A member of Ghana’s representative in the immediate past fourth Community Legislature Fredrick Opare Ansah has said the current mode of financing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its institutions through import levies coming from outside the sub-region is detrimental to its progress.
According to him the West African sub-regional body has moved from contributions set for member countries to import levies to pay fund its activities.
He added that with the integration process growing deeper and better, there would be more trading among the sub regional member states.
“We should take a serious look at telecommunication levy to fund the activities of ECOWAS and its institutions more especially in this era of COVID-19 pandemic and in line with the objectives of ECOWAS to promote trade among member states”.
And indicated in an interview that external imports to the sub-regional member states would decrease and if Ghana can supply Nigeria with its salt needs it would not move to Brazil to import salt to address its needs.
Again, if Ghana can produce rice to feed the sub regional member states there wouldn’t be the need to import rice from Thailand, “so the levies that accrue to us today in terms of import will begin to dwindle down”.
He added that what would be happening is that there would be increase in movement and trade in the sub region that would result in more communications among “ourselves”.
As to how to push this agenda and who should take the responsibility, he noted that it should come from the Commission through the Council to Parliament and Authority of Heads of States and Government. On the time period this should take effect, he recommended five years period for which the import levy should be abolished.
The Chairman of Ghana’s Parliamentary Committee on Communication further pointed out that the ECOWAS Commission through the Council to Parliament and Authority of Heads of State and Government had reduced roaming bills of the Community.
“If I move from Ghana to Togo to Nigeria, I can have thirty days free roaming and pay for calls like the locals pay for their calls in their country. Given the benefit and respite on cost, ECOWAS can says ,”we need a little token when we make this calls to fund the activities of the sub-regional institutions. It is the way to go”.
Mr. Opare Ansah emphasized that in, this COVID-19 times the quantum of data that is being consumed to hold virtual meetings and to transact business clearly show that it is where one can get funds needed to fund ECOWAS going into the future.
He emphasized his point by saying, funds that will accrue from the telecommunication levy can go directly into the ECOWAS account, as it would not be necessary for countries to collect these levies as ECOWAS has desk in every county in the sub-region to set up a monitoring system just as Ghana has done with Kelni GVG to monitor the operations of what accrues to government.
In addition ECOWAS can also contract this entities to monitor what is due it and the Telco’s pay directly into those accounts so that it can access its funds whenever it want to and use the revenue agencies in the various countries.
“It’s a little smoother than the levy collection system, as you know most of the countries use up these monies and find other monies to pay the levies”.
In addition, he explained that as things are now ECOWAS Parliament does not have full legislative powers to enact legislation to this effect, it has co-decision in the area of the Community budget together with the Council of Ministers, parliament can only express its opinion on matters and it has a time period.
And if it fails, the Council of Ministers and Authority of Heads of State and Governments will still go ahead and pass legislation.