Member of Parliament (MP) for Atwima-Nwabiagya North, Benito Owusu-Bio, is pleading with President John Mahama to use his good office to impress upon his fellow Heads of State in the ECOWAS sub-region to reconsider the convention of imposing taxes on imported timber.
According to the law maker, the challenges confronting the timber industry in Ghana is quite different from those that exist in other countries in the sub-region and therefore, the decision to impose taxes on imported timber will further hurt the local industry.
The Parliament of Ghana on Thursday, December 17, 2015, passed the Customs Amendment Act, 2015, Act 891, to insert the ECOWAS harmonized system of imposing taxes on imported timber into the country.
Mr. Owusu-Bio who was not content with the passage of the Amended Bill pleaded with the House to reconsider taking the Bill through a second consideration stage to enable members make an input into the Bill.
His plea was based on the fact that sections of the Bill will further hurt the Ghanaian local wood industry.
“I have decided that we stop it now and look at certain sections (Section 1) of the Bill because – the heading is to deal with wood and wood articles. Under schedule 44.02 to 44.044 we have tariffs for the importation of solid wood in terms of round logs and wood that can be used for raw materials for our timber industry.”
“Over here, we have 10% for import duty and 15% for VAT. When you add them together, you will get 25%. We in Ghana, currently we are all aware of the collapse of the timber industry. The timber industry, especially, the sawmill aspect of it is virtually collapsing and it is collapsing not through the doing of the managers of the firms but rather due to the fact that the raw materials currently are not available. Even if they are available, what is there is not enough,” he noted.
But his plea was ignored with the House going ahead to pass the Bill.
Majority Leader, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, commenting on the matter told Members that the issues raised by Mr. Owusu-Bio could not be addressed by the House since ECOWAS as a sub-regional bloc had already agreed in principle to impose the taxes on imported timber.
Moments after the passage of the Bill into an Act, he told the President of the land through an interview with Kasapafmonline.com to intervene by putting a stop to the imposition of tariff on the importation of timber into the country.
He said because of lack raw materials (timber), most of the sawmill firms, especially, in Kumasi and other parts of the country, are folding up.
“Go to Kumasi – Ahinsan, Kaase – most of the firms are now being turned into churches and that is the seriousness of it. Lots of people have lost jobs.
“There is an issue which is the fact that our government has the right to go out there and sign treaty agreements and others without considering its effect on Ghana. And when those treaties are brought to the Parliament of Ghana, we who represent the people we are only supposed to accept the treaty as it is or reject it.”
“We are not supposed to amend it but rather accept it as it is. And our Parliament does not want to reject a treaty that has been brought to Parliament by the Executive.”
“So, what is wrong with asking the government to go back to the ECOWAS Community and have a discussion with them if there are issues with the treaty? As we speak, most of the countries in the ECOWAS region do not have problems with the treaty because if you talk about Liberia, they never cut their wood like we did so they still have the wood.”
“Gabon, Sierra Leone, Cameroon and others they still have the wood but we in Ghana we started the timber industry over centuries ago and based on that the timber industry is dying because cutting the wood without replanting has brought us thus far.”
He believes that once the stops the tariffs on the importation of timber into the country, wood products will be cheaper and industry will open up and employ more of the teeming youth who are unemployed.
“Why don’t we help the Ghanaian industry for them to get the raw materials and impress on them to produce the furniture that we want? It can even lead to the ban in the importation of furniture from outside Ghana. This is a policy issue and I don’t understand why Parliament will not help us to do this.”