18 February 2014

Ghana: Gapoha and Continuing Dollarisation

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It is believed in some quarters that though, we as humans are created equal, we are born unequal, given the varied circumstances of our births. Whereas some are born millionaires from Day One or into royalty, others are born financially strapped and hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Reinforcing this notion is the generally accepted claim that to every law or rule there is an exception.

It is in this light that we would want to view the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority's continuing billing of carrier vessels in dollars, contrary to Bank of Ghana's recent anti-dollarisation directives.

Though the call of the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana on GAPOHA to stop charging vessel owners in dollars so that they do not in turn pass it on to them may have some foundation, it could amount to throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

As a state enterprise, GAPOHA's dollar stock is a national asset and in the name of national security, the law even allows the trampling of almighty human rights, should the need arise.

The Chronicle notes that GAPOHA is not among the latter day state institutions which started charging dollars because it was fashionable. Its authorization to charge in dollars pre-dates the Fourth Republic, as per PNDC Law 160.

And since it is precisely because the state's stock of dollars suddenly run down that the BoG was forced to re-install the dollar iron-curtain, we should be happy that there is an institution like GAPOHAthat can bring some dollars into the kitty.

"The Authority shall, with approval in writing of the minister responsible for Finance and subject to the relevant Bank of Ghana Regulations, maintain and keep a foreign exchange account into which a part of the revenue accruing to the Authority by way of foreign exchange may be paid ... all transactions with foreign shipping lines must be paid in foreign currency", says PNDC 160.

Though we may acquiesce with GAPOHA being the exception to the rule, we all have a duty, especially BoG and the security agencies, to ensure that all the foreign exchange earnings find their way into the national kitty without leakages.

For instance, the part of its foreign currency earnings that GAPOHA keeps, how does it convert them into Ghana Cedi? Does it exchange them for Cedi through BoG or how?

On the other hand the foreign vessel owners have no right collecting dollars from importers whose cargo they bring into the country merely because they pay landing charges in dollars here.

The airline industry pays landing charges in foreign currency at every airport that they discharge passengers, but do not ask passengers and cargo owners to refund those charges to them, because these are billed into the charges are the points of departure.

The importers and exporters association and the Ghana Shippers Council should stand their ground and insist that shipping companies similarly build their landing costs here into their charges at the point of embarkation.

The Chronicle thinks that the time Ghanaian pressure groups harassed the state, its institutions and the people at the slightest provocation, while the same groups kept mute when foreigners slapped them without any provocation, should be long past.

We should not allow any foreigner to interpret our respect for him as a sign of foolishness. For Ghanaians are anything but fools!

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