The proposed E-levy has generated a lot of controversy in the nation. Those opposing it have built their case mainly on the premise that it will impoverish the poor, and worsen their plight, while the Finance Minister has made a strong case that there are 15 million taxable Ghanaians who are not paying due taxes, that the E-levy is going to rope into the net. In the discourses, I find that a few very important cases for the levy are not being given all the emphases that they can have:
The E-levy will not impoverish the poor
Even if all the ¢6 billion to be raised by the levy, were to come solely from the 15 million “poor”, my calculator tells me, that it would average a mere ¢400 per poor person, per annum. It is unclear to me, how ¢400 per annum can be the cause of the excessive impoverishment being protested about.
My calculator also tells me, that there has to be ¢343 billion worth of transactions before the levy can generate ¢6 billion. If the “poor” can generate ¢343 billion in electronic transfers alone, then collectively, they constitute a very significant economic force, which must contribute its share, to national development. I am further thrilled that in subsequent years, even more than ¢6 billion a year will be realised from the levy. It will be irresponsible economics and politics to overlook that force.
The benefits far outweigh the cost (even for the “poor”)
What I find most interesting, are the profound benefits to be gained from the levy. It is reported, that it costs ¢1.5 million to build one kilometre of asphalt road in Ghana. Assuming that all the GHC6bn to be raised, or at least the first ¢6 billion to be raised each year from the e-levy, were to be spent solely on roads, it should be theoretically possible to construct 4,000km of asphalt roads annually in Ghana, through the levy alone. It is this visualisation, of Ghanaians crisscrossing the lengths and breadths of the country with thousands of kilometres of good roads each year, without resorting to external loans, that has got me so enthused about the levy. I doubt that any Ghanaian will be angry to pay ¢400 a year if he or she can be assured, that in exchange, they will get 4,000km of asphalt road annually.
Thus, it is my hope, that in the national interest, our parliamentary representatives will unite and support the levy. And, if the 1.75% rate is what is going to yield us the GHC6bn (or $1bn) a year for roads, then let them not dilute it. $1bn of roads every year, will change the face of the nation very significantly.
- A fight Against the levy, may not be a fight for the poor
A video surfaced a few months ago, of a young lady complaining bitterly on the Internet, that because of the poor condition of the road leading to her town, armed robbers had taken control of it, no economic activity was going on in the town, and men were not coming there, for her, and the host of unmarried women like her in the town, to get some to marry. In those few seconds, that lady shared volumes about the impact that quality of roads have on crime, levels of economic activity and social well-being in our towns and villages, and we need to listen to her compassionately, and take the right decisions to reverse the situation. A fight against the levy, may not be a fight for the poor.
- A fight against the levy, may end up being a fight against the youth
For good reasons, commercial banks don’t like financing startup projects. Yet, some of these startups grow to become big companies, forming important segments of the fabric of our employment and productivity matrixes. So if a levy is being created, to enable young people with dreams, to get access to needed funds, and have a chance to set up their projects, should we be fighting against it? A fight against the levy may end up being a fight against the young, and their aspirations.
Personally, the more I think of this levy and the far-reaching potential impacts that it possesses, and the more I think of the very critical areas that have been selected for the levy to fund, the more I think, that we should all embrace it wholeheartedly. It may not be the solution to all our economic challenges, but I see roads, thousands of kilometres of them running throughout Ghana; highways and interchanges, as well as feeder roads bringing in the harvests, and roads foraging into the mining areas. I see roads built by our Ghanaian contractors, not by foreign ones, as the foreign loans often dictate. I also see technology transfer, possibly into modern railroads and stations, undergrounds and airports.
I also see education, health, and other services reaching deeper into our hinterlands. And I see more of our young entrepreneurs, now able to get funding for their projects, creating employment in the nation, with some going on to become blue chips; I also see heightened economic activity throughout the nation. To me, it’s ten points for the E-Levy.
And now, I pray and hope, that our Honourable Parliamentarians, will also all catch up on the vision, and not only support it but watch dutifully over it, that all of its potentials be realized, year after year, budget after budget, contract after contract, government after government, “for the sake of our dear Mother Ghana”.
May God bless us all.
The author is the Managing Director, of Amponsah-Efah Pharmaceuticals Limited in Kumasi and can be contacted via email at email@example.com
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