Some of Ghana’s top CEOs have revealed they have had to set aside funds to make unapproved payments demanded by some public officials as facilitation for doing business with government.
Doing business in Ghana can be frustrating, hard and challenging, lamented Mr. Akwasi Aquah, Chief Executive Officer of the Community Group of Hospitals; Ken Thompson, CEO Dalex Finance as well as Moses Atobrah, Managing Director of Debbies Products.
The pundits were discussing on the Super Morning Show on Joy FM Monday, some of the impediments they continue to face as indigenous companies that are less favoured by the system as against the multinational competitors who incidentally, enjoy concessions and tax breaks from the government.
President Nana Akufo-Addo recently told business leaders in Germany that his government has started partnering the private sector to implement the “One-District-One-Factory” programme in a bid to reduce unemployment in the country.
“What we want to do is to facilitate private sector entrepreneurs to take those developments. At the state side, we are identifying bottlenecks at the various districts; whether it is in terms licensing regime, access to land and those basic matters,” the President said.
A number of established businesses are already failing in the country where bank loans attract an interest of over 30% and businesses pay 17.5 VAT coupled with high utility costs among many others.
Ghana’s neighbour Nigeria, which has the largest economy in Africa, has one of the lowest VAT rates in the world. Businesses in that country pay 5% VAT. That makes it pretty easy for goods from Nigeria to enter the country and flood local markets at relatively cheaper costs.
“Sometimes you wonder if somebody sets out with a pen and paper to say that ‘I’m going to frustrate people,’” said the CEO of Dalex Finance, Mr. Ken Thompson.
He observed: “Government as the biggest spender has no money to spend. Productive sector is dead. Interest rates are high [and] there is no demand [because] nobody has got the money to buy anything”.
“Even if I have the money to build a house, there’s nobody to buy it,” he added.
Mr. Thompson believes the situation, however, presents an opportunity for business owners to get closer to politicians at the grassroots, and begin to influence them in order to make things a bit easier.
“We have to find a way to influence the politicians; they need our help [and] we will have to find a way”.
CEO of Community Group of Hospitals, Mr Akwasi Aquah whose facilities provide service for National Health Insurance Scheme cardholders, said they are sometimes compelled to do something perfunctorily so as to save time and money.
“Imagine NHIA [National Health Insurance Authority] owing you for over a year and so you are not able to pay your workers’ social security contributions but SNNIT [Social Security and National Insurance Trust] will take you to court demanding payment of the money. How do you go about this situation?”
According to him, “It’s become part of the system to ‘cut corners’ to get things done and pass the cost onto the clients, unfortunately.”
However, the real issues according to Moses Atobrah, M.D of Debbies Products, have had to do with the unavailability of intervention policies that will go to the rescue of business facing difficulties.