Friday, November 18, 2016

Tax practitioners discuss ‘Gender and Tax in Africa’

Thirty five tax specialists, practitioners and researchers from 14 countries have participated in a three-day workshop on ‘Gender and Tax in Africa’.

The workshop, organised by International Centre for Tax and Development (ICTD) in collaboration with the Ghana Revenue Authority was aimed at facilitating a discussion of the various issues surrounding women and tax in Africa, it was also to develop a research agenda on gender and taxation in Africa.

Speaking at the conference in Accra that drew lessons from the revenue collection agencies of participating countries like Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, Nigeria and Malawi, an official at the GRA, Dr. Alex Kombat, explained that the GRA is considering allowing women to take front line in tax administration and collection in the country to help deepen compliance and transparency whiles boosting confidence in revenue mobilization system.

Proposing a tax relief in favour of women in small businesses, Mr. Kombat explained that Ghana is yet to replicate this system being practiced by Kenya where, its implementation will ensure that female taxpayers in the Ghana may soon be enjoying some tax incentives in order to promote equity and improve their livelihoods.

This comes on the back of a latest research commissioned by the ICTD in partnership with the GRA and the Ministry of Finance and other international tax related agencies.

The need for taxes and domestic revenue mobilization has also become apparent as funding and donor support to developing countries, have reduced.

As a result, researches have also revealed that various tax regimes across the world put women at a very disadvantaged position compared to their male counterparts. This is also aggravated by the disproportionate allocations by the various governments, to issues concerning women and children’s rights and socio-economic development.

Mick Moore, CEO, ICTD explained that until recently many African countries tax collection exercise was mainly done by men as there is a lot of corruption practices in the tax collection.

A study conducted by ActionAid has revealed that many developing countries are spending less than 0.03 percent of their GDP on Ministries that are focused on women’s rights and empowerment. 

Despite the fact that women engage in majority of unpaid care work such as caring for children, fetching water and performing household chores, they are equally subjected to same tax obligations compared to their male counterparts.

Capacity Building Manager at ICTD, Dr. Jalia Kangave explained that there is the need for governments to reconsider policies affecting women and taxation as their disproportionately represented in the lower economic status ladder.

“Because at the end of the day, in most societies, women are the ones that hold the society together in terms of childcare and other related responsibilities and duties… but in most cases, women are disproportionately represented in the lower income levels, so we are looking at what ways we can use tax system to make things better for women,” Dr. Kangave remarked.

Towards gas self-sufficiency

In the next decade, government estimates suggest, thermal generation will constitute 80% of the country’s source of power, and gas will be a critical feed stock. 
Government has, therefore, set itself the task of ensuring that the country’s own gas resources are efficiently exploited, even as we rely on foreign gas via the West African Gas Pipeline as well as Liquefied Natural Gas projects that are in the works.  

Speaking at the Meet-The-Press Series in October, 2016, Petroleum Minister, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, described the gas sector as being arguably the “major game changer” for Ghana’s economy.

“We are therefore systematically developing additional gas fields and ramping up volumes in existing fields…We estimate that with the various projects lined up, gas volumes from indigenous fields will reach 350 mmscfd by 2019, enough to generate over 2000MW of power,” he said.

“Additional volumes will in the long term provide the opportunity for Ghana to realise its vision to utilize gas for other industrial uses beyond power generation such as fertilizer and petrochemicals.”

The Sankofa project 

Government has, thus, demonstrated its commitment to ensuring timely delivery of a number of projects, including the Sankofa Gye-Nyame (OCTP) gas project, which is a major gas project. 
In January 2015, Government signed an agreement to begin work on the Sankofa Gye Nyame field. On 30th April, 2016, H.E the President cut sod for the construction of the Onshore Receiving Facility (ORF) at Sanzule – Ellembelle in the Western Region to receive lean gas from the Field. 

On September 22, 2016, all parties, including the World Bank, ENI, GNPC signed the Indemnity Agreements providing the $700 million security package to back the over $7 billion investment project.

This signing ceremony signalled an achievement of one of the major milestones and conditions precedent for the financing and delivery of the project. 

Government considers this guarantee by the World Bank as significant for a number of reasons: It is the largest Partial Risk Guarantee by the World Bank. It is supporting the largest ever foreign investment in Ghana. In this project, GNPC holds 20% stake in both the oil and gas. It is a game changer in Ghana’s gas sector. And the project demonstrates the Government’s commitment to forging the right partnerships to achieve energy security for the people of Ghana. 

