Sunday, 23 February 2014

Give Tax Incentives To Ghanaians In The Diaspora Establishing Businesses In Ghana

The remittance of various sums of money back home to family members  and friends, by  Ghanaians in the Diaspora, ensures the survival of millions of Ghanaians.

Those sums of money sent to friends and family, by Diasporans, are  also an important source of foreign exchange for our national economy - which is why the government must do more to encourage Ghanaians living abroad to invest in Ghana.

 The story of a hardworking and wealthy  Ghanaian-American couple,  who live and work in the U.S., which I  have intimate knowledge of, ought to be a case-study  for the managers of our national economy.

They have  set up a warehousing and logistics company in Ghana,  to offer off-road heavy equipment transfer trucks (some capable of carrying even the over 72-tonne Abrams tank used by the U.S. military), which are designed to literally go anywhere - be it through desert, muddy terrain or flooded areas - to deliver loads.

 Thus far, they have shipped three of those specially designed off-road  go-anywhere trucks to Ghana. Alas, the increase in levies and taxes on imported vehicles, has forced them to  halt any  further shipments of trucks to Ghana.

The question is:  why does the government of Ghana not provide tax exemptions for Ghanaians in the Diaspora,  who want to set up businesses in Ghana?

The couple in  question,  had plans to build warehouses, a workshop to service their fleet of off-road  go-anywhere trucks, and build hostels, hotels and houses on plots they own in prime areas  of Accra and Kumasi - in a land portfolio valued at over some  US$10 millions.

 It is a real pity that such high net worth Diasporans are not targeted by the Ghana Investment Promotion Authority (GIPA). They could make a huge difference to Ghana's economic outlook - creating jobs galore and contributing to our GDP significantly.

If the couple in question had tax exemption for their warehousing and logistics business,  for example, they could bring in as many as  twenty  trucks,  by the end of this year - as well as a similar number of trailers and low-loaders.

Surely, the time has come to give tax exemptions to Ghanaians in the Diaspora,  who want to set up businesses in Ghana? That Diasporan  couple in the U.S., alone,  could have provided hundreds of jobs for: drivers; mechanics; masons; carpenters; architects; advertising companies; lawyers; surveyors and sundry consultants - at a time when such opportunities for employment are few and far between. Pity.

One hopes that the powers that be will consider  giving tax exemptions on plant and equipment, imported into Ghana, for use by the businesses of Ghanaians in the Diaspora, in the next budget.

Diasporans with businesses in Ghana are long-term investors who are here for the long haul - and won't flee when  things get tough in the real economy, from time to time: unlike your average foreign investor seeking short-term gains in emerging markets.

 If properly supported, by being given tax exemptions for plant and equipment imported into Ghana for their businesses,  Ghanaians in the Diaspora - who collectively are worth their weight in gold -  could easily  become the backbone of our national economy: poviding hundreds of thousands of jobs and capital for investing in long-term projects. A word to the wise...

Saturday, 22 February 2014

If Iran Wants Ghana's Cocoa Let Them Build A Cocoa Processing Plant Here

Apparently,   Iran wants to buy cocoa beans from Ghana. If our leaders were wise, they would  ask the Iranians to build a cocoa processing plant in Ghana instead,  to export its products to Iran.

Why allow Iran, which says it is a good friend of Ghana's, to join the long list of nations that prefer to import raw materials from Ghana, instead of setting up factories here to process raw material such as  cocoa beans and create jobs, add to our GDP and enable our nation to enjoy an overall positive trade balance - rather than helping to perpetuate the neo-colonial structure of our economy?

The government must not make the same mistake that was once  made  when a delegation of businesspeople - apparently  including some even prepared to build a factory here to process cocoa beans,  as their  Plan B,  if their request was refused  - came from Malaysia to discuss the purchase of cocoa beans from Ghana.

 The Malaysians got exactly what they wanted, and departed with an assuarance of direct access to Ghana's famed cocoa beans - forever freeing them of the tyranny of  the international cocoa market's speculators (such as Amajaro's Anthony Ward). Yet,  they came prepared to build a cocoa processing plant in Ghana, to export its products to Malaysia - a positive outcome that would have led to a win-win situation for both nations. Pity.

 As much as possible, we must discourage the export of raw materials from Ghana, and point those who want to import raw materials from our country,  to set up processing plants here instead. In the long-term, it is the only way to prevent our currency from becoming worthless.

Such a policy will provide  young Ghanaians with  jobs. And if a law is passed that requires such investors to have local partners,  or float shares on the Ghana Stock Exchange after a given period, it will  also keep some of their profits in Ghana too.

