Reality Zone with Vicky Wireko: Free fall of the cedi – what is the role of imports?

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Many arguments have been made regarding the safeguarding of the cedi which is in free fall and which worries every citizen due to its impact and implications on our cost of living.

So far, with the many eloquent and seemingly practical solutions presented in the arguments presented, one that stands out clearly is something governments have grappled with, but little has been done to address it – import dependency.

The argument of stopping or diminishing our taste for imports when we are not exporting in equal measure has been raised many times over the years. Whenever the economy gives our leaders reason to worry, especially about the performance of the cedi, we are shaken and we cry over the foreign currency spent on imports.

The cry at that time has always been the revival of rice cultivation, the safeguarding of the poultry industry and, lately, the Komenda sugar factory project.

We have been told time and time again that as a country we gobble up millions of dollars in the annual importation of rice, sugar and poultry products, for example, and that this trajectory continues to undermine the strength of our change.

Today, as our currency is described as one of the worst performers in the world and the cedi is falling like a waterfall, the discussion about cutting unnecessary imports has risen sharply.

Scenarios

Is it so easy? Will it yield results? Well, they say nothing risked is nothing gained and so on; different scenarios for stopping imports have emerged.

While some are calling for a drastic reduction in imports into this country, others are suggesting a total ban on imports at this critical time as we consider all sorts of measures to save our cedi.

One suggestion that is coming is to impose a six or at least three month ban on imports, especially non-essential ones and wait to see the impact on the strength of the cedi.

If my opinions matter as a Ghanaian then I will accept this suggestion with a three month ban just to assess the impact.

I have always been a believer in a free but fair market economy for the simple reason that if we welcome others into our market, ours will also have a place in other markets.

Only when we allow others into our marketplace can our manufacturers and farmers also gain access to sell their products in other countries. In this way, we open avenues of export, visibility and networking on our own. A liberalized economy can therefore make sense to a certain extent.

However, when this type of policy harms that same economy, steps must be taken to bring healing and respite.

In the current situation of our currency, the need to keep the little foreign currency we have has therefore become even more pressing. Now is a good time to be selective in what we allow in the country.

Non-essential imports

How do you justify importing frozen tripe, tasteless chicken and chicken pieces, used toothpicks and clothes, shoes and worst of all used tires? The opportunity to close the door to unnecessary things that we let into the country has presented itself strongly.

Just for the purposes of this article, I visited a few well-stocked supermarkets in Accra to assess the level of imported items on our shelves. I left both stores with one conclusion: an unwarranted invasion.

From tooth cleaning and shower gel to all varieties of detergents, cereals to cookies, varieties of rice to cooking oils and seasonings imported from elsewhere are fighting for space on store shelves. Yet, we have thriving consumer businesses on our doorstep that are growing fast and sometimes producing better and unmatched items.

Regarding the freezer compartments of the stores visited, almost all of the chicken, fish, beef and lamb on sale comes from outside the country.

Imported vegetables like carrots, cabbage, lettuce and also fruits are strongly represented in the cooling sections.

Drink water

My shock, however, was with the imported still and sparkling drinking water. How about the bottled water certified by our own Food and Drugs Authority and which is abundantly displayed for sale on every street corner in this country?

All of these items compete with products from local farmers and manufacturers. The sad reality is that these farmers and manufacturers provide direct and indirect employment to our people. They also pay taxes and duties to the state for the development of our country.

As we seriously ponder the critical state of our Cedi against foreign currency, voluntary suggestions and solutions should be considered and considered where possible.

Non-essential imports into our space are quite harmful at this critical time. We don’t need to continue creating jobs for others because in doing so we continue to harm our economy.

If reducing imports or banning non-essential ones can save us, let’s try.

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You can contact the writer via email at vickywirekoandoh@yahoo.com

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