Seth Adjei Baah, outgoing president of the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce (GNCC), has challenged authorities, who manage the economy of the country, to implement measures to reverse the challenging economic climate to help businesses thrive.
Mr Baah, who was speaking at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Chamber in Accra, lamented the downward trend of the economy over the last few years adding that: “The Ghanaian economy has been characterised by power outages, a fast-depreciating currency, high costs of borrowing, high rates of inflation, and unbridled competition from imports.”
The country recorded a GDP growth rate of 14.4 per cent in 2011, but only managed to hit 4.0 per cent as of 2014.
According to Mr Adjei Baah, “it is common knowledge that the private sector in Ghana has endured difficult moments over the past years. I say with a heavy heart that the business environment in Ghana keeps deteriorating on a daily basis and business confidence is fast waning.”
“The macroeconomic and infrastructural constraints have almost rendered the private sector in Ghana unprofitable, uncompetitive and unable to grow to create the much-needed jobs,” he added.
Proposing solutions to help address the situation, Mr Adjei Baah called on the Ghanaians to patronise more goods and services produced locally to avoid excessive importation, which, he said, only leads to the weakening of the national currency.
“The high volatility in the foreign exchange market made it extremely difficult for businesses to plan. Clearly, the inability of the cedi to withstand the major trading currencies is due to our excessive imports against exports. This structural problem, which must be addressed immediately, requires the collaborative effort of government and the private sector. To achieve this will require that we patronise goods and services produced in Ghana,” he advised.
He said most businesses have suffered a lot of losses since the beginning of the load shedding exercise and called for an immediate solution to prevent more businesses from collapsing further.
“This crisis has lingered on for far too long and its debilitating effects are there for all of us to see. Sadly, the energy crisis has resulted in businesses cutting down production, folding up or laying off workers, further worsening the already precarious unemployment situation in Ghana. Businesses, which have survived this hardship had to look for alternative sources of energy at exorbitant prices, which largely rendered most of them uncompetitive and unprofitable.”
He also condemned the high cost of interest rates by financial institutions, stating that the country has one of the highest rates in the world.
“One wonders how businesses can compete at this level of interest rate. This challenge is well captured by international surveys such as the World Bank’s Doing Business and the Enterprise Survey on business environment constraints. Lending rates in Ghana range from 27 to 35 percent with commercial banks and between 60 to 100 percent with microfinance institutions.”