Thursday, 11 May 2017

Should Ghana's Private Universities Not Be Relieved Of Paying Corporate Taxes?

It is extraordinary that as a people we are quick to provide tax exemptions for free-zone factories but fail to do same for the private universities helping to produce the talent pool required for the transformation of our homeland Ghana.

Yesterday, a trip I undertook to Ashesi University - easily one of Africa's most effective tertiary institutions for training the continent's younger generations' crop of ethical and innovative leaders - brought home forcefully to me the need for Ghanaian society to give tax-exempt status to all the nation's recognised tertiary institutions.

Not having to pay corporate taxes will immediately  enable all Ghana's private universities to have the wherewithal to expand and take in more students - and to recruit and retain yet more faculty members and campus support staff. Ditto be in a position to offer scholarships to brilliant students from financially-challenged backgrounds.

Having last travelled on the Berekuso-Aburi road many years ago, I was horrified to  discover the rate at which what was once a fairly good  tarred road had deteriorated.

Today, it is a hideous dirt road plaqued by erosion - with deep gulleys in places. In short it is a  shock-absorber-wrecking boneshaker of a road that desperately needs resurfacing. Hmm, Ghana - eyeasem o.  Pity.

As we bumped along at snail-paced-speed towards our destination, it struck me that if we elected district chief executives (DCE),  the road from Kwabenya to the serene Ashesi University campus atop a green Berekuso hill would not be in the state it is in today.

Since meeting the needs of the districts they run would be their priorities - as opposed to being enablers and local enforcers for the president and ruling party - no DCE worth his or salt facing regular elections every four years would sit unconcerned for such an important road to deteriorate to the extent it has today. Definitely.

Incidentally, what a sharp contrast there is between the well-maintained private tarred road leading to the hilltop Berekuso campus of  Ashesi University and the sorry state the Kwabenya-through-Berekuso-to-Aburi road is presently in.

In a sense it  is symbolic of the dynamism and efficiency of Ghana's private-sector: represented by Ashesi University's well-maintained main road -  juxtaposed against the tardiness of the Ghana public-sector Highways Authority: responsible for the maintenance of that abominable Kwabenya-through-Berekuso-to-Aburi road. 

In my view,  it is instructive that the vegetation growing along the verges of the road to the university was being sprayed as we made our way up the hill - no doubt ordered by the  ever-thoughtful Ashesi University authorities to keep snakes and other potentially harmful creatures away from the  young students who daily walk on it to and from the junction that joins that part of the main  Kwabenya-through-Berekuso-to-Aburi road. But I digress.

As we all know, ethical and innovative leadership is vital for the transformation of Mother Ghana. Many private universities are playing an increasing role in meeting that need.

Ashesi University, for example,  is focusing on producing leaders with a moral compass for whom  ethical behaviour at all material times matters -and for whom  innovative thinking comes  naturally when they enter the world of work after their graduation.

It is amazing how the founder and  president  of Ashesi University,  Dr. Patrick Awuah, has infused the university with his many good attributes as a human being.

For example, I was astonished at the many  similarities  in character shared by Dr. Patrick Awuah and the welcoming Dr. Sena A. Adjapong - who put everything aside to help me although prior to the visit I had neither booked an appointment to see her nor  spoken to her beforehand  about my planned visit. Ditto the helpful, soft-spoken male receptionist.

Ashesi University positively exudes goodness: From the helpfulness and cheerful demeaners of the faculty members and campus support employees of various categories, to the well-mannered and gentle students - full of earnestness - huddled together in conversations around tables in the  open;  to the cool air that envelopes their beautiful hilltop campus'  well-designed and well-built modern  buildings set in a lush landscaped setting.

Such a cutting-edge, thought-leadership producing tertiary institution is a valuable asset for our nation and deserves to have the burden of corporate tax removed from those administering it - to enable it train greater numbers of morally sound and innovative leaders for Ghana's younger generations.

Finally, in light of all the above, one hopes and prays that our nation's ruling elites will take all the needed steps to ensure that the heavy burden of having to pay corporate tax is removed from the shoulders  of those running Ghana's private universities.

After all, in a sense those who set  up Ghana's private universities do so as their contribution to nation-building, do they not? Taxing those tertiary educational institutions they gave birth to is crippling many of them.

(Incidentallty, perhaps the Ghanaian media ought to launch a campaign to get the government to grant all Ghana's tertiary institutions - both public and private - tax-exempt status. In the long run such a policy will increase the talent pool from  which media houses can recruit some of the brightest and best university students graduating annually. Food for thought.)

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