Many arguments have been put across regarding saving the cedi which is in a free fall mode and a worry to every citizen due to its impact and implications on our cost of living.
So far, with the many eloquent and seemingly practical solutions coming forth in arguments proffered, one that comes loud and clear is something governments upon governments have been faced with but little has been done to tackle it – import dependency.
The argument to stop or lessen our taste for imports when we are not exporting in equal measures has come up many times over the years. Whenever the economy gives our managers the cause to worry, particularly about the performance of the cedi, we get jolted and we cry about the foreign exchange spent on imports.
The shout at that juncture has always been the resuscitation of rice farming, saving the poultry industry, and lately, the Komenda sugar factory project.
We have been told over and over, that as a country, we sink millions of dollars into the annual importation of rice, sugar and poultry products for example and that trajectory continues to harm the strength of our currency.
Today, with our currency being described as one of the worse performing in the world and with the cedi falling like a waterfall, the discussion on curtailing needless imports has come up strongly.
Is it that easy? Will it yield any results? Well, it is said that nothing ventured is nothing gained and so; different scenarios to stop imports have come up.
While some are asking for imports into this country to be cut drastically, others are suggesting a total ban on imports at this critical time as we look at all kinds of measures to save our cedi.
One suggestion coming through is for a six or at least three months ban to be placed on imports, especially non-essential ones and wait to see the impact on the strength of the cedi.
If my views count as a Ghanaian, then I will buy into this suggestion with a ban for three months just to assess the impact.
I have always been a supporter of a free but fair market economy for the simple reason that if we welcome others into our market then, ours will have a home in other markets too.
It is only when we allow others in our market that our manufacturers and farmers can also have access to sell their products in other countries. That way, we open up export avenues, exposure and networking on our own. A liberalised economy, therefore, may make sense to some extent.
However, when that kind of policy is hurting that same economy then measures need to be taken to bring healing and respite.
In the current situation with our currency, therefore and the need to conserve the little foreign exchange we have has become even more pressing. It is the right time to be selective in what we allow into the country.
How can one justify the import of frozen tripe, tasteless chicken and chicken parts, toothpicks and secondhand clothes, shoes, and worse of all used tyres? The occasion to close the door to the needless stuff that we allow into the country has strongly presented itself.
Just for the sake of this article, I visited a couple of well-stocked supermarkets in Accra to assess the level of imported items on our shop shelves. I left both shops with one conclusion – unwarranted invasion.
From teeth cleaning and body wash to all varieties of detergents, cereals to biscuits, rice varieties to cooking oils and seasonings imported from elsewhere are fighting for space on shop shelves. Yet we have successful fast moving consumer companies here at our doorsteps producing sometimes even better quality and unmatched items.
As for the freezing compartments in those shops visited, almost all the chicken, fish, beef and lamb on sale are coming from outside the country.
Imported vegetables like carrots, cabbage, lettuce and also fruits are making strong representation in the cooling sections.
My shock, however, was with imported still and sparkling drinking water. How about the bottled water certified by our own Food and Drugs Authority and which is abundantly on display for sale at every corner one turns in this country?
All these items are competing with products from local farmers and manufacturers. The sad fact is that these farmers and manufacturers are providing direct and indirect employment to our people. They are in addition paying taxes and duties to the state for the development of our country.
As we seriously meditate on the critical state of our Cedi against foreign currencies, the volunteered suggestions and solutions out there should be sieved and considered where practical.
Non-essential imports into our space are pretty harmful at this critical moment. We do not need to continue to create employment for others because in so doing, we continue to hurt our economy.
If cutting down on imports or banning the non-essential ones will save us, let us give it a try.
You can contact the writer via email at email@example.com
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