Business News of 2014-02-26

$1.5bn spent on importation in 2013

Ghana spent a total of $1.5 billion on the importation of consumables in 2013 while a sum of $1.3 billion was lost in export revenues as a result of the decline in cocoa and gold prices in the same period.

As of 2013, the import bill of the country continued to rise to $17 billion while the country’s debt to GDP ratio currently stands at 52 per cent. A breakdown of products imported included rice, sugar, wheat, tomato products, frozen fish, poultry and vegetable cooking oil.

Making these known at his second state of the nation address to Parliament Tuesday, President John Dramani Mahama bemoaned the dollarization of the economy, noting that forex holdings stood at over $3 billion as of 2013.

Irrespective of the challenges, President Mahama maintained that Ghana remained the most attractive investment destination in West Africa that guarantees peace, safety, stability and security.

“As with the taste of any bitter medicine, this turbulence we are going through is temporal. I assure you that we shall begin to see the benefit of the sacrifices we are making very soon,” he said.

Ghana Infrastructure Fund

President John Mahama noted that work had commenced on the Ghana Infrastructure Fund which is intended to reduce the overreliance of public institutions on the public debt stock.

He explained that institutions such as the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Ghana Gas Company, VRA, the Ghana Airport Company and GNPC will be able to finance their investments through the fund without burdening the public debt stock.

Revamping of local industries

President John Mahama reiterated the need to add value to raw materials to increase exports and reduce the importation of cocoa products, gold among others.

“We must add value to our cocoa by increasing domestic processing, we must refine our gold before export. We must pursue Nkrumah’s dream of an integrated bauxite and alluminuim industry and halt the export of raw bauxite. We must revamp TOR, BOST, VALCO, Tema Shipyard and Dry Dock and the many other strategic industries that serve as extra pillars for our economy,” he said.

According to President Mahama, he has tasked the Minister of Trade and Industry to request that the Export Developemnt and Agriculture Development Fund be extend to assist local investors who will in turn increase their production of consumables such as poultry, rice, tomatoes, vegetable oil and fish.

He noted that the financing for the construction of a new sugar processing plant in Komenda had been finalized and discussions are in place with a private investor for the construction of another sugar processing plant in Savelugu in the Northern Region to reduce the importation of sugar.

“I have tasked the minister to speak with operators of flour mills and introduce incentives for the production of composite flour that incorporate more of local flour from products such as cassava, maize and sorghum as was done in the brewery industry,” he added.

President Mahama said a joint venture agreement between TOR and petrol Saudi was being finalized to revamp the operation of the oil refinery to reduce the huge amount of foreign exchange spent on the importation of finished petroleum products.

Made in Ghana campaign

President Mahama stressed the need to encourage the production and patronage of made in Ghana goods to reduce expenditure on the importation of goods and services.

According to him, he has tasked the COCOBOD to enter into a strategic partnership to produce jute sacks in Ghana by importing the jute fibre and sewing of the jute sacks locally.

“When this is achieved, COCOBOD will be required to halt the importation of jute sacks for cocoa and buy all it sacks locally,” he said.

He further noted that he has requested the board and management of the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) to encourage the local manufacture of electrical products such as cable, transformers and meters by purchasing from local producers who meet their quality standard.

“Mr Speaker, we will this year launch a broad campaign to encourage Ghanaians to buy made in Ghana goods. Any import items we buy as Ghanaians constitute an export of jobs in this country especially in respect of the items for which we have comparative advantage to produce,” he noted.