18 February 2013

Ghana: How Much More Agony Can the Ghanaian Endure?


In the run-up to the Presidential and Legislative elections on December 7, 2000, then New Patriotic Party presidential candidate, John Agyekum Kufuor, took a gallon of petrol to a rally ground in Accra, and declared that the cost of a gallon of petrol, then pegged at ¢10,000 (GH¢1), was too expensive.

He went on to lecture the audience on the negative implications of the high cost of petroleum products, and promised to ensure that high cost of petroleum products did not affect the cost of doing business in Ghana under his leadership.

When Mr. Kufuor sat at Government House and was confronted by the reality of the rising cost of the international price of crude oil, he reneged on his promise. At one point in time, the price of crude oil shot to $147 per barrel. The NPP administration pegged a gallon of petrol at GH¢5.30 (¢53,000 in the old currency).

In opposition at the time, the National Democratic Congress raised hell over increases in the price of petrol. The party's presidential candidate, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills of blessed memory, was particularly incensed by the quantum increase in the price of petroleum products, ginsisting that it was suffocating the Ghanaian. He promised to reduce petroleum prices DRASTICALLY.

There is the notion out there that the good old university don might have won the 2008 elections at the back of this promise. When the chips were down, the new President was found wanting. The Mills administration benefitted greatly from tumbling prices of crude oil on the international market. All the same prices of petroleum product s in Ghana kept rising. The reality was that even though it was cheaper to buy crude oil at the time, the local currency experienced loss of value throughout the period Prof. Mills sat at the Castle.

Instead of the drastic reduction, there were unprecedented rises in the cost of petroleum products in Ghana. As you read this editorial, the government of Ghana has announced sharp increases in the cost of petroleum products. The John Dramani Mahama Government, spearheaded by the National Petroleum Authority, has pegged the cost of petrol at GH¢9.22 per gallon. Diesel now cost GH¢9:31 a gallon.

To added insult to injury, liquefied petroleum products, the very commodity the government is trying to promote as a means of helping to conserve our forests, has been increased by 50 percent.

The need to increase the debate is being anchored on the need to remove subsidies on the product. Trust the opposition to try and derail the argument being propounded by the government. Some elements within the NPP are arguing that there could be no subsidies to remove, anyway.

The Chronicle would like to believe that the time has come for issues on petroleum prices to be discussed without the clouded ideological spectacles of political parties. We expect the government to come clean on this issue of subsidy.

At the moment, we are being told that the government spends as much as $150 million a month subsiding petroleum products. The Chronicle is unable to decipher how this huge money came to be thrown away in the name of subsidy, against the background of an announcement by the Ministry of Finance, not too long ago, that the ministry had hit on a brilliant idea of hedging to cushion the nation against increases in the international market of crude oil.

Yesterday, confusion made its masterpiece throughout the country, when the government announced an upward adjustment in petroleum prices, ranging from 15 to 20 percent for petrol and diesel users, and a dramatic 50 percent adjustment for Liquefied Petroleum Gas.

The Chronicle needs not invite any ghost to inform Ghanaians that the new prices have worsened the already dire state of the economies of most Ghanaians, already squeezed under a regime which claims to be promoting a Better Ghana agenda, and which continues to beat its chest for caring for the ordinary Ghanaian.

In all this jigsaw, The Chronicle is not at all amused that the Tema Oil Refinery, specifically set up to refine crude oil, and that insulates the nation from buying refined oil expensively at the international market, is never factored in this regime's calculation on the oil industry.

As it is we are tempted to infer that there surely cannot be anything better about this regime's handling of the economy. Piling on the agony for the already hard-up Ghanaian cannot be the most effective means of running the economy. How much more agony can the Ghanaian endure?

Copyright © 2013 Ghanaian Chronicle. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.