Editorial: Passport fees, gradual adjustments would have been better

The Foreign Affairs Ministry has adjusted the fees for passport applications, raising them from GH¢100 to ¢500 for the 32-page booklet and to ¢644 for the 48-page booklet under the standard service. For those who want expedited service, they will pay ¢700 for a 32-page booklet and ¢800 for a 48-page booklet.

In December last year, the sector Minister, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, proposed to Parliament’s Committee on Subsidiary Legislation the need to review the fees to enable the ministry to curb losses in the printing of passport booklets. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said it is time for Ghanaians to pay realistic prices for passports they acquire to travel. According to her, due to the financial constraints prevailing in the economy, it had come to a point where it was no longer “sustainable” for the state to continue to subsidize passports.

The Minister stated that Ghanaians pay just about GH¢100 for a passport, yet to produce one passport booklet it costs GH¢400, which means that for every passport that an applicant acquires, the government has to put in GH¢300 and this is not sustainable.

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This decision by the Foreign Affairs Ministry to increase passport application fees has ignited debate across Ghana. The leap from GH¢100 to ¢500 for the 32-page booklet and to ¢644 for the 48-page booklet under standard service, with expedited services costing even more, has left many citizens concerned about the financial accessibility of essential travel documents, especially during these challenging economic times.

Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey’s argument for the fee hike revolves around the need for Ghanaians to pay realistic prices for passports, citing the financial strain on government resources due to subsidies. The Minister’s assertion government is subsidising passport applications at GH¢300 per passport, highlights the unsustainable nature of the fee structure.

To support the argument for the increment in passport fees, the Committee on Foreign Affairs in parliament also reported in the 2024 budget estimates of the ministry that Ghana’s passport fees stand at $7.7, marking it the lowest rate in the West African sub-region. A comparison reveals that Cameroon charges $180, Guinea $57, Guinea-Bissau $65, Burkina Faso $80, and Nigeria $54.29 for passport services.

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However, while acknowledging the need for adjustments, the magnitude of the increase is problematic, particularly given the economic crisis facing the country. Many Ghanaians are already grappling with rising costs of living, inflation and economic uncertainties, making such a significant jump in passport fees burdensome and potentially exclusionary, particularly for low-income earners. Stakeholders and citizens should have had the opportunity to provide input and feedback on a policy change of this magnitude, especially considering its potential impact on individuals and families.

Furthermore, the comparison with passport application charges in other West African countries reveals that Ghana’s fees, even after the increase, remain relatively low. However, it is essential to consider the economic context and the impact on citizens’ ability to access essential travel documents, especially for education, work, healthcare and family visits.

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A more prudent approach would have been to implement gradual adjustments in passport fees, taking into account the economic realities faced by citizens. Incremental increases over time, accompanied by transparent communication and engagement with stakeholders, would have been fairer and more manageable for individuals and families, ensuring that passport services remain accessible to all.

While recognising the need for realistic pricing and fiscal sustainability, there is a strong call for prudent policy-making, especially in the current economic crisis. Future adjustments to passport fees or any government service should prioritise gradual increases and consultative processes to ensure fairness, accessibility and affordability for all Ghanaians.

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