Ghana Government To Tax Diaspora Remittances?

Tue, 28 Mar 2006 Source: Danso, Kwaku A.

What will they do with the money is the Question


This week of March 20, 2006 saw the government of Ghana make statements or suggestions about taxing remittances of money from overseas and then retracting. A report by the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on Ghanaweb of March 24, 2006 cited:

?Government on Friday denied media reports that it was considering retaining a percentage of inward remittances, saying no such decision had been made. A statement from the Ministry of Finance, signed by Nana Juaben Boaten Siriboe, Acting Chief Director, said government's intention was to promote discussion and debate on how the consequences of private inward transfers could be addressed?

This news had triggered a lively discussion on the Ghana Leadership Forum, led by Professor J. Atsu Amegashie in Canada. Later in the day this triggered a nice lengthy private letter to me [as President of GLU] from a lady in Ghana on how we could and should dialogue with the many prominent religious leaders in Ghana such as Dr. Agyen-Asare, Dr. Mensa Otabil, and other prominent leaders on how to mobilize their people to have public demonstrations to demand of the government such basic necessities of life and economic survival as water, electricity, garbage [and phone] services.

Before I could comment publicly, there is another report on March 24 denying this suggestion that I thought was ?fine but needs refinement? if Ghanaians overseas will accept it. The report is that Ghanaians in the Diaspora remittances ?for January to November last year amounted to 4.25 billion dollars, representing a 60.1 percent increase over the same period in 2004?. This projected $4.64 Billion annual remittances injected into the Ghanaian economy, as reported, does not go directly into the government hands, but to private individual?s families, building houses and so forth. We must not forget the over-bloated funeral expenditures to maintain that tradition of fake self-aggrandizing and empty show-offs at these funerals! We must not forget the children whose school fees are paid by uncles like this writer overseas. And we must not forget the funds to help nephews and nieces start small businesses to sustain themselves. We must not forget the moneys sent monthly to our parents who worked for their whole lives and have no pension or social security benefits from the same government. We must not forget the medical tests and medicines purchased to keep our relatives alive, plus hospital fees. This writer has helped pay for such fees for at least 3 relatives within the year, one of who is even a government officer whose employer could not help fast enough and would perhaps have died due to the waiting.

Folks, I in particular won't mind paying $10 for every transfer that I make if there could be verifiable trustworthy evidence that the money is being used to build sewage to make Ghana clean and mosquito-free, to build roads, stable electricity, deliver water and purchase new and updated switches and satellite bandwidths for communication. Western Union already charges us an average of $85 per $1,000 sent. Moneygram is only $15. Without these basic infrastructures mentioned, we are dead as a modern nation! Investors will come and return as they did with no comments out of ?diplomatic correctness? (or officials don?t like criticism anyway! So why bother). We can deceive ourselves only for so long! As it is now, the government leaders both of the NDC and now the NPP, take the money and buy themselves entourages of expensive $50,000 to $90,000 vehicles as government officials, and when confronted they claim that we overseas are jealous of them. They steal directly and allow foreigners to take 90% of the moneys back to their lands. Water pumps can be procured for $250,000 to help a whole city of Tamale, according to a news report, and yet the 300,000 population go without water! In the mean time nobody can SHOW ME the use of the $103 million the World Bank reported was granted to Ghana in January 2005, and neither the $500 million loan reported in 2005! Come oooon!!! Who are we kidding!? What is wrong with these officials under our sleeping Presidents? Mine or your $10 per transfer could mean a contribution this year alone of perhaps a $1,000 average each per year. Simply multiply that by say a mere only 500,000 people overseas who send money, and you have a whopping $500 Million to develop the nation of Ghana with the money from overseas. Due to the callous, selfish, greedy, and sometimes outright stupid (sorry for the word) nature of these people in power in government [perhaps people with IQs that are not impressive], they can't figure out this simple organizational concept that we even have as a wise proverb in Akan. The proverb says that if you don't let one person cut nine, then you cannot cut ten either. If your cousins overseas can send $4.6 Billion annually and support retired people and pay the kids school fees and funeral costs, why not embrace them and dialogue with them? Perhaps those versed in traditional wisdom can help give a better translation of the proverb ?wo amma wo yonko antwa nkoron a, wontwa du?.

