For decades, Ghana’s forest natural resources most especially timber, gold among other export commodities have been illegally exported to countries such as Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, China, Vietnam without the country having adequate data on the exact export volumes to these countries.
Many people are of the view that such illegal trading activities have largely been successful, outwitting the law enforcement agencies and the security forces – who are mandated to check and stop these practices – as a certain senior official at the top facilitates its movement and operation.
These illegal activities – such as illegal mining popularly called “galamsey” – cannot be attributed to the failure of one particular administration in tightening enforcement process – both the two main political parties, the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) as well as their allies are equally liable, enabling the practice to continue unabated.
Last Saturday, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in an attempt to clear its name from the various allegations raised by the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) stated that several impounded truckloads of Rosewood which had no documentation to salvage or transport Rosewood, had managed to evade several checkpoints including those of the Police, National Security and District Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) officials, and had only been arrested at points very close to the harbour.
This assertion goes to suggest the corrupt nature of Ghana’s security forces and as such cast indictment on their ability to check these instances.
Despite their arrest at points very close to the harbour, the people involved in this illegal trade even when the ban was in place still allegedly managed to transport more than 6 million rosewood tree species between the periods 2012-2019.
However, the technical committee constituted by the sector minister to probe the alleged EIA’s claim, based on its inventory data, reported that Ghana does not have that quantity (6 million trees) of merchantable Rosewood trees to be harvested and exported during the period in question.
Similarly, the disparities of the volume of Rosewood timber export to China can be comparable to gold export.
In fact, an assessment of trade data on gold export between Ghana and its three major partners namely India, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Switzerland revealed that in 2018, over US$9 billion worth of gold exports remain unaccounted for.
For instance, Ghana’s official export data for gold trading with Switzerland amounted to a little over US$3 billion. However, Switzerland’s gold import figures with Ghana revealed that they had imported more than US$7 billion worth of gold, this being more than double the total export revenue recorded by Ghana.
Additionally, within the same period the United Arab Emirates (UAE) also recorded US$7 billion worth of gold imports from Ghana, but Ghana’s official data for export to UAE showed just US$2 billion.
Goldstreet Business is of the view that the differences in the figures would have risen significantly if all exports and imports data between Ghana and its gold trading partners and countries were examined critically.
It is against the backdrop of these incidents – that short change the country in terms of foreign exchange inflows that we call for the immediate need to tighten various restrictions on the export of these commodities to curb the practice.
Since the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has extended the ban on harvesting and export of rosewood, it is imperative that the various enforcement processes are actually enforced and as such the security agencies must play their respective roles without fear or favour.