Let us build mutually beneficial relationships with nations that profess to be our friends - instead of forever remaining globalisation's hewers of wood and drawers of water. Iran is welcome to as much of Ghana's cocoa beans as it wants  - if  it builds processing plants here to export what they produce for use by its confectionary industry. One hopes the hard-of-hearing geniuses who rule our nation will pay heed to this humble suggestion.  A word to the wise...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Ghana's Power Sector Utility Companies Must Be More Creative

Instead of piling on yet more agony for electricity users in Ghana,  by  constantly  reviewing their tariffs upwards, the power-sector utilities must be more creative in running their businesses. One of the excuses often  used to justify higher  tariffs, is that it will enable the power sector utilities modernise their plant and equipment.

The question Ghana's overtaxed and overburdened population would like the Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCO),  the Volta River Authority (VRA), the Bui Power Authority (BPA) and the Electricity Corporation of Ghana Limited (ECG) to ponder is: to obtain more funds why don't they ask the government of Ghana to offload 40 percent of its shares in all the state-owned utility companies in the power sector on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE), and use the interest-free capital thus  raised,  to modernise their plant and equipment?

 Secondly, why don't they use cutting-edge ideas to make their businesses more efficient entities? For example, would the VRA and the BPA not produce power more cheaply, if they built mega-windfarms off Ghana's shores in partnership with global  class-leading  Chinese giant-windpower-plant manufacturing companies,  and used the U.S. company Hydrogenics' power-to-gas technology to supply gas to their thermal plants? They can inspect an example in Germany: the commercial power-to-gas plant in Falkenhagen operated by E.On and Swissgas (commissioned on 28/8/2013).

 Let them ask the genuises who rule us to invite Hydrogenics' top brass  to Ghana to discuss such a project with them. Perhaps they could persuade the American government's Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to pay for one in the next compact with Ghana, which addresses the country's inadequate power generating capacity.

And would the ECG too not make money, as well as  save power generated by the VRA and BPA, whiles helping to cut down electricity bills for their customers, if it partnered Deng Limited  and adopted  the innovative U.S. solar energy company SolarCity's business model: installing solar power systems - which the partnership would own, not the customers on whose roofs they will be installed - and charged customers  a fixed monthly sum for the solar power produced?

Ghana's power-sector utility companies must lower their production  costs by becoming more efficient. That can be achieved through  innovativation - not endlless tariff increases in a nation with an overtaxed population such as ours. Enough is enough.  A word to the wise...

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Time To Pull Together

It says a lot about the characters of Professor Mike Ocquaye and Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom that unlike many in the parties opposing the ruling National Democratic Congress regime of President Mahama, they  have not sought to make political  capital out of the crisis of confidence the country's economy is currently experiencing. Clearly, they care about Mother Ghana, and worry about the plight of the ordinary people of our country.

They have shown, by the positive statements they have made about resolving the difficulties facing Ghana - highlighted by the falling value of the Ghana cedi - that they are mature politicians who are morally fit to lead our nation. This is no time to exploit the crisis facing our nation. What Ghana needs now are politicians who are  men and women  of goodwill - not those for whom politics is a dirty game in which one  kicks one's fellow human beings when they are down.

 Responsible politicians must put aside personal ambition and party advantage at times like this. This is a time when we must pull together as a people and work hard to resolve our economic difficulties. It behoves those who are now in power,  and those who oppose them and want to replace them in governing Ghana,   to be  more responsible in their utterances and actions. We must all contribute to solving the problems facing Ghana. Let us pull together - for  we sink or swim together. A word to the wise...

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Ghana Should Partner Ryanair To Set up A Pan-African Low-Cost Carrier

A young acquintance of mine observed recently that  he had the distinct impression that our hard-of-hearing politicians never learn from  past mistakes made by their predecessors in office. And how right he is.

When Ghana Airways was deliberately  killed off,  to enable its assets to be bought cheaply by a well-connected few during the Kufuor-era, yet another group of influential individuals, then profiting mightily from President Kufuor's golden-age-of-business-for-a-favoured-few, also spotted an opportunity to milk Ghana dry - and Ghana International Airlines (GIA) was born.

Alas,  both airlines were plagued by not-so-good management - and endless interference by politicians in their operations. That never-ending meddling by politicians  doomed both  airlines - leading to their demise.

It is said that our  rulers today also dream of setting up a national airline. The genius who is the sector minister whose ministry has responsibilty  for the airline industry, is apparently about to appoint "a transaction advisor" (who might or might not  take advantage of Mother Ghana), to help the government take the necessary steps to enable it realise its goal.

