Members of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) have resolved to close their shops in Kumasi and Accra for four days to protest against unfavourable government policies directed at their businesses.
The protest is scheduled to begin from today, Tuesday, June 24, to Friday, June 27, 2014.
The agitation, according to the association, was a first sign of caution to the government to act swiftly to reverse the policies or continue to face the wrath of its members.
Addressing a press conference in Accra yesterday, the President of GUTA, Mr George Kweku Ofori, said government policies, such as a special levy of three per cent on imports, the increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) by 2.5 per cent, coupled with the depreciation of the cedi and illegal charges at the ports, were inimical to the operations of traders.
Some of the members of the association who attended the press conference were clad in red attire and red armbands.
Intermittently, they shouted slogans such as ‘Y’ani abere koo’ to register their anger and displeasure at what they described as unfavourable policies which affected their businesses.
‘The unfair and unjust governmental policies, coupled with the inability of state institutions to effectively monitor and enforce compliance with the law governing doing business in the country, are terribly affecting our businesses in this country,’ Mr Ofori said.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Police Service has stated that it has put in measures to protect all traders who intend to open their shops during the period of the GUTA protest.
A statement signed by the Director of Public Affairs of the Ghana Police Service, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Mr Cephas Arthur, said the police would deploy personnel in Accra, Kumasi and other cities to maintain law and order, as well as protect lives and the property of traders, especially those who intended to open their shops.
It said the decision by the police was in response to GUTA’s decision to close down its shops to press home its demands.
‘Members of the public are reminded that they can reach the police on MTN and Vodafone shortcode 18555; 191 all networks, and 0302773906 in case of any emergency,’ it added.
The statement advised members of GUTA to go about their protest in a peaceful manner in order not to breach the peace.
Grievances of GUTA
Expatiating on the grievances of the association, Mr Ofori said the special levy of three per cent had been slapped on imports and the increase in the VAT rate had worsened the plight of the business community.
‘In the case of the VAT, we have, on several occasions, complained about the disparities in the collection system the Standard Rate, the Flat Rate and those who do not charge at all in the informal sector,’ he said, and added, ‘We insist on uniformity for the Flat Rate only to make compliance easier, bring about parity and ensure fairness.’
Depreciation of the cedi
Mr Ofori stated that the phenomenal depreciation of the cedi was also affecting members of the association, noting that from January to date the real value of their working capital had been reducing at a fast rate, adding that the situation, if unchecked, could lead to the collapse of their businesses.
The situation had resulted in the astronomical increase in the cost of import duty, he said, and urged the government to, as a matter of urgency, do something about it.
He said GUTA was inclined to ‘suspect that it is a deliberate government policy of devaluation as a form of indirect tax to shore up its revenue collection’.
Fight against government policies
While admitting that GUTA was not in a fight with the government, the General Secretary of the association, Mr Alpha Shaban, said the group would fight the policies which were militating against the smooth operation of business in the country.
He indicated that there were numerous charges at the various ports which were against the interest of traders, pointing out that some were illegal and illegitimate.
‘The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, which is responsible for regulating the activities of port operators, is also not helping matters, as these numerous levies and illegal activities continue to increase the cost of doing business and make the port very unattractive,’ he said
Influx of foreigners into retail trade
In its release, GUTA also alleged that the Inter Agency Task Force set up by the Ministry of Trade and Industry to monitor and enforce compliance with the GIPC Law had not made any impact.
As a result, it said, ‘today the repercussion is seen in the form of the numerous economic crises in the country, that is, making Ghana a dumping ground for shoddy foreign goods and affecting the growth and development of our local industries which are already saddled with many challenges’.
In the event that the government failed to act on its demands, the association said it would advise itself but assured the public that it had many plans in place, waiting to unfold.
It also cautioned members to strictly adhere to the association’s directives until further notice, adding that the rest of the regions would join in the strike in the course of the week.
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