GUTA traders close shops over high inflation

GUTA described its industrial action, which will end on Monday 24 October, as a “pinch” to the government to turn its attention urgently to the depreciating cedi, high interest rates and inflation

Members of the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations (GUTA) have closed their shops in Accra to protest against the worsening economic climate and the rapid increase in inflation.

The group described its industrial action, which will end on Monday 24 October, as a “pinch” to the government to pay urgent attention to the depreciating cedi, high interest rates and inflation.

GUTA announced its decision after engaging in a three-hour meeting with members of the Council of State.

“Distress call”

At a press briefing after the meeting, the president of GUTA, Joseph Obeng, said the resolve to close shops was a distress call to the nation.

Obeng said even though there was a global dimension to the economic downturn, and thus both the Russia-Ukraine war and COVID-19 can be said to have had negative effects on Ghana, the nation could not dwell on these events, to which there is no end in sight.

“Our immediate neighbours in this global village are Côte d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso,” Dr Obeng said. “If they have not been consumed by these global phenomena, then there is something fundamentally wrong with our economy,” he said.

Hunting for forex

The association called on the government, among other things, to ascertain the factors which have led to an excessive demand for forex. They also called for a review of investment laws to retain forex and push foreign investors into productive sectors of the economy.

“The government should adopt other alternative currencies, like the Chinese yuan, to reduce the pressure on the dollar, especially,” Obeng said. “There should be the immediate implementation of the roadmap set out to flush out all illegal foreigners in the retail trade sector.”

Sharing his thoughts on the outcome of the meeting, Samson Asaki Awingobit, the executive secretary of the Importers’ and Exporters’ Association – a member of GUTA – explained that the Council of State had said it could not help resolve the difficulties with the exchange rate and inflation.

“This means our problems cannot be solved,” Awingobit said. “Hence, we’re asking any businessperson, anyone who clears goods at the port, anybody who operates a shop, including cold stores, to close down their shops.

“The district assemblies [that] will be coming to our shops for tickets [tax] will be denied. Then the consumer who’ll also come to buy will be denied. And at the end of the day, the government will be losing some revenue,” he said.

Pearl Poku, a trader, told the Ghana News Agency that businesses were collapsing because of high interest rates and exchange-rate pressures as debtors chased them.

“We give a thumbs-up to the Council of State: they’ve done well. But we want more improvement in the economy,” she said.

On 25 August this year, the Council of State prevailed on GUTA to put an earlier decision to close shops on hold for one month, following assurances that officials would address the GUTA members’ concerns.

A joint committee was set up and tasked to find solutions to the various problems. But, dissatisfied with the output of the joint committee, GUTA announced the closure of shops this week.

Ghana’s current interbank exchange rate is GHC11.5 to US$1, the rate of inflation is 37.2% and the monetary policy rate stands at 24.5%.

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