The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Free zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi, has indicated that his outfit is currently clamping down on companies who try to circumvent and take undue advantage of the free zones system.
“Some companies have flouted the tenets of the ACT that regulates the free zones. They cannot go scot-free. So we are revoking licenses,” he exclaimed.
The CEO of the Free zones Authority, who was on Eye on Port interacting with the public live on national television disclosed that the Free Zones Authority came in to regulate the non-payment of duties on some items imported by Free zone companies which did not have a direct link to their production to make sure government does lose its due revenue.
“Before we came, free zones companies were exempted from the payment of taxes on all vehicles. We said that no, they cannot enjoy such luxury,” he expressed.
The CEO of the Ghana Free zones Authority indicated that his outfit is the regulatory body that ensures that free zones enterprises when established, comply with the guidelines set by Government for their operations and it engages effectively with other state agencies like the Customs Division of GRA, Westblue Consulting Ltd, and GC-Net to ensure legitimacy and sanity in free zones operations.
Michael Okyere Baafi called for a revision of the laws binding the operations of free zones describing them as weak in sanctioning modern operational behaviour.
“The Act was promulgated in 1995 and became operational in 1996 and this has not seen any amendment since its promulgation so it has become so weak!”
The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Free zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi, emphasized however that government’s incentives to free zone companies are not extreme, in the face of public perception that they may be.
“We should have in mind that free zone incentives cannot collapse the country. They have not collapsed other countries. It has only improved countries,” he opined.
He said Ghana’s incentive to its free zone companies are not as lucrative as other countries do for theirs and the incentives given by Ghana are only geared towards its national development in terms of raking in the needed foreign exchange.
“The unfortunate part is that the countries around us, have very lucrative incentives than us. La Cote D’Ivoire for example are exempted from corporate taxes for 10years and after 10 years, they pay only 1 percent tax,” he asserted.
He said the free zones establishments has contributed tremendously to the nation as Ghanaians do not only gain employment but also acquire necessary skills that hitherto were not available.
“Free zone companies have created jobs for people both direct and indirect. Free zone companies have helped people acquire certain skills that they wouldn’t have acquired if not for the free zone companies. Free zones companies are also undertaking major social responsibilities in the country,” he listed.
Also, contrary to the public opinion that free zone enterprises do not give back much to the Ghanaian society, he revealed that free zone companies have indulged in many corporate social responsibilities and have decided to broadcast its activities more to defuse the negative public misconception.
“People do not know what free zone companies are doing. They are doing a lot and that is why we are now engaging the media now so the public may know,” Michael Okyere Baafi expressed.
He revealed that the Free Zones Authority is gearing up massively to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade area, and a clear demonstration of this commitment is the construction of what they deem would be the biggest industrial park in West Africa.
“We are preparing to come up with the biggest industrial park in West Africa. It is going to be the Greater Kumasi industrial park. From Boankra downwards, in the Ejisu traditional area. It would sit on a 5000 acres of land,” he disclosed.
The free zones boss said there are around 185 active companies working in the free zone and the arrangement with the state is for a minimum of 70% of their produce to be exported while the remainder could be used for the domestic market