Monday, January 8, 2018

Fishing industry in terrible shape

…growth sinks to -4.4 in Q2

The country’s fishing industry is currently on life-support, as figures by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) show that it is the only sub-sector of the agriculture sector that is currently experiencing contracting growth.

Quarter two GDP figures show that fishing sector growth has plummeted from 3.6 percent in the first quarter to -4.4 percent.

The sector has never grown above 3 percent since quarter four of 2011, when it grew by 9.4 percent. 

In 2014 growth contracted for the last three quarters, recording -1, -5, -1.9 respectively. It inched up to 1.4 percent in first quarter of 2015 and never moved above that till same period in 2016, when it grew by 1.7 percent and further dropped to 1.3 percent in the last quarter of that same year.

The GSS data underscores recent studies by other institutions which show that Ghana’s fishing industry is experiencing dwindling fortunes.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that production from marine fisheries has been declining since 1999, from almost 420,000 tonnes to 202,000 tonnes in 2014. 

Total fish exports, the study adds, showed a peak in 2003 with the value at US$120million but declined sharply to US$44million in 2014.

The FAO study also states that imports have increased substantially in most recent years, reaching US$373million in 2013. As a result, the seafood trade balance moved from a US$33million surplus in 1997 to a US$319million deficit in 2013.

Again, according to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development Mrs. Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, the country currently has a deficit of over 60 percent production - importing over 600,000 metric tonnes of fish, as it produces less than 400,000 metric tonnes.

Contribution to economy
According to the GSS 2017 Integrated Business Survey II (IBES) report conducted in 2015, the fishing industry raked in a revenue of GH₵307million - representing just 5.6 percent of a total GH₵5.48billion recorded by the entire agriculture sector.

The crops sub-sector, on the other hand, raked in GH₵5.16billion, whereas forestry and logging recorded GH₵9million.

The same report indicates that out of a total number of 54,267 persons engaged by the agriculture sector, 2,415 are engaged in fishing - representing 4.4 percent.

Data from the Ghana Investment Promotion Council (GIPC) also estimates that the fishing industry contributes 3 percent to the country’s GDP; and about 10 percent of the population is engaged in various aspects of the fishing industry.

The country is currently experiencing a depleting fish stock, with various reasons attributed to the phenomenon. 

One of the foremost challenges confronting the sector is illegal fishing, which is estimated to cost the economy about US$100million annually.

A study by the University of Cape Coast’s Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences has also indicated that climate change is partly responsible for the country’s depleting fishing stock.
Again, a challenge is the use of illegal methods for fishing - with pair-trawling, bomb-fishing, and fish-poisoning leading the charge.

Another challenge is the lack of attention given the sector compared to other sectors.source:BFT

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Bawumia pushes e-solution for tax administration

The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has asked the Domestic Tax Revenue Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority to take advantage of technology to implement an e-solution platform to administer taxes.

“I believe we have reached a stage in our development where we must adopt appropriate, current and improved technology to make tax administration convenient for taxpayers.

In Ghana for example, we have a population of 27 million, but tax payers only amount to 1.2 million.

We are dealing with a very large informal economy, and that means the burden of taxation falls on a very small number of people. We have been thinking about ways to leverage technology to broaden this tax base so that the burden of taxation will be lowered and the collection of taxes will be enhanced,” he said.

Dr. Bawumia said this at the closing of the 38th Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) Annual Technical Conference, in Accra. The five-day conference, which was on the theme: “Leveraging Technology to Enhance Revenue Administration”, brought together 209 participants from 18 Commonwealth countries and International Tax Organisations.

The discussion of the conference was developed around two sub topics: “Facilitating, Monitoring and Enabling Compliance through Technology and Equipping Staff with skills to deliver in an Increasingly Digital Environment.

Dr. Bawumia explained that with technology, tax administration will not only reduce the turn-around time for taxpayers to do business but will also improve service delivery.

He urged participants to be ambassadors of what technology could do and take the initiative in recommending e-solutions to deal with issues.

He said the Customs Division of the GRA, in September this year, started the implementation of a paperless clearance of goods from the ports, which is greatly helping in the GRA’s revenue mobilisation drive, ample testimony of what technology could achieve when properly leveraged.

“With effective tax administration we may not need to higher income and profit tax rates to increase revenue collections. Creating effective national tax systems from policy to administration remains our challenge.