Gas Master Plan

The government of Ghana recognises that one of the daunting challenges of the gas sector is developing the appropriate infrastructure for cost effective and sustained gas delivery to consumers.
The Petroleum Ministry is, thus, taking steps to address infrastructure gaps and delivery requirements in a gas strategy outlined comprehensively in what is termed the “Gas Master Plan” which has been approved by Cabinet. 

The Ministry has begun work on the development of a Gas Policy and a Gas Act that will provide transparent regulatory framework for the gas industry. It will address infrastructure requirements; funding, institutional mandates for gas sector agencies and provide a revised gas pricing policy reflecting the country’s developmental priorities.

In the words of the sector minister: “Ghana has entered the gas era with clear potential for our economic transformation.”

Ghana Gas Infrastructure Project
The Atuabo Gas processing plant, which has a capacity of 150mmscf/d, is currently supplying about 80 mmscfd of gas for power generation. The plant is also producing about 500metric tonnes of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) per day, which is about fifty percent (50%) of national demand. 

In addition to the main project, several ancillary projects within the Gas corridor are being undertaken. These include the construction of asphalt road network, including construction of bridges for the safe evacuation of the LPG from the gas processing plant. 

In anticipation of Sankofa gas which will be available from the 2nd Quarter of 2018, Ghana Gas has commenced procurement and installation of a Mainline Compressor Station. 

Furthermore, to minimise interruptions to gas supply, Ghana Gas is installing a backup overhead compressor. 

Evacuation of Gas from West to East
To ensure bidirectional transportation of gas between the two critical load centres of Takoradi and Tema, and guarantee flexibility and security of supply, Ghana Gas has completed the extension of its pipeline to the battery limit of the West Africa Gas Pipeline Company’s (WAPCo) Regulatory & Metering Station at Aboadze and it is awaiting WAPCo to interconnect.

In the long term, a 290km onshore pipeline to ensure gas supply reliability and downstream infrastructure expandability is planned.

“The petroleum sector is awash with good news because it has ushered Ghana into a new gas era that will guarantee our energy security, increase oil production, empower Ghanaians to be in the forefront of the industry through local content and local participation, and a liberalized downstream sector with strong private sector participation where competition and better customer service is making Ghana the preferred destination for doing business in the sub-region,” Kofi Buah said. 

Prepared by the Communications Department of the Petroleum Ministry

As oil palm expands, African nations agree to protect forests

Central and West African countries have promised to protect their tropical forests from being cut down to make way for palm oil crops, in a declaration signed on Wednesday by governments representing more than 70 percent of Africa's tropical forests.
Palm oil, one of the world's most widely used vegetable oils, is a fast-growing business and a major cause of tropical deforestation worldwide.

The seven countries that signed the declaration in Marrakesh, where international climate talks are taking place, want to expand into the $50 billion global palm oil market.

The countries, however, also are home to about 13 percent of the world's remaining tropical forest, particularly in the Congo Basin region.

Those are at risk as the palm oil market expands, toward an estimated $88 billion a year by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum.

"It's really exciting and important that these countries which are about to expand into the market have learned from the path that (Malaysia and Indonesia) took," Dominic Waughray, head of public-private partnerships at the World Economic Forum, said in a telephone interview.

Indonesia and Malaysia export about 85 percent of the world's palm oil. Malaysia has already cleared much of its forests to grow the crop, and Indonesia is in the process of doing so, Waughray told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The World Economic Forum hosts the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a partnership of governments, companies and non-governmental organisations, which produced the Marrakesh Declaration.

About half of global tropical deforestation is driven by beef, soy, palm, and paper and pulp. But palm oil is probably the biggest driver of the four commodities, Waughray said.

It is used in a host of everyday goods, from soap to breakfast cereals, as well as for frying and fuel.


Some of the pressure on governments to protect forests comes from major buyers such as Kellogg's, Unilever, and Procter & Gamble, which aim to strip deforestation from their palm oil supply chains by 2020, Waughray said.

Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever - a major palm oil buyer - welcomed the signing of the declaration.

"Palm oil, if produced sustainably, can play a key role in poverty alleviation by helping farmers thrive economically while adopting sustainable agricultural and business practices," he said on Wednesday.

Under the declaration, governments have also promised to protect the human rights and livelihoods of indigenous people and smallholder farmers, and help them access the booming market.

"Deforestation has often been linked to human rights violations," said Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, co-chair of the International Indigenous People's Forum on Climate Change.

"People are losing access to the land they have always lived on and farmed. I hope this declaration will be an example to the rest of the region and encourage other tropical forest African countries to follow in the commitment," she said in a statement.

The seven governments are the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, the Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.

The declaration "is not just about environmental sustainability, it's also transparency in that supply chain (including) respecting and managing the rights of indigenous peoples groups," Waughray said. Reuters