Vision for Alternative Development (VALD) has collaborated with the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to organize a day’s capacity building workshop for government institutions, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other stakeholders in the tobacco control sector of the country. The workshop which was on the theme “Tobacco Taxation/Control and illicit trade in Tobacco products” seeks to strengthen the capacity of industry players on the proposed new tax regime on tobacco products to generate adequate revenue for government and protect public health.
Executive Director of VALD in-charge of Programs, Labram Masawudu Musah explained that over the years, Ghana has implemented a one-sided tax regime that has made tobacco products accessible to minors due to its cheap cost. He said the time is right for stakeholders to consider a more robust tax regime that will support government efforts of raking in more revenue and protecting the health of the citizenry.
“Tobacco prevalence in Ghana is no different as it keeps rising considerably, and unfortunately the price of the cigarette is still relatively low in the market and accessible to young children. There have been many efforts to change this dynamics through effective taxation mechanism but to no avail due to the unavailability of in-country data,” Labram Musah noted.
The Tobacco Control advocate asserted that, there is a need to move to a more proactive tax regime that will provide sufficient revenue for government and halt tobacco deaths in Ghana. He called for a closer collaboration between the legislature and stakeholders to effectively change the current tax regime to a more appropriate one.
“We are grateful for the collaboration with members of parliament for any parliamentary action that would change the current regime to an appropriate regime,” he added.
The Head of Tobacco and substance Abuse at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Dr. Olivia Boateng, expounds that Ghana has made a major stride in the fight to control tobacco products in the country. She said the country has ratified the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and have and regulatory guidelines of best practice which are enforced to the later. She also said the FDA is working hard with the various outfits in the country to enhance education on the impact of tobacco and other substances of abuse on the health of users.
“We have put in graphic health warnings that are just for our country and there is a tax stamp, the labeling requirements, and we have instituted registration systems and import authorization system, so before you import items we have our officers at all the points of entry. So we are engaging other stakeholders in tax such as the Customs (Ghana Revenue Authority) to get a better tax system. Our main emphasis is motivating people to quit smoking and that is why we have to step-up our sensation service,” she noted.
Member of Parliament for the Wa East constituency, Godfred Seidu Jasaw, who is also the Deputy Ranking Member on the Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs committee of Parliament expressed his delight at the efforts of the CSOs in the Tobacco Control sector. He said parliament is willing and ready to consider the data on the impact of the new tax regime on the economy and will work closely with the various CSOs to help legislate the appropriate laws for a smooth takeoff to mobilize more revenue for government.
“Ghana currently has some challenges with the micro economic environment; we are putting in place a number of arrangements to see how the revenue basket can be augmented to prosecute more of the programs of government. So informed policy decision from VALD from the survey on what can likely come out from the new tax regime should be welcomed by all,” he emphasized.
There were various presentations from distinguished facilitators including Dr. Alex Moyem Kombat of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Dr. Michael Kofi Boachie, who is with the Center for Health Economics and Decision Science of the Priceless University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Dr. Arti Singh from the school of Public Health-KNUST.
Many of the participants who spoke to ghananewsonline.com.gh, expressed satisfaction with the training, information and data presented by the various facilitators in relation to tobacco taxation and illicit trade of tobacco materials in the country.