And I believe the outcomes of this conference will move us a step up the ladder in building stronger national tax systems.”

Dr. Bawumia urged the delegates, especially those from developing parts of the Commonwealth, not to lose sight of what technology could achieve for revenue administration.

A communiqué issued at the end of the conference also underscored the need for deploying technology to maximise receipts from taxes.

Mr. Duncan Onduru, Executive Director of CATA, read the communiqué, which said the association recognised that domestic revenue mobilisation played a key role towards the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Communiqué said many member countries were undertaking or considering far reaching reforms and a modernisation agenda with the aim of improving their internal processes, systems and procedures to respond to the evolving needs of the taxpayers and changing business environment.

It said recognising the increasing importance of digitisation was a critical feature of tax administration of the Century; the Association adopted the theme of the conference.

It emphasised that investment in technology was critical to responding to the emerging business models as well as managing the cost of tax collection and improving compliance.

The Communiqué called for continuous engagement by developing countries during the implementation of tax policies and noted the critical role that digitisation would play in the current transparency in tax reporting and exchange of information among countries.

It further said the association welcomed the move towards the creation of the network of tax organisations as a viable platform for building synergies among organisations in their effort to provide service to the mutual members.

GRA charged to leverage on technology to increase tax

The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been charged to take advantage of the numerous opportunities afforded by technology to increase the tax to GDP ratio, and thereby help reduce the country’s dependency on aid and donor support.

“The country’s tax to Gross Domestic Products (GDP) ratio, which is quite alarming, hovers around 16% and is much lower than it should be – and that poses a challenge to the economy. Ideally, the economy should be looking at a tax to GDP ratio of about 22% to 25%.”

Professor George Gyan-Baffour, Minister of Planning, said this on behalf of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the 38th annual Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators (CATA) Technical Conference, hosted by the GRA in Accra.

The ongoing five-day CATA conference, themed ‘Leveraging Technology to enhance Revenue Administration’, is meant to engage fruitful discussions and exchange best experiences for embracing technological innovation in the day to day operation of the revenue administration. It is also an opportune time for tax administrators to catch up with how best information technology may be utilised to transform the various functions of respective revenue administrations.

Prof. Gyan-Baffour explained that due to the inherent advantages associated with leveraging technology to enhance the performance of tax administrations, government will continue to give the needed support and encouragement to GRA to adopt the necessary technological innovations that enable it to deliver the goods.

He added that government recognises the challenges GRA faces in its attempt at casting the tax net wider to embrace as many operators as possible, especially from the informal sector.

As part of the solution, he indicated that government has already leveraged technology to introduce a digital property-addressing system, and will soon introduce a national identity card system.

“We believe that these, among other measures, will help formalise the economy and help the tax administration body to easily locate businesses and potential taxpayers for registration and delivery of assessments.”

He said government abolished a number of taxes while others were reduced in the 2017 budget statement, to give breathing space to businesses as a way of encouraging productive activities.

This strategy was aimed at moving away from the imposition of numerous taxes so as to encourage production and release the business sector’s energies.

“It is my belief that businesses should first be given the opportunity to grow before governments take their fair share of taxes,” Prof. Gyan-Baffour said.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, admitting that the country’s current tax to GDP ratio is much lower than it should be, confirmed that the situation poses a serious challenge to the country’s economy.

Mr. Ofori-Atta said: “We are in the middle of our budget season, and the budget will be read on November 15; the challenges are obvious to us in terms of where we are as a nation. We need to find new ways of generating revenue, particularly since government is losing so much money through the abolishment of a number of taxes.

“As part of the modernisation and reform process, government announced a series of reforms in our 2017 budget statement.

“Arising from these reforms, some taxes – actually 13 or 14 taxes – were abolished while others were reduced significantly…But to continue with this type of reform of reducing taxes there is a need for us to find effective ways of raising revenue – mobilising through technology,” he said.

He indicated that the relationship between technology and tax administration will help Commonwealth tax administrators enhance revenue administration, and thereby improve revenue mobilisation.

Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, Commissioner-General of the GRA, urged current tax administrators in the Commonwealth to see it as a duty to pass on to future generations a more robust, functional, progressive and result-driven organisation.

He indicated that CATA’s mission of helping member-countries to develop effective tax administrations to promote sustainable development and good governance is very much in sync with the modernisation efforts of GRA.

“GRA has since its establishment in 2009 embarked on a series of tax, administrative, structural, procedural and process reforms aimed at modernising the Ghanaian tax administration and improving service delivery to taxpayers,” he said.

