The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Parliamentary Minority has raised issues over the Government’s decision to restrict the importation of 22 selected strategic products to Ghana.
Dr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, the Minority Leader and NDC Member of Parliament for Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam, said the decision was in clear violation of international trade practices, and that should not happen.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Press Corps at Parliament House on Thursday in Accra, Dr Forson said he was sad to see a draft Legislative Instrument (LI) that the Government intended to lay before Parliament, which would restrict imports and create a Committee under the Ministry of Trade and Industry to grant permits to a prospective importers.
“What this simply means is that if you want to import rice, sugar, diapers, poultry and a number of items, approximately 22 selected items, you will need to go to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to see a Committee that will be constituted by the Minister before a permit will be given to you,” he said.
“This, I think is a dangerous practice, it has happened before in this country.”
He recalled that in 1967, a Commission of Enquiry, the Justice Ollenu Commission, was established to identify the corruption and malpractices relating to import licences.
The Commission’s report was clear, that the practice of restricting imports was outmoded and should not be continued because people were abusing its purposes.
“This Government is taking us back to 1967, once again….I am worried that a time will come, if you are not an NPP (New Patriotic Party) member, you won’t get licence to import something to this economy, that is unacceptable.”
The Minority Leader said Ghana was a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and that the intended practice is frowned upon by the WTO, since it was in clear violation of its rules.
“We are urging his Excellency the President to have a rethink because this is not a policy that we should encourage,” Dr Forson said.
“Unfortunately we all know that Article 11(7) of the 1992 Constitution places a limitation on us as a Parliament, the responsibility is on the President and the Vice President to take action on this matter.”
“Because from what we have seen, this has received the approval of the President and the Vice President.”
He said during the pre-laying of the LI, the Minority cautioned the Minister of Trade and Industry that the policy was not a good one, declaring that “we stand with the importers, we stand with the ordinary Ghanaian”.
“And if the Government for any reason believes that the time has come for them to ban certain items, let them do and show us reasons why we should ban them. If we have substitutes locally, that should be a government policy”woo
On Monday, November 20, Mr Kobina Tahir Hammond, the Minister of Trade and Industry, disclosed to the Parliamentary Press Corps that the Government intended to lay an LI before Parliament that would restrict the importation of selected strategic products into the country.
“The 22 items include rice, tripe (popularly called yemuadie), and diapers.
The Minister said the restriction was part of the Government’s efforts to enhance local production.