Feature Article of 2007-11-29

Tax Policy in Ghana is not the problem ....

Tax Policy in Ghana is not the problem, misappropriation of taxes, loans and aid money is the problem. The recent announcement (GNA-Ghanaweb, November 23, 2007) by the NPP Minister of Finance, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu to impose taxes on air time of cellular phones brings to question what many people are asking about Ghana’s heavy duties and taxes and how the moneys are used and accounted for. Ghanaians earn an average twenty times less than their counterparts in Europe and North America. And yet the poor Ghanaian is forced to pay two to three times the prices of imported manufactured items including cars, car parts, machinery, electronics, cement and building materials, fabric and ordinary breakfast cereals. The difference is taxes imposed by government. It is to be noted that even neighboring countries with less resources than Ghana, Togo and Ivory Coast, have les taxes on cars and many items. It is a shame for a nation to make no effort to reduce government expenses but keep imposing higher taxes on needed products and services such as petrol, while ignoring the obvious loopholes due to poor management.

GNP as a government in waiting has no problem with tax schemes in Ghana except for the high percentage and number of fees and taxes at the ports and the eventual distribution of revenues in the nation’s regions and districts. GNP would rather have Ghanaians pay for Ghana’s development through fair taxes, than the NPP and NDC Governments that have perfected the art of begging to the point where Ghana’s pride eroded internationally. GNP would rather seek resources within Ghana through fair taxation spread to all income brackets than the huge loans NDC bequeathed, and the NPP government compounded for the past seven years thus puts a burden on the next generation of Ghanaians. Not even the partial international loan forgiveness given to Ghana recently would ease the burden. The forgiveness was spread over a period of more than a decade, as was reported. The other major issue is the taxation without accountability. This will never happen in GNP’s administration.

Ghanaians by nature like decent things in life and are a sharing society. One can therefore say that taxing Ghanaians fairly for the country's development is not a policy that anybody would oppose. After all who would not like to have water and good roads, knowing that water from tankers cost twice or more than what they would pay if they had pipe water directly to the house! The NPP government’s priorities in disbursing tax revenues, loans and aids funds concerns Ghanaians. Ghanaians are not willing to see their tax revenues used for state ministers’ huge salaries and over bloated benefits. Ghanaian government ministerial salaries and benefits do not conform to what the country can afford. Do we really need that many state ministers, everybody with free cars, houses, petrol, unlimited travel and other allowances? How can Ghana ever balance any budget with unlimited and uncontrolled expenditures in the executive branch of government!

The NPP tax policy on mobile phones airtime being peddled around by the minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Mr. Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu (NPP MP for Asante Akim North) is not creditable when the NPP government can not account for billions of cedis taken in by other tax schemes. Any one who cares to follow the monetary waste in government reported by the Parliamentary Finance Committee and that of the auditor general office would see why Ghanaians would not buy into this tax scheme. Mr. Minister, get your government’s accountability system in order then come back and talk about tax schemes.

Once accountability is established and layout disbursement plan for every tax scheme proposed, then Ghanaians would listen to your policy. For example, the minister failed to explain where and how the mobile airtime tax revenue would be spent. Ghana communication system is a mess. It takes businesses or individuals years to get line phones not counting on the bribes they have to pay. No developed country has ignored line phones, and cell phones are only used as additional but not sole means of communication.

GNP would be fully accountable for every pesewa of tax money taken from Ghanaians. If this was GNP tax policy, the tax funds would be invested on developing communication infrastructure. The benefits for the end user (mobile phone owners) would be very obvious. GNP would rather lay out the communication infrastructure problems and how we are going to address them before discussing taxes on mobile phone airtime with Ghanaians. One may ask what the government does with the 100% and 200% duties and taxes levied on imported vehicles! Has the government been able to construct any motorways and highways to ease traffic since the duties and taxes were started in the 1980s? Taxation without accountability can be compared to public thievery, and that is not the impression the Honorable Minister wants to give of his policy. It is time to change this mindset of collecting taxes and not providing public accounting of the use of the moneys.

Ghanaians do not have a problem paying their fair share of taxes, but when you look at the roads, the gutters, the water situation, the power shortages, which will soon reach a critical situation again, and above all the Parliamentary Finance Committee and auditor’s reports, then you can see why this Government should not even be taxing Ghanaians at all.

We must make it clear that when the Government starts instituting discipline, enforcing laws, and punishing corrupt officials for pilfering from the public purse, then GNP would support any tax scheme meant to improve the lives of the people in Ghana.

By Gilbert Salam, Toronto, Canada
On Behalf of
Ghana National Party
Contact: Ghana National Party, Accra, 233-21-411-973 or in Toronto at 416 885-3332 and by email at gsalam87@hotmail.com.

Source: Salam, Gilbert
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