CSOs call for re-negotiation of Ghana ExxonMobil deal

Trade Unions and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have urged government to re-negotiate the draft ExxonMobil deal to ensure that the country generated more revenue.

They said a careful look at the current draft contract could help increase the estimated proceeds to support government’s effort towards revenue mobilisation.

The participants noted that irrespective of the fact that the country had subscribed to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative [EITI], there were confidentiality provisions in the agreement that limited the depth and scope of public discussion and debate of the contract.

Mr Marwan Ansah, a member of the group addressing the media at the end of a two-day workshop in Accra, stated that the draft agreement was likely to waive export and import duties.

The meeting funded by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung was on the theme, “Illicit Financial Flows [IFFs] and the needed Revenue for Public Services Development” sought to share ideas on how the country raise more tax revenue to fulfil the government agenda of a ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’

Mr Ansah said the group said the portions of the agreement violated section 67 [6] of the income Tax Law [ Act 896] in the extension of carried forward losses from 5 years to 10 years.

He said the meeting recommended to government to develop and implement mechanisms that would ensure transparency and accountability of its tax treaty negotiations through increased public and parliamentary scrutiny of the negotiations process.

The meeting, he said unanimously suggested that government should focus on raising more revenue by creating formal sector employment, exploring improved wealth and property taxes and remove all forms of harmful tax incentives.

“Government should follow up its commitments in the 2018 Budget statement on addressing harmful tax incentives with swift concrete and robust action”, he said.

He stated that participants urged government to urgently introduce a beneficial ownership register which was comprehensive, up-to-date, with verified information and that was available to the public for free.

Mr Ansah said the group called on government to publish on an annual basis which companies were benefiting from statutory and discretionary tax incentives and the overall cost of each incentive and said participants wanted government to ensure that all incentives be publicly debated in parliament before  granted and should not be discretionary to individual companies.

Ghana should review is current tax treaties to ensure that they were not a source of tax losses and consider renegotiating those tax treaties that were no longer fit for purpose. Ghana should also not ratify tax treaties with tax havens such as Ireland and Mauritius.

Touching on the Ghana on the Electricity Company of Ghana [ECG] concession, Mr Ansah noted that despite the various engagements between Trade Unions and the government of Ghana on the ECG concession, there were still grave and problematic tax provisions that served the interest of the concessioner and not the government.

“In the ECG concession deal, the company, including persons and entities working on behalf of the company in connection with the Millennium Challenge Compact II [MCCII] programme is exempted from all forms of taxes duties and tariffs, on profits income and any activity performed in connection with the programme.

“The company shall retrieve from higher pricing of electricity, any corporate tax paid to the government of Ghana. The ECG concession agreement has created a private monopoly with sovereign guarantee. The firm will not fail to reward its shareholders at the expense of the taxpayer,” he said.

Drawing inference from a World Bank study, he said the country lost about 5 per cent of GDP to tax incentives, which was more than $2 billion.

Source: GNA

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