Import restrictions: Speaker directs Minister to submit revised LI to Committee

Alban Bagbin

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Bagbin, has directed the Minister of Trade and Industry to submit to Parliament’s Subsidiary Legislation Committee the revised copy of the draft Legislative Instrument (LI) seeking to restrict importation of certain commodities.

He gave the directive on Tuesday after a pre-laying debate was held on the LI.

He further directed the Committee to ensure that the amendments proposed by the House were incorporated into the revised LI and report on same to the House.

On Thursday, November 30, the Instrument, if cleaned up, should be laid before the House, which could then assess the situation, the Speaker said, adding that he did not want any further delays.

Speaker Bagbin said he raised the issue on the floor of the House because Mr Kobina Tahir Hammond, the Trade and Industry Minister, presented his case to him and after hearing him, he was convinced.

However, he had not heard from the House, so he had to put it across to enable the members to make inputs for the best decision to be taken.

“There’ve been a number of attempts to lay the instrument here and there’ve been objections, but I didn’t know what was happening, so he came to give me his side of the story, and I agreed with him. But before I could permit him to lay the Instrument, I wanted to hear from the House what the challenge is,” he said.

At the end of pre-laying debate, the Speaker reiterated his concern to getting the business of the House going, after ironing out all differences.

“Clearly what has been made available to me does not include cement, cement is not there. So, it means that this Instrument is not the initial one that come before the Committee, what I can say is that Minister, kindly make available copies of this new draft to the Committee.”

When the instrument was laid one needs two-third votes of the House to annul it “and the partisan nature of the House is such that you scarcely get such two-thirds majority to annul such instruments,” the Speaker said.

“And what many of you don’t know is that some of these instruments have led to holders of public office being imprisoned….”

“As a Leader, I had the opportunity of advising ministers and public servants on some of these instruments and they did not listen to me, they were laid and passed and at the end of the day, those instruments caught up on them.”

 The Speaker said it was during the implementation of the instruments that some offences were committed and those in charge were prosecuted and convicted.

Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business, said he thought the House was making progress with the LI and was taken aback by the sudden resurrection of the issue.

He urged the House to build consensus on it to ensure its passage before it adjourned for the Christmas break on December 22.

Dr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority Leader, recalled that on Friday, November 24, his side objected to an attempt by the Trades Minister to lay the LI before the House.

However, the Majority Leader came in with some amendments, which assured that they would be incorporated into the draft LI and then presented to the House before it would be laid.

“Mr Speaker, as we speak, we have not seen the changes that he (the Majority Leader) promised to effect in the draft Regulation. Mr Speaker, I am at a loss because he wants to lay the same Regulation today.”

Dr Forson raised concern over the non-accompaniment of a Fiscal Impact Analysis to the LI, as sated by the Public Financial Management Act, which demands an estimated effect on revenues and expenditures for the financial year in which the legislation was expected to come into effect.

Dr Dominic Ayine, the Chair of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, and NDC MP for Bolgatanga East, said the Committee, after considering the original draft LI, concluded that the Minister had not exceeded his powers under the Act and that they also evaluated it against the Constitution and came to a similar conclusion.

Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the NDC MP of Tamale South and a former Minister of Trade and Industry, said the principle to protect infant industries was important and that the House must build consensus on it.

He cautioned the Minister that he might, by this legislation, be inviting retaliatory measures by other countries.

Mr Ahmed Ibrahim, the Deputy Minority Whip and NDC MP of Banda, said various trade unions such as the Ghana Union Traders Association, had petitioned the House to express their concern over the LI

Mr Hammond, on his part, said the LI made provisions for a 13- Member Committee, which would be making decisions with regard to restricted imports and that anyone having an issue with its decisions would have to go to court for redress.

The LI seeks to restrict the importation of 22 commodities such as rice, sugar, diapers, poultry and intestines (yemuadie).

However, it makes provisions for exceptions, such that those who want to import such commodities would have to go to the Ministry of Trade and Industry to see a committee for a permit.

Source: GNA

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