Sea ports all over the world have been used as strategic tools for national developments in various countries , hence countries with sea or river ports may be the envy of landlocked states.
The manner in which a port is used to accelerate national development is dependent on the priorities of the state and how its policies are structured to favour the ports operations.
Currently, Ghana has 2 sea ports ( Tema and Tarkoradi) with the Tema port being the largest and busiest with a high annual cargo through put. But the nature and manner in which successive governments treat the port raises doubts on whether the governments see the port as a “cash cow” instead of a tool to accelerate national developments.
The customs, a section of the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) which is responsible for the mobilization of revenue from the ports has huge yearly revenue targets which it is supposed to meet and the customs would strife hard to meet this targets through all means possible as its ability to exceed or meet this huge annual revenue targets has become one of its key performance indicator.
Whiles it is an undeniable fact that a developing nation like Ghana needs enough revenue to support its budget, it is also necessary not to overlook the difficulties that such huge revenue expectation from the port causes to businesses and its multiple effects on the standard of living in the country.
Ghana is a major importation based economy and It is a fact that one way to discourage the importation of certain goods is to tag such goods with huge import duties, however there are certain goods that the nation cannot help but import as it has a comparative advantage importing those goods rather than manufacturing them here. examples are vehicles, earth moving and industrial machineries etc. But the huge import bills levied on this goods makes them either impossible to import or very expensive to buy here.
It is therefore a common knowledge to see importers abandon their goods especially vehicles at the ports as they would sometimes need twice as much as the amount at which the cars were bought just to clear them from the ports. Those cars that are cleared are also sold at exorbitant prices just to break even.
Other goods and services that pass through the ports are not also spared from this huge import duties and
the customs is much concentrated on milking the “cow” (port) as it (customs) is given a pat on the back for exceeding annual revenue targets.
As a developing country Ghana needs lots of revenue (internally generated) to support its annual budget however, the government rather needs to widen the tax net to include certain areas in the economy and also strengthen the tax collection process instead of increasing the burden on the already existing tax sources. There are many loop holes in the tax collection system, for instance how many landlords actually pay property tax?. Widening the tax net would ensure that every sector contributes its quota to national developments and reduce the incidence of tax on the already existing tax payer.
Government should begin to walk the talk and practice what it preaches.
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