Alan Kyerematen, Trade Minister
Ghanaian retailers under the umbrella of Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA) are restive. They are unable to come to terms with what they consider to be the non-application of the law barring foreigners from retail trade which by statute is the preserve of Ghanaians.
A number of engagements between their representatives and the Trade Ministry have remained inconclusive.
Within the ECOWAS protocol, the subject is anything but simple. That is why we think government is handling it with the caution such subjects demand.
While we agree with the highly respected GUTA membership whose hard work and provision of sources of livelihood and taxes for the state are recognized, we nonetheless ask that they consider the predicament of the government and take it easy as the issue is obviously being tackled albeit slowly.
Government will definitely not fold its arms as citizens are pushed out of business by foreigners. We operate in an international community activities within which are hinged on regional protocols.
A few days ago, a joint Ghana Immigration Service (GIS), Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Police exercise in shutting down shops owned by Nigerians which are being operated without permits as we were told, attracted the attention of industry observers. A few headlines captured the development.
As if that was not enough, garage owners in the Brong Ahafo Region, Sunyani, to be precise, have issued an ultimatum to foreigners engaged in their line of business to stop same.
This ultimatum ties into the rumbling within GUTA about the subject. The growing resentment among indigenous retailers should not be allowed to boil over. Something must, of course, be done to calm nerves.
It is a Catch 22 situation for government and we do not envy the relevant authorities at all as they are torn between satisfying the locals and losing out on the diplomatic front or displeasing the indigenous retailers and incurring their wrath and indeed breaching the law which is protective of the locals.
Nigerians top the list of foreigners in the retail bracket and given the historical ties between them and Ghana, the need to take another look at how to manage the issue under review cannot be overlooked. A trade war between the two countries would not be in the interest of both parties.
In the 80s, following a faux pas by the Nigerians when they applied a certain measure against Ghanaian entrants into that country, Ghana retaliated by demanding that citizens of the oil-rich country coming here must deposit an amount of $50 at the point of entry. Those who could not satisfy that demand were detained and even returned. The tit for tat actions did not inure to the common good of both countries.
Sanity returned finally when the authorities of the two countries reviewed the unwholesome actions.
We therefore ask that retailers desist from taking the law into their own hands because the subject, being international in nature, must be handled with a high dose of finesse lest it sparks a diplomatic spat between the two sister nations.