By Christabel Addo/ Jamila Abubakar, GNA
Accra, Dec.1, GNA – Ghana on Wednesday joined in the commemoration of the World Competition Day, which is observed annually to create awareness regarding the role to be played by consumers in shaping an effective trade competition regime.
The UN General Assembly formally adopted the UN Set of Competition Principles at its 35th Meeting in 1980, but the Government of the Philippines officially declared December 5 as the National Competition Day.
Mr Appiah Kusi Adomako, the Centre Coordinator of CUTS Ghana, at a dialogue organised by his outfit in Accra to celebrate the day, said the theme: “Cement Market: Competition or Unfair Trade Practice,” was chosen, as a way of promoting fair trade among all businesses on a level playing ground, so that no cement producer abused the market at the detriment of other players and consumers.
He said the focus on cement was as a result of the important place of the commodity in diverse national construction works, including housing and other developmental projects, as well as the economic impact on society especially, with regards to cost of residential bills of Ghanaians.
The aim, he said, was not to look at low prices alone, but to inspire healthy competition as a fundamental tenet of a well-functioning economy, which also encouraged companies to provide consumers with the products and services that they wanted at lower prices, with better quality of service and stimulation for innovation, and more importantly efficiency in the allocation of resources.
He cited the issue of Dangote cement, which had become a topical debate in recent weeks, saying GHACEM had over the past 35 years enjoyed monopoly of the market until 2002, when the Diamond brand and other imported ones came in, to change the dynamics on the market.
Mr Adomako said the current market competition had led to an improvement in the quality of cement, and companies were also now advertising their products on various media platforms and channels to increase consumer patronage.
On the issue of subsidies, he said although the World Trade Organisation’s regulations permit the Government of Ghana to also impose some countervailing measures in the form of taxes to level its market, it could not do anything else afterwards if the prices of such imported products still remained low.
He said currently the Government had no blue print, but just a Legislative Instrument to regulate competition of importation of cement to ensure that local producers did not suffer from the importation of cheap imported products.
He said this was the first and fair step, it was not sufficient, as there was the need to understand the production capacities of the local companies against consumer demands, to be able to determine the deficit and how much must be imported to satisfy demands.
He said the current competition in the sector was however good for everybody, including government which was the biggest spender in the economy, and lower prices of cement would result in a reduction in the cost of construction such as roads, bridges, and must be endorsed by all stakeholders to enhance socio-economic development .
The programme also created a platform for a panel discussion, where discussants from the Ghana Real Estate Developers Association, Ghana Revenue Authority and the Consumer Protection Agency, engaged with participants on issues pertaining to the Dangote impasse with local cement manufacturers, as well as other fair trade practices in the sector.
Justice Samuel Date Bah, a Retired Justice of the Supreme Court, who chaired the programme and also moderated the panel discussion, said the house was united behind the value of fair trade competition.
Mr Abubakari Zakari, who is a Private Sector Development Consultant and Research Analyst, presented an analysis of the cement market in Ghana and some WTO measures on fair trade, saying the country lacked scientific data about the local cement manufacturing sector as to the demand and supply size and in the installed capacity.
He said there was however the need for the tracking of cement import to ensure that there was no dumping or subsidies, while ensuring compliance of ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme, creating a level playing field among all players.GNA