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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 business desk news review

The following is a summary of my coverage of business activities in Kumasi and other parts of the country in the course of 2012. The demise of President John Atta Mills and Ghana’s electioneering are some events that had a toll on trading and commercial activities.

Public sector

At the beginning of the year 2012, the Tripartite Committee announced a new daily minimum wage of GH¢4.48, representing a 20 per cent increase.

But the public sector was hit by series of industrial action, mostly in agitation towards the implementation of the single spine salary structure.

The Polytechnic Teachers Association of Ghana (POTAG), Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU), University Administrators and the Civil and Local Government Staff Association of Ghana (CLOSAG) among others laid down their tools.

Power supply was also most erratic in the cause of the year as the Electricity Company of Ghana could no longer work with a time table on power rationing.

Residents and businesses experienced intermitted unannounced blackout. The ECG explained the company was at the mercy of the Volta River Authority, but the Consumer Protection Agency dismissed assertions that the Volta River Authority (VRA) should be held accountable for the outages and therefore asked Ghanaians to sign onto a petition in protest of the incessant power outages.

Health delivery in Ashanti suffered with the piloting of the health capitation under the National Health Insurance scheme.

Private medical practitioners declared their inability to participate in the pilot Capitation exercise, whilst the Asante Development Union launched a crusade to compel the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to suspend the capitation implementation.

Public-Private linkages

The United Nations observed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives to raise awareness among national governments on the diverse strengths of cooperative enterprise.

Ashanti Regional Department of Cooperatives called for critical attention in the use of the cooperative concept in Ghana’s poverty reduction programmes.

With the upsurge in microfinance institutions, the Ghana Association of Microfinance Companies (GAMC) braced up to protect the industry and help safeguard funds of depositors.

The group cautioned the public against giving money out without cross-checking the background of the receiving company.

Poor building construction and non-adherence to health and safety provisions in the execution of contracts led to loss of lives in parts of the country.

Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors of Ghana therefore continued to push for the establishment of a regulatory body for the building and construction industry.

The Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly also continued with its decongestion exercise at Bantama and the race course area. The forceful eviction of traders and transport operators to a new terminal at the Abinkyi market was resisted by some commercial transport owners, who insisted the Assembly allocated a bus terminal for them on the Kumasi-Tamale road because the proposed space was too small to accommodate them.

The Assembly however said the concerns of the traders and drivers had long been addressed.

In the cause of the year, Tullow Ghana Limited reiterated its commitment to support local manpower development for Ghana’s for the budding oil and gas industry.

The company announced that artisans at the Suame light industrial area in Kumasi would benefit from Tullow Oil’s investments to upgrade steel fabrication facilities in parts of the country.

Emphasis was placed on capacity building for effective technology transfer.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on non-Ghanaians in Retail Business resumed an operation to close shops operated by foreigners, after a 3-month ultimatum had elapsed.

The Ghana Union Traders Association was at the forefront of the exercise and was more concerned about shops operated by Ghanaians fronting for foreigners.

The Nigerian business community in Kumasi sought avenues to jaw-jaw with the GUTA to protect mutual interests as the group cautioned the Ghanaian authorities not to breach the long-lasting relationship between the two West African countries.

The Chinese phenomenon in Ghana’s illegal mining activities was most profound in 2012 as interest groups demanded that local assemblies acted to discourage foreigners from evading the country’s small scale mining sector.

There were also calls for support to indigenous miners to form cooperatives to gain from mining.

Meanwhile, with the passage of the local content law for mining firms, local artisans asked for capacity building to meet contract requirements.

The Suame Magazine Industrial Development Organization (SMIDO) launched a policy document to attract funding for the development of a modern automobile industrial centre in Kumasi.

Taxation and Finance

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) continued to realign its personnel to access maximum benefit from available human resource for revenue collection.

Officials noted the integration of the agencies had significantly enhanced the administration of domestic tax and customs revenue in Ghana.

But some taxpayers had not been enthused with what they described as ‘tax holiday’ for the informal sector, which the GRA explained there were arrangements to rope in majority of players in the sector into the tax net.

A tax consultative forum organized by the Tax Policy Unit of the Ministry of Finance also identified some weak links in existing tax policies.

Players in the quarrying industry particularly made a strong case for the exemption of the sub-sector in the imposition of a 40 percent increase in corporate tax for mining companies.

The 2012 National Financial Literacy Week was held under the theme “Financial Literacy-Creating Wealth and Financial Stability”.

The Ghana Microfinance Institutions Network (GHAMFIN) emphasized the need for financial institutions to be transparent and open to the public, whilst financial service providers observed that most business start ups were not getting finance because they are not tooled with knowledge on how to access credit from the right institutions.

Food and Agriculture

The 2012 World Food Day celebration highlighted the concrete ways in which agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations help to provide food security, generate employment, and reduce poverty.

However, youth engagement in farming and agribusiness remained central in most agricultural discussions.

Interestingly, a youth emerged national best farmers whilst most regions, including Ashanti had young persons as regional best farmers.

The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) emphasized the need to integrate youth in agriculture into national policies, but officials of Ghana’s Youth in Agriculture Programme (YIAP) observed that the Ghanaian youth are interested in venturing agriculture but financial constraints remained major obstacle.

Agricultural economists also observed that the more smallholder farmers produce, the poorer they become when there are no markets for their produce.

They therefore solicited government’s intervention in price control to critically protect farmers against selling bellowing cost-price.

Climate mitigation has took centre stage at the national and global levels; agricultural extension officers observed growing farmer’ awareness on the changing climate and the concept of ‘climate-smart agriculture’ was advocated as the way to go for life.

Cocoa farmers in parts of the country were exposed to information on the use and application of a new fertilizer product on the Ghanaian market.
Yara Ghana introduced the ‘Nitrabor’ product after five years of research at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to offer farmers high yields and improvement in the quality of cocoa.

Meanwhile, farmers in parts of the country were worried at the perennial delay in taking delivery of government’s subsidized fertilizer for the current crop season.

Licensed cocoa buying companies also called on the Cocoa Marketing Company and partners to pay critical attention to addressing perennial challenges in the haulage of cocoa beans.

There were calls as well for the government to pay critical attention to the pineapple industry to create jobs and contribute significantly to Ghana’s foreign exchange earnings.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) noted that the private sector could drive the agenda of improving agronomic practices to increase food production and called for private-public partnership to aid farmers to access good seeds, fertilizer and credit.

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