Personal examples sometimes help illustrate better. As we talk, I have guests who arrived from the US on March 18 to stay at my fine (let me praise myself a little -smile) flats with central Air Condition [and adjustable room temperature with thermostats] in East Legon. They are left without water, not enough electricity at peak periods to turn on the AC. The phone system is Okay but has cost me another $500 in raising posts and new wires outside just to prevent damage from passer-bye charcoal trucks! I paid C140 million [$15,500] for my shipment last year and was expecting part of this used to provide such services! All this extra money of over $14,000 I have spent covering gutters, building wells and storage tanks, and transformers, could have gone into government coffers so we all do this together as members of the civilized (emphasize the world civilized!!!!) community of nations! For the estimated 10,000 homes in one district, that amounts to $140 million that should and must be managed by a City or District Council of its own, with no central government interference! As President of Ghana Leadership union, we are putting ideas and a team of lawyers together to draw city charters that will help implement this decentralization mentioned in our constitution but which nobody in Ghana seems to understand! All interested participants in all districts of Ghana interested should contact me directly at my email below.

Our ?small-minded? members of the government have disgraced the name of Ghana, and the earlier they retired from public service and all went to Affram plains or the bush to work their farms [as minority leader Alan Bagbin was trying to suggest to the public] the better Ghana would be. However, even in farming, I doubt if many of them can make it, since farming, as I saw my grandfather do it, involves some strategic thinking! Successful farming involves planning, projections and forecasting, competitive strategy, marketing strategy, supervision of workers, motivating workers, avoiding the competition for seeds from that rascal animal called Amokuaa (I forget the English name). These are very similar to the many executive decision-making that these Ministers and Public officials have failed to make! I will write more in detail in other areas on how our traditional industry can survive. They need the same kind of global strategy to succeed as the ?big boys? of American businesses do. Eventually any successful farmer has to implement an action plan from a vision to make enough money in farming to pay for their kids? school fees, feed the wives (Ooops! I used plural) and live well [buy a pick up truck or car, by local definitions and measures]. Most farmers are not able to do this due to lack of proper global level education. Could failed MPs and Ministers compete even in farming given the globally free market system we adopted under World Bank /IMF pressures? Why don't they raise their own capital instead of trying to steal from public coffers that they have not contributed to! The reason is that they cannot!

My answer to any further financial demands by government on Diaspora Ghanaians on levies and taxes and any further contribution per remittances is SHOW ME!! Show me what you did with the 2.5% taxes on personal goods and cars you charged me and others at the ports 2 years ago for Health Insurance, VAT, duties, port charging handling charges! If the ports pay the workers well and supervise them well, why would they be always making life harder for importers so they could squeeze bribes? Show me the use of the other 100% duties and taxes when I [and many other payers] shipped my goods and 2 vehicles home. SHOW ME THE MONEY!! If the people in government think they can simply do the lousy managerial jobs, don?t care for customer complaints and service, don?t invest any of the tax money in the building of our nation?s infrastructures, and simply live good off taxpayer funds and loans, they are in for a ride! The future will haunt and hunt and them! One lecturer at KNUST on our forum has called for a REVOLUTION THROUGH THE BALLOT BOX from 2008. We all have heard of ferments of new political parties. A friend here has suggested even forming the party directly from overseas first and transferring it to Ghana in a year?s time! Well, all ideas are on the ground for Ghanaians with global exposure [and skills, and integrity] to enter into politics and take Ghana back from those greedy old and dirty hands. The status quo who call themselves career politicians, take and still keep taking 200% taxes and duties on cars and goods, steal from public coffers, and keep demanding more everyday without able to deliver even basics such as water, stable electricity and phones, and show no kind of public accountability.

Long live Ghana.

Kwaku A. Danso,
President - Ghana Leadership Union, Inc.(NGO) www.GhanaLeadership.com
Fremont, Ca. USA and East Legon/Accra, Ghana

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
Columnist: Danso, Kwaku A.