Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ICC Ghana pays courtesy call on Chief Justice

The National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, ICC Ghana, has paid a courtesy call on Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo to congratulate her on her appointment and to introduce the ICC International Court of Arbitration. 

The delegation was comprised of the Chairman of ICC Ghana, Alhaji Asoma Banda; Ghana’s representative to the Court, Nene Amegashie; Fmr Attorney General, Mrs Marietta Brew Opong; Mr. Adu Kusi and the Secretary General of ICC Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame.

The delegation briefed the Chief Justice on the work of ICC Ghana and the ICC International Court of Arbitration. The visit was also to inform her of some of the programmes that ICC Ghana is working on to help train lawyers and judges - especially in the area of dispute resolution. 

Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo, welcoming the delegate in her goodwill message said: “The intentions couldn’t have come at a better time, with the numerous cases in the commercial courts which are not necessary - particularly with passing of the ADR act which encourages parties to go for arbitration. 

But the issues have always boiled down to the issue of credibility, because this avenue will be sought when parties are confident that the case will be handled genuinely and judgement be fair”. 

She expressed her excitement that a well-recognised body like the ICC, which has gotten systems in place, is embarking on a project like this. 

She recounted her experience in Mauritius, which is gradually becoming a place for Arbitration in Africa, and said that ICC Ghana should liaise with the Judicial Training Institute on the development of training programmes for lawyers and judges.

The Chief Justice thanked the delegation for the visit, and said it was special to her since the ICC’s work compliments her own.

ICC Chairman AlhajI Asoma Banda stated that the International Court of Arbitration is the world’s leading arbitral institution. Since 1923, the ICC International Court of Arbitration has been helping to resolve difficulties in international commercial and business disputes to support trade and investment.
He indicated that the ICC performs an essential role by providing individuals, businesses and governments alike with a variety of customisable services for every stage of their disputes.

He said his motivation for promoting the court of arbitration’s work in Ghana came as a result of the numerous judgement debt awards being accrued by the state, which result from lack of adequate training for state attorneys and lack of information - particularly in cases where ADR avenues could have been employed. 

ICC Ghana, with support from the world business organisation ICC, will be running training programmes in international commercial arbitration. 

Approximately 10 percent of ICC arbitrations involve a state or a state entity.  ICC arbitration is chosen for disputes involving states or state entities in all parts of the world, although there is a concentration of cases from sub-Saharan Africa, Central and West Asia, Central and Eastern Europe.
Between them, cases from these regions account for about 80 percent of ICC arbitrations involving states and state entities. 

Cases cover both commercial and investment disputes. Claims arising out of commercial contracts constitute the largest category of cases, and the most frequent kinds are those relating to construction, maintenance and the operation of facilities or systems.  

The Chairman made an official request that the Chief Justice supports ICC Ghana in its effort to make Ghana a place of arbitration, and for the possible setting-up of an ICC hearing centre for sub-Saharan Africa in Accra - such that Ghanaian corporate bodies will be encouraged to use the ICC’s mediation and arbitration rules and clauses in their contracts; and also insist on Ghana as a genuine place for arbitration. This will help save cost, since currently most cases are held overseas; the state and businesses spend so much in getting their cases heard overseas, he stated.

The Chairman thanked the Chief Justice and said ICC Ghana will work on her recommendations, promising that ICC Ghana will do its bit to make her days as Chief Justice successful ones.

Mr. Doni-Kwame informed the Chief Justice that ICC has established a Nominations Committee made up of prominent retired Judges of the Supreme Court to propose arbitrators to the ICC International Court of Arbitration. 

He said ICC is the largest, most representative business organisation in the world. Its hundreds of thousands of member-companies in over 120 countries have interests spanning every sector of private enterprise.

“A world network of national committees keeps the ICC International Secretariat in Paris informed about national and regional business priorities. More than 2,000 experts drawn from ICC’s member-companies feed their knowledge and experience into crafting the ICC stance on specific business issues.
“The United Nations, World Trade Organisation, G20 and many other intergovernmental bodies, both international and regional, are kept in touch with the views of international business through the ICC,” he said.

Customs urged to promote international trade

The Customs Service Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has been urged to remove all barriers to trade and promote a conducive environment to attract international trade.
Deputy Finance Minister Kwaku Kwarteng, speaking on the theme ‘A Secure Business Environment for Economic Development’ at the World Custom Day in Accra said: “The processes and procedures for the importation, exportation and clearance of goods must be convenient, timely and certain”.
Mr. Kwarteng explained that the longer goods stay at the ports during clearance processes, the more insecure they become.
“The Custom Division must work toward enhancing successful movement of goods and services at the ports to help increase in the volume of international trade, which will help boost international investments and standards.”
He said businesses that are in connection with Customs activities means international trade, adding that making the country’s borders safe and secure will attract more international trade-players in the sub-region. Furthermore, Customs has a great stake in the country’s development as it is one of the key revenue mobilisation institutions.
Mr. Kwarteng also cautioned Customs officials to apply technology and international standards to increase the volumes of international trade across the country’s borders and entry points.
He however entreated Customs officials to eschew all forms of corrupt acts at contacts points, and rather focus on their core mandate.

