There is no doubt that the approval by the Parliament of Ghana for the removal of over 40% tax levied on printing materials is a giant step towards creating a better business environment for the Ghanaian book printing industry. 

Printers and paper converters in Ghana who had fought for the removal of these levies said this development is not only a major step to protect their business but will also enable them to face the external competition from external sources.

The Secretary of the Ghana Printers and Paper Converters Association (GPPCA), Mr. William Turkson, pointed out that as result of GPPCA’s advocacy action, Parliament has approved a draft policy to have government remove the over 40% of taxes levied on imported inputs for the book printing industry. 

“We were able to dialogue with officials of Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Trade and Industry, Attorney General’s Department and the Parliamentary Select Committees on Education and Trade and Industry. During these interactions, we persuaded duty bearers about the need to remove the numerous taxes on imported inputs for local book production so as to enable locally printed books to compete favourably with imported books on the market. The draft policy has successfully gone through the various processes in Parliament, and it is expected to receive presidential assent by the end of the first half of  2015,” Mr. Turkson explained.

Mr. Tony Boamah, an executive member of GPPCA who is also a staff of Buck Press Ltd., pointed out that when the removal of taxes on the inputs for locally printed books become fully operational, it will significantly stimulate the growth and profitability of the Ghanaian book printing industry. 

“When these taxes are waived, the cost of printing books locally will be drastically reduced, and the price of locally printed books will become comparable to the price of imported books. Many publishers who were previously reluctant to engage local printers because of the high cost will now begin to print locally, thus creating more jobs and income for the local printing industry”, Mr. Boamah noted. 

But like Oliver Twist, members of GPPC are asking for more support from the government. They contend that the local printing industry will only benefit fully from the waiving of taxes on inputs if only government will enforce the policy that mandates government institutions and publishers to give at least 60% of their printing jobs to the local book printing industry. 

“The enforcement of the 60% local content policy will make the waiving of these taxes more beneficial to the printing industry. If the jobs are not there, why will I even import raw materials to benefit from the waiving of taxes”, Mr. Boamah asked. 

The Ghanaian book printing industry has for a long time been adversely affected by the non enforcement of Section 6 of the Protection Against Unfair Competition ACT (589) 2000, resulting in disparities in tariffs between locally produced books and foreign imports. Imported books are tax exempt whilst materials imported for local book production attract about 41% tariffs, making locally produced books more expensive on the market with very low margins for producers. The unfriendly tax regime for local book production has been compelling publishers to print both government textbooks and all other books outside the country, causing massive job losses for book printing press houses. This has led to the virtual collapse of the local book printing industry, creating unemployment in the process. To halt this negative trend, members of GPPCA sought support from the BUSAC Fund to enable them advocate the removal of pre-production tariffs on locally printed books.

With the support of its Development Partners, DANIDA, USAID and the EU, the BUSAC Fund provided an advocacy grant to the leadership of GPPC to enable them press home their demands for the waiving of taxes on inputs for local book printing. As part of their advocacy action, the leadership of GPPC had fruitful dialogue sessions with relevant duty bearers, during which they extensively discussed the need to waive pre-production tariffs to make the local book printing industry more competitive.

Story: Ebenezer Kpentey, the BUSAC Fund.