TUC calls for trade policy reforms

Mr Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry

Mr Alan Kyerematen, Minister of Trade and Industry

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for urgent reforms of the country’s trade policy to enhance domestic manufacturing and facilitate job creation.

 

According to the TUC, the country’s trade policy was too liberal to spur the development of the country.

 

The TUC said this in its proposal for the 2019 budget and economic policies of the government presented to the Ministry of Finance to be incorporated in the 2019 budget expected to be presented to Parliament next month and copied to the Times Business.

 

It said though it acknowledged the various financial support programmes government had outlined under the One District, One Factory initiative to stimulate the growth of the private sector, the support to the private sector would not be complete without a new trade policy.

 

“The national trade policy is too liberal for our level of development. Our trade policy facilitates the creation of jobs in foreign countries. There is urgent need to reform our trade policy to align it with our employment objectives. The trade policy must support domestic manufacturing and discourage imports of non-essential products particularly those that can be manufactured here,” the TUC said.

 

It suggested that government should use the existing safeguards in the international trading system to support and protect domestic manufacturers from unsustainable competition.

 

To this end, the TUC said government must strengthen the national standards and regulatory agencies to enforce our standards particularly in respect of imported items to curb illicit trade.

 

“It is time for the private sector to be supported to complement all these initiatives to create more jobs. A strong private sector offers the most sustainable solution to the unemployment challenge. There are too many constraints that are preventing the private sector to expand to absorb the rising number of job seekers,” said the TUC.

 

The TUC intimated that 2019 Budget should address the persistent weaknesses in the economy as well as the numerous social and economic challenges that are making life unbearable for the majority of Ghanaians, stressing “we expect policies and programmes that will translate economic growth and macroeconomic stability into tangible improvements in the lives of individuals and their families in every corner of the country.”

 

The TUC lauded the government for its prudent macroeconomic management which had helped inflation to trend down and boost the growth of the economy.

 

“However, we have witnessed a significant fall of the value of the Ghana Cedi this year and lending rates remain high. The depreciation of the cedi, the high cost of borrowing, and frequent increases in petroleum prices continue to impact negatively on the ability of businesses to create jobs. In fact, we have witnessed mass redundancies in the banking, mining, maritime, media and other sectors in the course of the year. These are clear indications that the economy of Ghana is still fragile in spite of the above-mentioned achievements,” the TUC said.

 

The weaknesses in the economy, it said had translated directly into high cost of living and, consequently, a decline in the standard of living across the country.

 

According to TUC, workers in both the formal and informal segments of the economy are complaining because their real earnings have been declining, especially in the last three years due to restrictions imposed on public sector wage adjustments as part of the implementation of the IMF programme.

 

The TUC alleged that many workers have had to rely on loans to meet the basic needs of their households. That means very little money remains in their bank accounts as take-home-pay after loan deductions at the end of every month. Those without jobs, including thousands of workers who have been thrown out of their jobs recently, are even more vulnerable.

 

“We expect the 2019 Budget to come up with very pragmatic measures to deal with the rising cost of living. The budget must spell out policies and programmes to translate the macroeconomic gains into a very significant reduction in the cost of living. Government must use the 2019 Budget to show how it is going to steer the economy away from taxation to production,” the TUC said.

By Kingsley Asare

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