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Suspend reversal of benchmark values for wider consultation – President Akufo-Addo directs GRA

President Akufo-Addo addressing Ghanaians on Christmas Eve 2020

President Akufo-Addo addressing Ghanaians on Christmas Eve 2020

The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has directed the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to suspend its planned implementation of the government’s policy directive on the reversal of the reduction of values of imports on selected items, known as “benchmark values”, from 4 January 2022.

Asaase News sources familiar with the president’s directive said that President Akufo-Addo has asked for the policy to be delayed to allow for wider consultations. It is also in order that the complaints of traders opposed to the reversal be “sufficiently considered before a decision on implementation and its timing is finally taken”, they say.

Asaase News sources further indicate that consultation has begun and the expectation is that by 17 January greater understanding of the impact and essence of the policy will have been achieved among stakeholders.

GRA statements

The Ghana Revenue Authority, in a statement dated 2 January 2022 and signed by Florence Asante, assistant commissioner for communication and public affairs, had announced that from Tuesday 4 January 2022, the Customs Division of the GRA would begin to implement the reversal.

The action, the GRA said, would affect three commercial categories: the home delivery value of vehicles, goods to which benchmark values are applied and all other goods.

But in a second statement dated 7 January 2022, the GRA postponed the implementation of the reversal to 17 January 2022 to allow a free storage period for vessels which discharged goods on 31 December 2021 to go through clearing and not be affected by the reversal of the policy.

According to this statement, effective Monday 17 January 2022, any bill of entry (BOE) presented without payment of duty and other taxes or deposit of security (in cases involving a suspense cargo) will be affected by the policy.

The release stated that a bill of entry would require reprocessing in order to be affected by the new policy.

Consultation

The government introduced the benchmark policy in 2019 in accordance with the World Customs Organisation’s policy of regular review of valuation databases. Under the policy, certain commodities are benchmarked to prevailing world prices.

Benchmarking is a risk management tool, geared towards reflecting the true market dynamics of commodities.

The 2019 policy also took into consideration factors such as protection of health, the environment and security, as well as protection of local industries.

In line with the reversal, a series of engagements has been had with relevant stakeholders with the aim of reaching a consensus on implementation of the policy.

In all, 43 items were expected to be affected by the review.

Opposing views

Business groups in Ghana kicked against the government decision to suspend the 50% benchmarking on the value of selected goods and 30% on vehicles.

Their opposition to the policy followed a 25 November 2021 crunch meeting by the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations (GUTA), comprising 68 trader associations and other business groups.

In a statement issued by GUTA on Wednesday 24 November on behalf of the business groups ahead of a meeting the following day, the union said the conditions that had made the introduction of the policy necessary have been exacerbated by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

GUTA argued: “The policy of reducing the benchmark values did not come out of the blue. It was introduced in 2019 to save businesses in the country from total collapse, as a result of the very high import duties, other numerous taxes, high fees and charges on imports ranging between 55% to 65%, draining our capital.

“This unbearable situation led to outcry and serious agitation by members of the business community, especially importers, and calls for a drastic reduction of cost of doing business in the country.

“In view of the aforesaid, we are stating without any equivocation that we shall not accept the reversal of the benchmark value reduction policy, [and] we hope the government will, with all due respect, listen to our voice and avert any rift and unrest in the country,” GUTA said.

Wilberforce Asare

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