Vice President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Humprey Ayim-Darke, has asked government to adopt innovative ways of financing planned reforms at the country’s seaports without levying shippers overbearingly.
Specifically, he called for a shift from situations where shippers are made to bear the cost of revenue enhancing programmes that are introduced at the ports.
He suggested setting-up an independent institution that will rely on advanced information to generate the right duties payable to the state.
That way, he said, government will be able to rake in more revenue from the ports without having to milk shippers.
“Taxation forms part of the significant cost elements in our operations, but that is how government makes revenue to see to development.
“However, it remains so because it [government] has failed to explore such alternative avenues for tax collection, having identified a softer touch – which is to pile taxes and levies on importers and exporters,” Humprey Ayim-Darke said.
“But to drive down the numerous taxes at the ports, government must have in a place a cargo tracking system that will enable it to rake in the right applicable duties on imports.”
He added: “It should be a system that does not bring levies to the shipper or importer, but rather one in which they [the implementers] can make their money through the system”.
To him, so long as the practice of government slapping levies on shippers to finance its port programmes is allowed to continue, businesses will be rendered uncompetitive and opportunities for job-creation will be lessened.
There have been several port efficiency enhancing interventions which were downplayed by business associations in the sector owing to cost implications.
Several interventions, such as the Advanced Shipment Information System (ASHI), the Ghana Conformity Assessment Programme (GCAP), the Cargo Tracking Notes (CTN) and the quite recent cargo disinfection exercise, have all been criticised by shippers on the grounds of cost.
The kind of tracking system Mr. Ayim-Darke was referring to is akin to the proposed Cargo Tracking Note that is to be introduced by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
With the CTN, importers are to file trade and shipping documents to the CTN online portal for onward transmission to Customs to generate a unique code/number, as an assurance of those documents’ integrity for Customs purposes. But it is going to cost the shipper at least US$100 to get the CTN number to cover the consignment.
“The CTN was played down because the promoters did not do their homework well; they wanted shippers to bear the cost. It was the same way we objected to the ASHI and others,” the AGI Vice President said.
“If anybody should approach AGI with a workable system, we will be glad to recommend it to government for implementation. The system should be carried out by an independent institution; even if it is to be a government institution, they should just do the right job.
“Such a system will help to generate the true value for imports to eliminate under-invoicing and dumping so as to make businesses competitive and create jobs.”