COVID-19 offers best opportunity to refine economy; GAWU advocates import restrictions

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CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD) Senyo Kwasi Hosi
  • CBOD advocates full utilization of oil resources now

COVID-19 presents the best opportunity to refine the Ghanaian economy by making it less reliant on imports and boosting the opportunities for local entrepreneurs to sustain future growth, two major advocacy groups have noted.

Senyo Kwasi Hosi, Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Chamber of Bulk Oil Distributors (CBOD) and Edward Kawereh, General Secretary of the General Agriculture Workers Union, believe that there would be no better opportunity in the foreseeable future for Ghana and Africa to transform their economies if the COVID-19 season expires.

The two believe that the energy and agriculture sectors would play a huge part in economic transformation due to the critical role they play in determining inflation and ensuring good micro and macroeconomic indicators.

Mr. Kawereh is of the view that one of the frustrations that has come in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is that of international trade laws. For him, many countries have and are breaking international trade conventions to ensure that they keep citizens safe and maintain a strong economy while the virus is impacting negatively on socio-economic conditions and lifestyle.

He wants deliberate policies to restrict importation of goods and services that the country has capacity to offer. “COVID-19 present opportunities and a disadvantages. An opportunity in the sense that, less import could come into the country and we can deliberately reduce our imports into this country for the purpose of allowing domestic production to take over, using the COVID-19 as an excuse.

This is a dream we have always had but with a liberal economy like ours, and also the fact that Ghana has signed onto many World Trade Organization (WTO) protocols, you could not do much. But COVID-19 has given us that leverage, we need to take advantage of it to reduce our imports,” Mr. Kawereh told the B&FT in an interview.

He added that specific policies should be put in place to nudge importers to purchase the same goods they import from local producers while at the same time measures are put in place to sustain local production. “That balance is what we in GAWU would like to see implemented surgically, in a targeted form and also in a manner that deliver the desired result.”

On his part, Mr. Hosi stressed that inward looking has become the trump card and trade decisions of countries like Thailand and China should give a clue as to how to salvage and grow an economy during a pandemic.

“Thailand and China cut the export of rice. People are thinking about themselves and it is time for Africa to think about our own self. We have a future to protect, we have resources to utilize now, so that we can build an economy that can sustain our people for the future,” Mr. Hosi said.

Speaking as part of a webinar on COVID-19 and Fossil Fuels in Africa organized by the United Nations University Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (UNUINRA), he is of the conviction that for the energy sector COVID-19 is one thing that has fast tracked the transition and re-orientation into what would be the fourth industrial revolution.

“Our dependence on hydro carbon will need a proper rethink and our attitude to it would also need a major rethink. COVID-19 is presenting us with the perfect opportunity for a major paradigm shift in our approach to running our economy and managing our resources. Our resources are key to our ability to transition from our current economic goals. We would need our oil and our gas to really power the energy to deliver the future we need.”

He noted that the slump in oil prices points to a bleak future for crude and governments must start to look at ways to preserve some of these resources for future generations and another part should be optimized now.

“It is time for us to get out as much fossil fuels that we can get out as soon as possible. The only good thing and clean thing we are going to find is just gas. So, number one, policy must change and we have to ramp up production as quickly as possible. We are not major players as a continent on the OPEC field so we need to now look within like you have seen other countries like China, Thailand and the Vietnam do during COVID-19.”

 

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