Made in Ghana policy: An exercise in futility

Business News of Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Source: B&FT

Kofi Amoah 06Oct2010

A development economist and entrepreneur, Dr. Kofi Amoah is pushing strongly for a targeted state subsidies programme that will strengthen the capacity of local producers to compete in an era where consumers’ preference for imported products have pushed local goods to the backburner.

He said the made-in Ghana policy being trumpeted by policymakers is empty and wouldn’t achieve much as local producers have not been supported enough to build the capacity to produce to the taste of consumers.

Dr. Amoah, explained to the B&FT in Accra that the subsidies suggestion- which could enrage anti-subsidies campaigner and partner, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – will help booster agriculture and manufacturing sectors as the mainstay of the country’s development.

“First we must give subsidies to local firms because they are weak and cannot be strong unless we feed them.

“But if you are practicing liberal economics and you go to the IMF, they will not allow you to give subsidies. Go and look at the economic history of every developed nation on earth, they all started by giving subsidies and protection to their local companies.

“Now we are starting and we are being told not to do what they did to get where they are. This is commonsensical,” he said.

Dr. Amoah suggestions come on the heels of a push by the Trade Minister, Ekoww Spio Garbrah, to use the media to encourage consumers to patronize made-in-Ghana goods at a time the IMF has coerced the government to do away with its subsidies programme as a pre-condition for a US$940 million three-year budgetary support programme expected in April.

According to the Trade Minister, a national campaign for made-in-Ghana products and services will be launch soon to help boost the export of Ghanaian products and reduce importation by influencing the perception of local consumers about indigenous goods.

Though Dr. Amoah concedes consumption of locally produced goods is a good idea, he said the policies, plans and systems are not in place to support such a campaign.

He added: “The Minister of Trade and Industry’s call on the media to support consumption of made-in Ghana products is good but what is the policy for strengthening this domestic production of goods and services that Ghanaians can patronise? What is he talking about? We are eating our plantain; we do not need any PR for someone to come and tell us to eat that. The things we know are good, we are patronising them.

“When they speak about Ghanaians patronising Ghanaian made goods or products, I prefer we look at it in a wholesome approach; where we want to go and the set of ideas and policies that will get us there. It must not be disjointed but rather cohesive and comprehensive. I don’t see that coming out of this statement, with all due respect to Mr. Spio-Garbrah.

“I want to encourage him to think through in a holistic manner and find out how we can create the local Ghanaian products we can be proud of and patronise and export some to other countries.

“We need a policy from them (government) on that: the subsidy policies, assistance to get enabling technology embodiment, utilisation of the nation’s purchasing power to bring companies into Ghana that will help us at the beginning stage of our manufacturing.”

He thus called on the government to formulate a credible development policy that recognizes the country’s stage of development.

In the absence of a government-backed development policy that transcends across varied sectors, Dr. Amoah offered what he called the “tri-pod development plan,” which is anchored on supporting and subsidizing agriculture inputs, build a strong manufacturing sector to process the farm produce and provide financing to support the agriculture production and manufacturing.

He said the tri-pod development plan will put the country’s fertile and idle lands and human resources to use, backed by government support and finance, to return benefits in the short-term and lay a rock-solid foundation for the future.

“So if you use my tripod development plan it will underpin the desire of Ghanaians to buy made in Ghana goods and by doing that we are saying we too can make better and quality products. The plan must be there to get us there.

“The purpose of electing a government is to see the maximum use of our resources and use our collective taxes and foreign exchange to invest in some of these areas to give us strength so that one day, we can become competitive, not just in Ghana but compete in other markets,” he said.