 Well, one hopes that for once, the national interest - as opposed to the greedy ambitions of a powerful few - will guide the regime currently in power, as it goes about the business of setting up a new national carrier. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o.

If the government wants to get it right this time round, here are a few tips from a humble old man who loves Ghana passionately:  to begin with, let them secure bilateral air agreements with all the member-states  of the African Union.

That will give them considerable leverage in any negotiations for a partnership agreement with a potential partner - as it delivers a one-open-sky across the continent for the partnership.

Let them also remember that an  airline offering point-to-point travel between major cities across the continent meets a vital  need in today's Africa - which is why any airline offering safe air travel across Africa has bright prospects.

And whatever it does, the current government must ensure that the business model of the new national carrier, will be the low-cost model.  If they want an airline in which the government of Ghana has a stake, and that will be efficiently run as well as profitable, then let them invite Ryanair's Michael O'Leary to Accra for talks about a partnership between Ghana and Ryanair to set up a pan-African airline,  offering safe and well-maintained  aircraft to satisfy the wanderlust bug that seems to have infected so many of the continent's fast-expanding middle-classes - leading them to crisscross the continent in search of  business and pleasure.

 Mr. O'Leary (whom they can reach through Tullow Oil's founder,  Idan Heavey, a fellow Irishman) will make a perfect partner for Ghana. He must be made aware of the fact that his great rival, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Easyjet's founder, is setting up a pan-African airline, Fastjet, using the low-cost model. There is no question that a partnership between Ryanair and Ghana, will take a huge chunk of the passenger traffic from Europe and north America to Africa and vice versa - if the low-cost business model is adopted by the partnership.

Above all, we will have the opportunity to honour sister nations across the continent,  by naming the partnership's  aircraft after them - generating priceless  goodwill for the partnership. Well, one hopes that  the Hon. Dzifa Attivor will pay heed to one's two-pesewa widow's-mite contribution to the  nation-building effort - by opting for the low-cost business model for the new national airline, whenever it is established. A word to the wise...

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Why Every Member Of Ghana's Parliament Who Loves The Nation Must Read Solomon Kwawukume's Book - "Ghana's Oil: Towards Maximum Benefits"

In 1965 a book entitled, "Neocolonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialsm", was published by Ghana's president at the time, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. So alarmed were the Western powers by its contents that they resolved to remove President Nkrumah from power.

Their fear was that the book's contents would  undermine their interests in Africa. They therefore had to make sure that the pan-Africanist politician who  authored it  did not remain in power, to spread its race-uplifting and liberating message across the continent - and implement policies based on it in his native Ghana.

 Solomon Kwawukume's book, "Ghana's Oil and Gas Discoveries: Towards Maximum Benefits", ought to be required reading for every patriotic Ghanaian - particularly the younger generation.

In a sense,  it is just as influential in what it seeks to do, as Nkrumah's "Neocolonalism, The Last Stage of Imperialism" - open the eyes of its readers and enable them foil the greedy ambitions of those malevolent foreign interests that seek to exploit Ghana's oil and gas deposits, with very little benefit to its people.

It is amazing that 49 years after the publication of  "Neocolonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism", our ruling elites  are still allowing our resources to be exploited for returns far less than  they are actually worth, by foreign corporations - because it benefits them personally.

A bill has just come before Ghana's Parliament - the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill, 2013 - for passage into law. If passed into law as it stands, it will allow foreign oil companies to do to Mother Ghana what the foreign gold mining companies have done to her over the years: gang-rape her.

Each member of Parliament ought to read Mr. Solomon Kwawukume's "Ghana's Oil and Gas Discoveries: Towards Maximum Benefits" before agreeing to permit what will in effect amount to giving away a total of some US$160 billions in assets belonging to the people of Ghana, to foreign oil companies.

Yet, for this bonanaza, those foreign oil companies are investing less than US$10 billions in production costs,  to exploit those selfsame  assets. Ghana's share of those US$160 billions is  a paltry US$20 billions - and, now, thanks to that inequitous bill, soon, we will also be stumping up our share of costs too: the financial equivalent of a time-bomb that will cripple our nation in the not too distant future, as sure as day follows night.

When the first Europeans came to our shores centuries ago in search of gold, our leaders at the time accepted worthless bric-a-brac in exchange for valuable gold. Members of Ghana's Parliament must not make the same mistake in 2014 - by sanctioning this wheeze to deny Ghanaians what is rightfully  theirs.

