The Trade and Industry Minister designate, K. T. Hammond, has thrown his weight behind Cabinet’s decision to curtail the importation of a number of foreign goods as a measure to promote the manufacture and consumption of locally made ones.
He said he felt scandalised to see how the importation of items such as poultry, rice, beverages, palm oil, second-hand vehicles and clothing were having a terrible effect on the cedi and the country’s foreign exchange.
“Cabinet has already put in place a committee since October last year to specifically cut down the importation of some 50 foreign goods to 20 items and this will save the economy,” he said.
Appearing before the Appointments Committee of Parliament yesterday, Mr Hammond said: “I find it scandalising that we are importing guts and bladders of animals to Ghana to complement our food and in the year in question ( 2021) the imports totalled $164.57 million.”
He added: “I thought this is a little bit of a scandal. I have looked at the documents in which Cabinet has indicated 50 areas of concentration that the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Finance Ministry should make sure there is concentration on those areas to facilitate the development of those involved.”
“If you look at the quantity of rice that is imported into the country it is worrying, when there is installed capacity in the country,” he stated.
Mr Hammond spent over four hours responding to questions on a number of issues from the 25-member committee, chaired by Joseph Osei-Owusu.
They included his take on import substitution, revamping local textile industry, reducing trade barriers within the West African corridors, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the banning of second-hand goods, the government’s flagship programme such as One-District-One-Factory and tax incentives for local businesses.
Mr Hammond said the importation of foreign goods had worked against the consumption of locally produced ones.
In his view, the concentration on locally produced goods had waned because “we are getting everything by way of importation”.
He said that while there were policies to curtail unbridled importation, those policies had been “in the doldrums and they should be brought to life”.
“Economically, it is on paper and it has been discussed and practicalised. The banks should help to finance these companies,” he said.
On what he would do to revamp local industries, Mr Hammond expressed his commitment to Cabinet’s decision to grant tax waivers and financial incentives to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to be properly placed to take advantage of the (AfCFTA).
He also gave an assurance a that he would see to the implementation of a stimulus package being put in place by the Trade Ministry to revitalise existing Ghanaian companies that had collapsed.
“The government, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, seems to be quite clear what has to be done. They have decided to invite specifically, strategic and giant industries such as pharmaceutical and automobile industries to set up plants in the country.”
“I have seen the documents, discussions and notes and if we are able to actualise the framework that have been put in place, we should be making some headway,” he said.
He, however, called for a serious look at the particular types of products being produced by local manufacturing firms in order for them to be best placed at producing quality products that could spur economic development.
“What Cabinet has put in place gives me comfort that we should be able to surmount some challenges facing our businesses and take advantage of the free trade agreement,” he said.
Revamping collapsed firms
On how he would assist the business community to take full advantage of the AfCFTA, the nominee said if the government and other players could harness the full potential of the agreement, it would help the country’s industrialisation and trade advancement.
“We should go through the proper protocols in establishing the proper procedures of trading arrangements, ensure competition and ensure that our businesses are properly supported to be able to engage in this competition.”
“There have been talks about tax incentives and Cabinet is also prepared to grant financial incentives to our small and medium enterprises and even the micro enterprises to be properly placed to take advantage of the agreement. We should look at which particular type of products we are best placed at producing to enhance economies of scale to ensure that we develop our economy,” he said.
He told the committee that the Ministry of Trade and Industry had also put in place a 10-point development plan to revamp the economy.
Besides, he said, the ministry had put together a stimulus package to revitalise some companies that had collapsed.
Bryan on Ayawaso
When he took his turn, the nominee for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Bryan Acheampong, said no one was killed during the January 31, 2019, by-election at the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency.
The Abetifi Member of Parliament, who at the time was a Minister of State at the Ministry of National Security, insisted that the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the disturbances did not mention his name as having committed any offence.
He said he was cleared by the White Paper which formed part of the commission’s report
The retired soldier of the US Air Force admitted that the Ayawaso incident had been his Waterloo.
Mr Acheampong said he sympathised with those who were injured and added that all of them were taken care of by the state at the 37 Military Hospital
Mr Acheampong told the committee that when given the nod, he would, in the next two years, focus on improved seed to increase food yield.
He said he would also make agriculture more attractive to the youth by focusing on the land tenure system and the availability of capital.
The nominee assured the committee that he would promote large-scale farming especially in the area of rice production.
Mr Acheampong gave an indication to drive food security and export to rake in foreign exchange, and also to serve as buffer in times of emergencies.
Aware of the challenges facing the National Buffer Stock, including delay in the release of cash, he promised to ensure that the issue becomes a thing of the past.
“Mr Chairman, I want to lay a solid foundation for large-scale agriculture in the country,” he told the committee.
On the issue of free fertiliser, the nominee said he did not subscribe to 100 per cent subsidy to farmers but would push for support for area specifics such as school farmers.
Mr Acheampong applauded his predecessor for driving the Planting for Food and Jobs initiative, promising to improve on the various modules under the programme.