Chairman of CATA, Mr. Sudhamo Lal said: “The vast majority of people are doing their personal and business transactions on-line. The new generation of taxpayers no longer considers paper-based channels as the most effective and efficient way of communicating and transacting with tax administrations.

“Taxpayers are always in search of new services, and if tax administrations are not able to meet their expectations it is feared that we may end up with tax compliance issues.

“By meeting taxpayers’ expectations through technologically-accustomed officers and simplifying their service delivery experience, then these taxpayers should find it easier to comply.

“These new services can take various forms such as e-filling of tax returns, e-registration, e-payment, e-objection or automated telephony systems amongst others,” Mr. Lal remarked.

‘#OurTaxesOurFuture’ campaign to expand the tax net

A ‘National Tax Campaign’ dubbed ‘#OurTaxesOurFuture’ has been launched, with a call on the tax paying population to comply with all tax obligations.

The campaign is to ensure that citizens fulfil their civic duty by honestly declaring their taxes.
The national campaign, spearheaded by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), is being supported by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the Information Services Department (ISD) to disseminate the message to all districts, churches, mosques, markets, on mobile vans, dawn announcements, community meetings, buses and trotros.

Expected to run for the next four weeks, the tax campaign will witness a series of activities geared toward encouraging citizens to honour their tax obligations for more developmental projects.

Currently, only 1.2 million people are said to be registered for tax purposes. Out of this number, about 1 million are in the formal sector, leaving only 200, 000 in the informal sector.

The contribution of the informal sector to total tax revenue remains below 5%. This is in spite of the fact that the economy is dominated by the informal sector, which has created a huge gap in the national kitty.

This is because individuals and entities within the tax paying population are left out of the tax bracket, resulting in government not making a lot of revenue for its social intervention programmes.

Speaking at the campaign’s launch in Accra, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta applauded the GRA’s decision to embark on a strategy to expand the tax net by creating more awareness on the benefits of paying tax, and by working to improve voluntary compliance so as to increase revenue for development.

“We have, let’s say, 10 million people who are economically active. We have 1.1 million people actually paying…and doing the payee thing. So, through that, we pick up maybe GH¢3billion at the end of the year. That means we have eight million people unaccounted for.

“So, imagine if we all render to Caesar what is Caesar’s? This whole issue of our capacity to support the necessary public good, which is education, health, security, would not be something to talk to donors about, but things that we can personally fund,” he stated.

He added: “Despite the challenges with revenue mobilisation and inadequate revenue generated by the small taxpaying population, government has expressed its commitment to utilising its little resources in human capital development.

“Really, for us in government, we have to make choices, and we decided that the human capital of our society is one of the most important things; therefore, we programmed resources into, for instance, Free Senior High School. What does that mean? If we then do that, certainly other areas will be challenged – but we cannot compromise the future of our society with illiteracy. We just can’t.

“I am sure if I were to take a survey around here and ask how many people have filed taxes, a lot of us would be found wanting; but we do get on platforms and talk about what government is not doing and what Customs is not doing.”
Acting Commissioner-General of GRA, Mr. Emmanuel Kofi Nti, was confident that the successful implementation of the programme will result in greater tax compliance and increase awareness on the need to embark on this necessary civic education.

He was hopeful some of the slogans developed in line with the campaign will yield positive responses from Ghanaians. The slogans include ‘Taxpayers-Nation builders’; ‘I have paid my taxes; have you?’; ‘Every little tax helps’; and ‘Taxes help build great nations’.

Deputy Commissioner of the National Commission for Civic Education, Kathleen Addy, underscored the need for collaboration between the two institutions in the awareness creation campaign on tax compliance, and urged other state institutions to partner her outfit in civic education and awareness-creation activities.

“The NCCE, as a collaborating partner, has been engaged to carry out intensive education on tax compliance, utilising our capacity to fulfil this mandate.

“The GRA-NCCE partnership has come to stay, and as a constitutional body the NCCE will strive to ensure that citizens fulfil their civic duty by honestly declaring their taxes.”

Avnash earmarks US$100m for 1D, 1F policy

Mr. Jai Mirchandani, Chief Executive Officer of Avnash Industries Ghana Limited – the country’s most formidable agro-industrial processing company, has said it is ready to invest over US$100million into government’s One District, One Factory (1D, 1F) policy to ensure its success.

