Govt suspends benchmark reversal …President recommends wider consultation

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has directed the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to suspend the implementation of the reversal of “benchmark values.”

The directive, according to a source at the Presidency, is to allow for wider consultations with the relevant stakeholders.

It comes on the backdrop of complaints from traders opposed to the reversal, who want it to be “sufficiently considered” before a decision on implementation and its timing.

The main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), kicked against the policy, describing it as callous and insensitive, while the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) welcomed it, saying it would help in creating employment locally, boost the manufacturing sector and make the country competitive on the global market.

According to Jubilee House sources, consultation has begun and the expectation is that by January 17, a greater understanding of the impact and essence of the policy would have been achieved among stakeholders.

The GRA, in a statement dated January 2, 2022, signed by Assistant Commissioner for Communication and Public Affairs, Florence Asante, indicated that effective January 4, 2022, the Customs Division of the GRA would begin the implementation of the reversal which would affect all 43 items to which the reversal was applied, including the home delivery value of vehicles, goods to which benchmark values are applied and all other relevant goods.

The GRA again in a statement dated January 7, 2022, announced the postponement of the implementation of the reversal to January 17, 2022, to allow for a storage-free period for vessels that discharged cargo on December 31, 2021, to go through clearance without being affected by the reversal of the policy.

According to the release, effective January 17, 2022, any Bill of Entry (BOE) presented without payment of duty and other taxes or deposit of security (where it is a suspense cargo) will be affected by the policy.

A bill of entry, according to the release, shall require reprocessing to be affected by the new policy.

The government in 2019 introduced the benchmark policy in accordance with the World Customs Organisation’s policy of regular review of valuation database.

Under this policy, certain commodities are benchmarked to the prevailing world prices as a risk management tool to reflect the true market dynamics with regard to these commodities.

The 2019 government policy took into consideration factors such as protection of health, the environment, and security, as well as protection of local industries.

In line with the reversal, series of engagements have been done with relevant stakeholders with the aim of reaching a consensus on the implementation of the policy.

 In all, 43 items on the list were expected to be affected by the review.

Business groups in the country kicked against the recent decision by the government to suspend the 50 per cent benchmark values on selected goods and the 30 per cent on vehicles.

Their opposition to the policy followed a November 25, 2021 crunch meeting by the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), comprising 68 trader associations and other business groups.

GUTA, on behalf of the business groups ahead of their November 25 meeting, said the conditions that necessitated the introduction of the policy had been worsened, following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GUTA said, “The policy of reducing the benchmark values did not come out of the blue. It was introduced in 2019 to save businesses in the country from total collapse as a result of the very high import duties, other numerous taxes, high fees and charges on imports ranging between 55 to 65 per cent draining our capital.

“This unbearable situation led to the outcry and serious agitation by members of the business community, especially importers, who called for a drastic reduction in the cost of doing business in the country.

“In view of the aforesaid, we are stating without any equivocation that we shall not accept the reversal of the benchmark value reduction policy, and we hope with all due respect that the government will listen to our voice and avert any rift and unrest in the country.”

BY TIMES REPORTER

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