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Gold in Ghana: A Story of Unbalanced Exchange


This paper presents the historical and institutional context of the development of the gold sector in Ghana, which sets the stage for examining the contribution of the sector to the economy and its exposure to capital flight. The analysis sheds light on the important role that the regulatory framework and the fiscal regime that govern the gold sector have played in perpetuating a system of unequal distribution of gains from gold exploitation in terms of tax revenue and foreign exchange earnings in favour of foreign gold companies. The statistical analysis of gold export statistics reveals substantial discrepancies between Ghana’s gold exports and the recorded value of imports by its trading partners. These differences point to export underinvoicing as a conduit of capital flight, while also exhibiting a systematic lack of transparency and inconsistencies vis-a-vis established international conventions governing the recording of trade transactions, especially in the case of gold destined for South Africa which does not show up in the latter’s import statistics. Overall, the analysis suggests that the gains from the gold sector remain much below potential, but that at the same time there may be room for reforms that can improve the benefits from gold exploitation for the country.

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