“We are investing over US$100million from next year. I strongly believe in the President’s vision in the One District, One Factory and the Planting for Food and Jobs policies. The President has the right vision and we want to be the anchor company for the policy,” he said.

Avnash Industries Ghana Limited, producer of Golden drop edible oil, has so far invested almost US$150million from 2007 into its agro-business operations and is aimed at adding value to the country’s agricultural produce and creating employment for wealth-creation.

The company is well known for its businesses in edible oil, rice, soaps and detergents, shea butter, liquors, beer, whiskey and its variants, biscuits and allied products, packing and branding of its products – including PET and hard plastic containers. It established a rice-mill in Tamale with a capacity of 450mt per day. It is a fully automated mill of Buhler make, capable of milling par-boiled and brown rice.

Mr. Mirchandani told this to B&FT on the sidelines of the maiden Malaysia-Ghana Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar (POTS), which came off in Accra.

Making a presentation under the topic ‘Branding the Oil Palm Value Chain in Ghana: Avnash’s Experiences’, Mr. Mirchandani charged the country to adopt successful oil palm models to help upscale the sector’s production volumes.

He said: “We need to leverage on models to scale-up the crop’s production and to improve the production volumes. We need to work within the local environment, we need to adopt models that have been successful locally”.

Mr. Mirchandani explained that: “We have been thinking about the development of agriculture from the perspective of others.

“We have been looking at a paradigm incorrectly, because we have tried to take models of where it has been successful like America and Malaysia.”

He explained that the focus of Avnash is to be the anchor of the agricultural industrialisation renaissance of Ghana by focusing on investments in the agro-processing sector to provide ready markets for both commercial and smallholder farmers.

Available data show that in just the first three quarters of 2017, Ghana imported 213,000 tonnes of palm oil from Malaysia – valued at US$149.1million and representing more than 70 percent of the commodity’s total imports within the period.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), an organisation that promotes the market expansion of Malaysian palm oil and its products, sees the Ghanaian market as a growing one and is targetting even more exports – particularly for the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) industry.

The 2017 import figure represents an almost 10 percent increase on the 2016 import of 203,000 tonnes, and the Southeast Asia economic giant is targetting a 20 percent increase by the end of 2017; and up to 300,000 tonnes, estimated at US$210million, by 2018.

The nation’s annual demand for oil and fat is 680,000 tonnes while local production hovers around 480,000 tonnes, leaving the gap of 200,000 tonnes to be filled by imports.

Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor, Chairman of Malaysia’s Palm Oil Council, explained that West Africa’s growing population and economy naturally means the per capita consumption of vegetable oil will increase.

Mr. Chor stated that Malaysian companies are ready to enter joint venture agreements with local palm oil companies to produce the products locally.

“Malaysian companies have entered into agreements with companies in Indonesia, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Columbia and others, and we are looking at deals like that here. We are hoping to discuss incentives and government policies on establishing palm oil processing companies,” he added.

Mr. Chor noted that: “Ghana is one of Malaysia’s biggest trading partners in this region, with the total trade between the two countries registering US$337million in 2016”.

Commenting on the trade relationship between Malaysia and Africa, Mr. Chor said Malaysia considers the West African market as an important destination for Malaysian palm oil.

“In recent years, there has been a significant upward trend of Malaysian palm oil exports into this region. Last year, Malaysia exported about one million tonnes of palm oil to all countries in the West African region,” he said.

Speakers at the seminar included renowned local industry captains and international experts from Malaysia, Ghana and the UK.  The papers covered topics on oils and fats – ranging from market outlook and trade to oil palm planting and the logistics situation in Africa – and attracted over 300 participants from both Malaysia and Ghana.

Participants from Malaysia took the opportunity to tour the 500mt per day edible oil refinery of Avnash Industries Ghana Limited to acquaint themselves with operations of the company.

The team visited various departments including the laboratory, production and refinery plants located at the Tema Port.

New application to detect ghost names ready

The Public Services Commission (PSC) is hopeful of extending its Human Resource Management Information System (HRMIS) project to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by end of year, to completely expunge ghost names from government payroll.

“The HRMIS system, when fully operational, will reduce the possibility of ghost names or people being paid double; because the system has restrictions that will not allow entry of invalid data or names of people who were not working, which will save money that could be used for the nation’s socioeconomic development,” said Dr. Lawrence Kannae, Vice Chairman of the Commission.

