2023 budget: CIMAG questions amendment of LI2248; says clearing agents will be jobless

The Centre for International Maritime Affairs, Ghana (CIMAG), says it has taken note of portions of the 2023 budget Statement and Economic Policy on the amendment of Customs Regulations, 2016 (LI2248) to allow self-clearing of goods by importers at the ports of entry without recourse to a Customs House Agent.

CIMAG expressed this concern in a statement released on Friday, December 9, 2022, and signed by its Executive Director, Albert Derrick Fiatui.

CIMAG as research, operational and advocacy think tank, with a focus on the maritime industry, says “it finds this very conflicting seeing that self-clearing (self-declarants) as a service has been a hybrid factor that has co-existed in our customs clearance system.”

It is for this reason that CIMAG is demanding a clearer insight and the reasoning behind the “new” idea.

Sections 43 of the Customs Act,2015 (Act 891) provides for the work of the Customs House Agent, a critical link in the Supply Chain and Trade facilitation in global shipping.

According to CIMAG, “the role of the Customs House Agent is not a Ghana peculiarity but a global profession which plays crucial roles for the business community as well as nation-states.”

“As the nation finds itself in a serious economic meltdown, we expect policymakers to consider the very likely disruptions, high level of unemployment and the automatic job losses these interventions can bring. The Maritime /Shipping industry we dare say, is the hardest hit in most of these challenges as our economy remains import dependent, and revolves around shipping” CIMAG noted.

CIMAG, as industry watchers, therefore, is seeking clarification in this matter.

It reminded government and for that matter, policymakers of the negative effects on thousands of players (Customs House Agents), whose work is very technical and procedural.

According to CIMAG, from its own research, 70% of those engaged in the business of importation into the country are foreign businessmen and women, which means that “self clearance, as captured in the budget statement will now allow foreigners to handle the process of Customs House Agency, an apparent security breach and a violation of Customs Act, which reserves the Agency job for locals.

CIMAG has thus called for broader consultation with all relevant stakeholders, civil society and state actors for more clarity, which will ease the tension and anxiety within the Freight Forwarding fraternity in the ports and other points of entry.