fast-forward today and those visionary comments have brought about a new breeze of optimism over the dominant blue economy; the kind of optimism that could drive up investments in ports infrastructure and also empower businesses within the ports enclave owing to an expected drastic reduction in the cost of doing business.

Effective Friday, September 1, 2017, importers and exporters started requesting to take delivery of their consignments; provided cargo related documentations; and made payment for all applicable duties and taxes using the convenience of the electronic platforms provided by Westblue Consulting and GCNet.

The B&FT sees this revolution to be more than timely due to the socio-economic relevance of the sea trade sector both in terms of international trade and job creation and gives thumps up to all and sundry whose commitment and efforts have helped to translate a promise into an action.

The decision to go paperless with the country’s ports was born out of the government’s quest to streamline unnecessarily complex clearance procedures in line with international best practices and standards as well as enhance transparency in the valuation processes to boost revenue generation.

We commend the support and goodwill efforts of sector actors including but not limited to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), the Ship- owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), as well as the GRA Customs Division and its technical partners, GCNet and Westblue.

We believe that the paperless clearance of goods at the seaports—with that of the airports under consideration—will greatly enhance the country’s fortunes as the trade and logistics hub of the West African region.

We anticipate the new wave of hope and business enthusiasm pervading the maritime sector to have ripple effect on other economic areas, especially on businesses whose activities are directly linked to shipping.

We hope that gradually, shippers will say “good bye” to the burdensome demurrage cost, which will invariable drive down inflation for the end-consumer to experience the wave of change at the ports.

Long overdue

Tourism in Ghana has its fair share of challenges. Apart from the infrastructural deficiencies including lack of roads, electricity and water to tourist sites, the sector is also suffering from multiplicity of avoidable taxes.

These challenges, especially the unnecessary or ‘killer’ taxes have seen the industry’s players aggressively lobbying and advocating for not just a reduction but a proper streamlining of the tax regime in the sector.

As the fourth biggest foreign exchange earner in this economy after gold, cocoa and oil and also one of the largest and most stable employers, tourism must be given the needed attention to ensure the inflow of much needed FX and keep these hardworking and passionate Ghanaians at work.

This is why a move by the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), the industry regulator, in opening talks with relevant regulatory bodies in the industry to harmonize the multiplicity of taxes and fees that hospitality facilities pay is seen as a major boost to the sector.

Hotels and other hospitality facilities in the country pay about 21 different fees and charges to regulatory authorities including the GTA, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS), Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), district assemblies.

For such a crucial industry, employee in excess of 300,000 Ghanaians, such taxes and fees serve as a major disincentive to operators and this has led to some businesses cutting cost, just to stay afloat, with others closing shop because they couldn’t stand it any longer.

With the economy recovering from a debilitating three-year energy crisis, the tourism sector is suffering from high cost of electricity with players complaining about paying much more than the stipulated increment in electricity and water tariffs.

If the government really wants to promote private sector growth and create the jobs that can both be environmentally-friendly and improve livelihoods, tourism is one of the sectors to look at aggressively.

We, at theB&FT, are urging the GTA to speed up the discussions with the other authorities to streamline the tax and fees regime to avoid duplicity and remove the unwanted taxes and fees to reduce the burden on these facilities.

We believe that a properly regulated industry, with relevant taxes to pay, adequate human resource, and improved infrastructure, will see astronomical growths and position Ghana as the continent’s destination when it comes to hospitality and tourism.