Dr. Kannae was speaking at an HRMIS training workshop for MDAs in Accra, aimed at providing end-users of the HRMIS system with requisite skills to operate it before full deployment later this year.

He said: “We hope that by the end of this year we would have trained 1,028 staff, mainly from the human resource, budget and accounting classes of the public service, to ensure an efficient public financial management.

“This is what is being rolled out now, and we hope that by the end of this year we will extend it to all the 120-public service organisations that are on government payroll.”

Dr. Kannae explained that the HRMIS will enable information about human resources to be linked to the payroll and subsequently with the budget, so that it will facilitate effective and efficient public financial management.

He said it will also help reduce the time required for processing documents of newly-recruited staff, and issues like promotions and updates of human resources in the various public sector organisations.
The system should reduce the time required for newly-recruited employees to obtain their first pay within a very reasonable period.

He said when the HRMIS becomes fully operational, newly-recruited government workers will be able to have their first salaries within a maximum period of two months, once their data information is captured onto the system.

“Probably, if it is initiated at an early part of the month, that employee can get his or her first pay at the end of the same month. But at maximum, within two months they should be able to get their first pay – which is better than what exists now, where a new employee may take three to six months; and even, in some cases, one year before they receive their first salary,” he said.

He explained that they were training the rest of the public services agencies and preparing them in batches to be enrolled onto the system.

Dr. Mohammed Sani Abdulai, the Project Director, Public Financial Management Reforms Project (PFMRP), urged human resource managers of the MDAs to ensure the HRMIS succeeds.

The HRMIS falls under component-two of the PFMRP and seeks to focus on completing the establishment registers for the remaining government workforce; and completing the rollout of the HRMIS core application, including establishment, profile and cost management, to enhance its coverage to all MDAs, services, commissions and all 10 regions.

The rationale for the HRMIS is to establish a comprehensive, common human resource database of all public service employees, with the view to strengthening controls around entrance, exit promotions, and positions across the various service groups.

The PFMRP seeks to achieve improvement in budget management and financial control and reporting of government, with the aim of enhancing fiscal discipline, strategic allocation of resources and service delivery efficiency through strengthened systems and procedures, and targetted capacity-building.

‘Cocoa is key ingredient for Cadbury Chocolate’

The General Manager of Cadbury Cocoa World, Mr. Gerrard Baldwin, has described the country’s cocoa as best quality and a key ingredient of Cadbury chocolates and other confectioneries.
Mr. Baldwin said that about 25% of cocoa used for making Cadbury chocolates is sourced from Ghana.
According to Baldwin, Cadbury World – through Mondelez  Cocoa Life – has rolled out a US$400 million livelihood empowerment project in cocoa-growing communities of Africa as part of efforts to better the lot of cocoa farmers.

Mr. Baldwin made these remarks when five outstanding Ghanaian cocoa farmers visited Cadbury World at Bourneville as part of a two-week visit to the UK.

Mr. Baldwin used the farmer’s visit to walk them through the company’s operations and its recreational facilities, and commended the cocoa farmers for their efforts at improving the quality of cocoa produced — encouraging them to adopt modern technologies to make cocoa farming attractive for the younger generation.

Mr. Barnett Quaicoo, the Manager of Cocoa Marketing Company Ltd. UK, described Cadbury as one of the biggest trading partners in the UK that sources cocoa beans from Ghana Cocoa Board.
Mr. Quaicoo added that the choice of Cadbury for the farmer’s visit was to allow the farmers experience cocoa processing and interact with the buyers of their produce.

Mr. Noah Amenyah, the Senior Public Affairs Manager of Ghana Cocoa Board who accompanied the farmers, said the cocoa farmers produce an average of about 2,000kg per hectare.

Mr. Amenyah indicated that the farmers had maintained best agronomic and environmental conservation practices to produce best cocoa and emerge as award winners for the 2015 and 2016 cocoa seasons.

He said the trip will encourage other cocoa farmers to work harder to win similar awards.
The farmers are Nana Kweku Adu, 2015 National Best Cocoa Farmer; Nana Opoku Gyamfi, 2016 National Best Cocoa Farmer; and Madam Martha Addai, 2016 Most Enterprising Female Cocoa Farmer. The others are Nana Johnson Mensah, Western Regional Chief Farmer; and Nana Obeng Akrofi, Eastern Regional Chief Farmer.