The government will soon descend heavily on exporters of ferrous scrap metals when it accelerates the passage of the bill to render it a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment or a fine.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Haruna Iddrisu, disclosed this last Thursday, barely an hour after he was sworn-in as the substantive minister for the sector, at a meeting with members of the Ghana Steel Manufacturers Association, and the Greater Accra Regional Scrap Dealers Association at the ministries in Accra.
According to the Minister, he had decided to use the first 30 days as Minister of Trade and Industry to push for the bill to mature into law, and to that end, he would be in Parliament on Wednesday 20th February 2013, to lay the bill and count the next 21 legal days to graduate into law, so as to protect the local steel industry.
He noted that it was the wish of the government to ensure that local industries flourish, and that it would endeavour to provide the needed climate for them to grow.
Mr. Iddrisu regretted that even though there was an administrative ban on the exportation of ferrous scrap metals, the product leaves the country's ports in droves.
The Minister stated that he had given priority attention to the local steel industry, as the first assignment he is tackling, after he was sworn-in. Haruna lamented on the recent scandal that rocked customs, in which 33 containers of ferrous scrap metals, which were seized and remained in the custody of the revenue collection agency, disappeared.
According to him, all those found to have had a hand in the scandal would face the full rigours of the law. He bemoaned the situation where the local steel sector was operating at less than 30 percent of its capacity, and stated that due to its sensitivity to the economy, everything possible would be done to ensure the needed raw material to feed the mills.
Haruna Iddrisu also expressed grave concern about the local textile industry, whose plight, he said, had engaged the government's attention. A representative of the exporters of ferrous scrap metals, Hajia Namao, who was present at the meeting, appealed to the government to reconsider the decision to criminalise the exportation of ferrous scrap metals, and rather find a way to levy its export.
She stated that those in the business had also employed quite a number of persons, which had reduced that burden on the government. According to her, the main reason for the emergence of the export market was the inability of the local steel manufacturers to effect prompt payments to scraps supplied them.
The exporters, she said, were able to advance funds to the scrap suppliers to go into the hinterlands, whereas the steel manufactures cannot do same.
Hajia Namao further stated that the exporters were prepared to sit with the manufacturers to strategise, so that both sides could survive in the business.