The announcement by Ghana’s Minister for Environment, Science and Technology at a United Nations’ conference on climate change in Durban, South Africa, that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government was in the process of banning the importation of used cars could not be more irresponsible (See “Ghana Moves to Ban Importation of Second-Hand Cars But….” Ghanaweb.com 12/9/11).
While, on the face of it, this legislative move seems quite laudable, the rationale for doing so does not muster logic. First of all, merely banning the importation of used cars would not necessarily reduce carbon emissions, unless such legislation specifically targets only used cars that do not meet acceptable standards of carbon emissions. Thus far, Ghanaians have not been told that the process would be selective.
Secondly, the present regime of duties payable on imported vehicles, particularly brand-new automobiles, does not present any convincing case as to why the importation of used vehicles ought to be prohibited across the board. And as has been argued time and again and more eloquently by far knowledgeable critics on Ghanaweb.com and the various media forums and outlets, the current regime, whereby import duties on brand-new vehicles routinely exceed the purchasing prices, or closely match the same, simply makes it prohibitive for the government to insist on every prospective Ghanaian automobile owner importing an unused vehicle from abroad.
Rather, what the Mills government ought to be doing right now, if it sincerely wishes to positively contribute to environmental health vis-à-vis vehicular use and operation, is to table a motion in Parliament to have the current regressive regime of vehicular import duties radically transformed to encourage the massive importation of brand-new vehicles, while conversely limiting the number of used automobiles imported into the country. Already, we learn of countries like Nigeria and Togo – and this writer stands to be corrected – that have been pursuing such proactive vehicular import policies for some time now.
Environment, Science and Technology Minister, Sherry Aryittey, also needs to focus critical attention on the general condition of road construction and maintenance in Ghana, as this is also an aspect of our national quality of life issue that directly impacts vehicular soundness and longevity. Consequently, this may necessitate the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology liaising and collaborating with the Ministry of Road Transport to guarantee the success of such a program. The government may also want to encourage the establishment of automobile assembling plants in the country, in order to both radically reduce the prohibitive cost of import duties as well as be able to more effectively impact the makes/models and quality of vehicles allowed to ply our delicate roadways. Of course, a remarkable number of jobs would also be created in the process and for the long haul.
So far, I have gingerly steered clear of the purely political and ideological dimensions of this subject, mainly because both governments of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the erstwhile Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party (NPP) are not known to have appreciably and progressively tackled the prohibitive cost of vehicular importation. Rather, both governments are known to have recklessly and inordinately used the country’s pre-established inclement customs and excise regime to capriciously milk hardworking and upwardly mobile Ghanaians, almost as if all of our previous governments, as well as the current one, pathologically resented the salutary development of a middle-class culture in the country.
Indeed, this is what President Mills’ so-called Better Ghana Agenda ought to be about.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Selected Political Writings” (Lulu.com, 2008).
The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com