Traders Close Shops In Protest

Shop owners across the country are expected to close their business premises tomorrow to protest against increases in import duties, Value Added Tax (VAT) and the influx of foreigners in the retail market. According to the traders, the decline in the value of the cedi has increased the cost of imported commodities as a result of the dollar indexing of import duty in addition to the two percent special levy charged on imports. The traders claimed they could not compete with foreign traders who continue to flood the local market with cheap products. They have therefore asked the foreigners to stop operating in the retail sector by June 30, 2014. The strike would be the latest in a series of demonstrations across the country. Kwame Breyah, the Ashanti Regional Representative of the Ghana Union Traders Association (GUTA), said they would close their shops to register their displeasure against government’s policies that are collapsing businesses in the country. He told BUSINESS GUIDE that the protest was to encourage the government to address their grievances, adding, “The cedi is too weak against the dollar and while there are global factors, there are internal ones too. Some of which we’re talking about.” ’Alien traders’ Mr. Breyah, who is also the chairman of the Spare Parts Dealers Association, said members of GUTA want the government to curb trading by foreign traders, who have built a strong presence in the retail sector. “Over the years, we have been complaining to government over the foreigners doing petty trade, especially the Chinese, Lebanese and Indian, who come in as investors,” he said. According to him, the failure by the Trade and Industry Ministry to enforce compliance of the GIPC law had had adverse effect on the national economy, as the retail trade remains the economic backbone of Ghanaians. He disclosed that they also pay several illegal charges at the port, thereby putting them at a disadvantage in the retail trade. The GUTA Ashanti Regional representative said his members across the country have indicated their preparedness to “flush out all foreigners” in the retail market if government failed to act appropriately. “We want to save businesses in the country from collapsing as stakeholders in the national affairs,” he stated. The traders’ move may cause an increase in the prices of items in the face of dwindling personal incomes and high cost of living, some analysts observed.