Addressing the Ghanaian community in Belgium on Tuesday, President Akufo-Addo said, “The issues of the ports are very serious issues.”
This followed the resident Ghanaians’ pleadings with him and his government to take another look at import duties collected at the ports.
Indicating that “there is a commitment to look at it,” President Akufo-Addo pointed out, “Recently, the investigating agencies have come across a syndicate of some 19 Customs officials together with representatives of three-four freight-forwarding companies and allegedly…the evidence they have uncovered indicates this syndicate has been responsible for the loss of GH¢1.2 billion to the state.”
This, he noted, is just one group in the sector and that “If you aggregate what has been happening across board, you will be dealing in billions of cedis of revenue that is lost to the state and which will mean that we don’t have to go cup in hand begging foreign donors et cetera to burrow and develop our country.
“We have the means…we say we want to build a Ghana beyond aid; we have the means to develop our country ourselves. We have the human and material resources to develop ourselves if only we will organize ourselves properly and act honestly.”
He pledged, “We are going to unearth all these syndicates and those that the evidence is there for trial; we will go for trial; we will go to court.
“I as president, I’m not going to pronounce anybody guilty; that’s not my business…that’s the business of the judges of our country.” He assured, “We are going to be continuing with these investigations and find a way to block these holes.”
The Ghanaian residents in Belgium said import duty back home is one of their major concerns.
Even though they recognized the need for government to raise revenue, president of the Ghana Council said, “The calculating formula which they use make it very excessive compared to our neighbouring countries.”
They pleaded with President Akufo-Addo and his government to as it were, do something about the duty together with the bureaucratic bottlenecks and corruption at the ports, whiles lauding the government for the introduction of new policies to streamline activities at the ports.
President of the Council suggested that government should consider the option of putting in place a mechanism that would enable Ghana’s foreign missions assess some of the import duties, especially with regard to vehicles and equipment, so that they will be paid into special bank accounts in the countries of origin of goods to be imported before the importer comes to Ghana.
The Ghanaians in Belgium implored President Akufo-Addo to add ‘export revenue’ to his government’s ‘Planting for food and jobs’ policy so that “the Ghanaian and the African community in the Diaspora form a huge potential for Ghanaian foodstuffs.”
President Akufo-Addo has since agreed to talk to the minister of food and agriculture to consider the suggestion when he returns home.
Nana Addo recalled with nostalgia how in the 90’s most Belgian supermarkets were importing pineapples from Ghana.
He expressed concern that due to the excessive use of pesticides and wrong application of fertilizers, Ghana is unable to meet the phyto-sanitary standards, for which reason one Ghanaian business man famously known as King Solomon who used to sell 1.5 tonnes of Ghana’s okro in Antwerp in a week, is now compelled to import the item from Uganda and Jordan and garden eggs from Togo.
The Ghanaians in Belgium have therefore, stressed the need for specific farms to be cultivated with well-trained farmers for the management of food exports.
President Nana Akufo-Addo has promised to push for such mechanisms to be put in place in the interest of Ghanaians and their businesses.
Present were Ghana’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium and the country’s representative at the European Union (EU) and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), Novisi Abaidoo; Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway; Deputy Chief of Staff, Francis Asenso-Boakye and Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Brussels, Belgium