In a speech read on behalf of the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organisation (WCO), Kunio Mikuriya, the Commissioner-General of Customs Division, Mr. Isaac Crentsil, explained: “Combating cross-border crime - including the illicit funding of international terrorism through trade activities - is our responsibility, and one that Customs takes seriously in its efforts to ensure a safe environment.”

He said this year’s theme also echoes the current Customs focus on trade facilitation, created by entry into force of the World Trade Organisation’s Trade Facilitation Agreement - as well as adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the Heads of State and Government and High Representatives meeting at the United Nations’ Headquarters in New York in September 2015 to decide on new global “sustainable development goals”.

He indicated that the theme also supports efforts aimed at unleashing the potential of women in business, or female entrepreneurs, as a means to enhance enterprise development, create more employment, and alleviate poverty.
Mr. Crentsil said the WCO will continue “to enhance the promotion of relevant tools, instruments and initiatives as well as the work being done in areas as diverse as combatting cross-border crime, engagement with stakeholders, data collection and analysis, digitisation of Customs services, effective management of cross-border e-Commerce transactions, standardisation of information exchange, strengthening Customs-Tax cooperation, tackling trade mis-invoicing and fighting corruption, to name a few”.
He said providing a secure environment for business will create incentives for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to expand their activities to participate more fully in international trade, as well as encourage them to innovate, generate employment and invest in human resources, thereby boosting economic growth and raising living standards.
The Director in Charge of the Tema Port, Mr. Edward Kofi Osei - who was making a presentation on the activities of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) and its impacts on Customs operations - said the collaboration between Customs and GPHA is to make the country a leading hub and beacon of trade and industry in the sub-region through an efficient border.

He said the Port’s contribution of about 60 percent of the country’s total revenue generation, has been made possible as a result of its good policies and measures which are attracting both importers and exporters, including countries from the sub-region.

He said factors such as improved and efficient clearing of goods by both importers and exporters have made the port attractive to them - adding that countries such as Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso pass their goods through the port due to the security provided for their cargoes.

Only 120km of rail line out of 947km were functional in 2017

Out of a total 947 kilometres length of rail, only 120 kilometres were operational in 2017, Deputy Minister for Railways Development Kweku Agyenim Boateng has revealed. 
Addressing Parliament when he appeared on the floor to answer questions on steps being taken by the ministry to ensure safety on the country’s rail network, he said the operational stretches are Takoradi to Nsuta on the Western line, as well as Accra to Tema and Accra to Nsawam on the Eastern line.
Government is keen to revamping the country’s railway system by retraining all workers of the company to ensure modern operational standards.

With the inception of freight services from Nsuta to Takoradi for hauling manganese, the remaining sections of the rail network are not operational due to tracks track’s poor state.

To ensure passenger comfort and safety, over 50 track-workers have been engaged by the Ghana Railway Company Limited (GRCL) to rehabilitate the Accra-Nsawam section of the line [Eastern line], the minister noted.

Furthermore, GRCL is in the process of securing ballast and treated wooden sleepers [railroad ties] to be used in rehabilitation works to bring the line back to good operating standards.

Similarly, on the Western line GRCL has intensified its ongoing rehabilitation of the track from Nsuta to Tarkwa.
“It is anticipated that the ongoing track-rehabilitation work on the two lines will be completed by the first quarter of 2018 for efficient train operations to commence.”

The Ghana Railway Development Authority (GRDA) and GRCL are in the process of installing additional level-crossing mechanisms at major rail road intersections to improve pedestrian and vehicular safety.

Old coaches and locomotives are being refurbished in order to ensure passenger safety before the reintroduction of passenger services; spare-parts for the coaches have also been procured, and currently 15 coaches are being refurbished.

“We will not reintroduce the service until the tracks and coaches are declared safe by the government regulator [GRDA].”

The Railway Act 2008, Act 779, has several provisions in relation to the safety of railway service operations.

Mr. Agyenim Boateng emphasised that the ministry has directed the GRDA to, as a matter of urgency, build its capacity to exercise its full power and authority as a regulator of the sector, to enable it ensure the safety of all aspects of rail service.

He added that government is collaborating with the University of Mines and Technology (UMAT) to retool and retrain workers of GRCL to improve their capacity and build a good safety culture.
As a policy, all new railway construction is expected to be standard-gauge with engineering designs that have a high level of safety.B&FT