The question our members of Parliament must ponder is: if Tullow Oil was happy to sign the kind of production agreement it did with the Canadian oil company Africa Oil to exploit its Kenyan concession, why would it balk at signing a similar one with Ghana?

Food for thought for our ruling elites - who seldom do any thinking when it comes to protecting the national interest: what benefits the majority of Ghanaians at any given point in time. The citizens of Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia wouldn't live as well as they do today, if their leaders were as deliberately ignorant as our leaders have been, in utilising their oil and gas deposits, would they?

 In considering the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Bill, 2013, members of Ghana's Parliament ought to remember that posterity will never  forgive them for selling  Ghana short at a time of extreme national need  with their eyes fully open. If they want to be on the right side of history in this matter, let them read Solomon Kwawukume's "Ghana's Oil and Gas Discoveries: Towards Maximun Benefits".  Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o - asem ebeba debi ankasa!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Time To Make The GWCL A More Efficient Entity

Perhaps the time has now come for the government of Ghana,   to consider selling some of its shares in the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL),  on the Ghana Stock Exchange (GSE),  to the general public, in an IPO, to enable the company raise interest-free funds for its operations and expansion projects,  across the country.

The shining example of the hugely  successful partial privatisation of GOIL, the state-owned oil marketing firm, shows how allowing ordinary people and private-sector  institutional investors to buy shares in state-owned entities on the GSE,  can transform the fortunes of such companies, in dramatic fashion.

The discipline of listing on the GSE will force the management of the GWCL to become more focused on making the company a going concern that responds to the needs of its customers - instead of continuing to remain a financial basket-case providing cushy sinecures for a mostly-unproductive workforce with archaic work practices.

It is totally unacceptable that it takes so long for the company to attend to and repair burst pipes along its distribution-pipeline network. Surely, there ought to be timelines with completion dates within which such repairs should be carried out?

The GWCL must make the improvement of  its supply of treated water  to customers across the country a priority. It is only when that happens and water is supplied on a reliable and sustainable basis nationwide  that it can justify asking its biggest corporate customers such as Coca-Cola,  the breweries and other manufacturing companies  to switch to using  prepaid meters.

And  what is the point of asking customers to pay their water bills at various banks, if those payments are sometimes  not immediately transferred to the GWCL's accounts, and consequently not reflected in the bills sent out to its customers,  even months afterwards, one wonders? That is simply unacceptable in today's Ghana - in which banks are networked and cash transfers between accounts virtually instantaneous.

Water is life. To ensure public health in Ghana, the entity responsible for  the nation's drinking water supply, ought to be a more efficiently run company,  providing a reliable service nationwide. Let the powers that be take steps in that direction via the GSE swiftly. Now. Nothing else will do in a nation that aspires to be the gateway to Africa.  A word to the wise...

Monday, 3 February 2014

Remove Taxes On Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Companies In Ghana As Soon As Practicable

Ghana's pharmaceutical industry has great potential. It could become a major foreign exchange earner for our country. It is therefore crucial that whatever can be done by the government,  to make the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector of our economy,  globally competitive, is done.

Tax exemptions for plant and raw materials,  for factories producing drugs for hospitals and  pharmacies locally, and for export to sister nations  in West Africa (and elsewhere in the continent),  is one of the ways the government can help make such pharmaceutical companies competitive.

 Another measure that will help the pharmaceutical  industry in Ghana thrive, is to increase the number of drugs restricted for local production only,  from the current 14. Locally produced drugs are often of the highest quality - and enable the public to have access to safe medicines: a real boon in a world awash with dangerous counterfeit  drugs.

 No matter how strapped for cash government might be, the new taxes imposed on pharmaceutical manufacturers in Ghana,  must be removed as soon as practicable. They will stifle the industry unnecessarily - and lead to some workers losing their jobs. Yet, the industry could be a leading source of drugs for many  nations in Africa.

In order to have a positive balance of trade, and if our currency is to stop losing its value against other currencies, the enterprise Ghana definitely needs to export more than it currently does. If a conducive environment is created for the sector, leading  pharmaceutical companies such as  Ernest Chemists, Kinapharma and LaGray could all help increase the volume of Ghana's exports - and create jobs galore for younger generation Ghanaians.

Imposing taxes on the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector  is counterproductive,  and in the long-term, definitely  not in the national interest. It is said that health is wealth. Companies producing medical drugs in Ghana are key partners in making this a nation with a healthy population.

For that reason, the government would be wise to remove all the newly-imposed taxes on Ghana's  pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. And, swiftly. A word to the wise...