The administration of John Dramani Mahama, propped up by the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which claims to be promoting a social democracy agenda, may have removed only a fraction of the $150 subsidies the government claims to put on petroleum products on a monthly basis, when it announced increases in petroleum prices yesterday.
Nevertheless, The Chronicle can report authoritatively that the 15 per cent increase on petrol, 20 percent on diesel, and the whopping 50 percent hike slapped on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), have the potential of worsening the already hapless state of the economic well-being of most Ghanaians.
Yesterday, as the announcement of the increases were announced on state and private communication networks, drivers responded by slapping huge increases in fares. Unprepared for the quantum rise in commuting fares, a number of passengers engaged drivers in loud exchanges at the various lorry stations and car parks across the country.
From Sunyani, Michael Boateng reports that the Brong Ahafo Regional capital was in chaos yesterday, as passengers engaged drivers and their mates in scuffles over fares. Drivers plying the Sunyani-Abesim Road, a journey that was attracting a fare of 60 pesewas before the petroleum price increases, began charging 80 pesewas for the same journey.
It normally cost 90 pesewas to commute from Sunyani to Fumesua. Yesterday, drivers were charging GHÂÂ¢1.20 pesewas, and with passengers not prepared to part with that amount of money, the verbal exchanges nearly resulted into physical exchanges.
According to Mr. Boateng, commuting within the Sunyani Township on tro-tro used to attract a fee of 50 pesewas. Yesterday, drivers and their mates were calling the same journey for 70 pesewas.
In Accra, the situation was fluid. On some of the routes in the national capital, drivers took advantage of the increases in petroleum prices to hike their fares, while others stuck to the old prices, stating that they were waiting on their national executives to advice on new fares.
In Tamale, Edmund Gyebi reported yesterday, that contrary to the situation in other parts of the country, most commuters were on foot. There has been no petrol in town, following problems at the storage centre at Buipe. The few vehicles in town were charging the old fares, The Chronicle Regional Correspondent reported.
"In Tamale, we do not have fuel. For sometime now, most commuters have trusted in the use of their feet, rather than wait for vehicles which wouldn't come. We have not got the luxury of experiencing how it is to increase petroleum prices. When the situation with supply improves, it is then that we would know the re-action of the people," Gyebi responded to the inquiry from head office on the line.
At Koforidua, passengers appeared to have resigned themselves to their fate of paying more for their journeys. According to Regional Correspondent, Isaac Okonor-Akwetey, most passengers were venting their spleen on the government, and not drivers and their mates, for their plight.
"What can we do when the government has decided to toy with our destiny?" one passenger complained to The Chronicle. "Any fare increase at this stage is not the making of drivers.
"It is the machinations of a government which makes much noise about the welfare of the Ghanaian, and rather practices austerity," the passenger told The Chronicle, asking for anonymity.
In Kumasi, the reception to the increase has been hostile. The notion, according to our regional reporter, Issah Alhassan, is that the government was incapable of anything good.
"The petroleum price hike is no news to any Ghanaian. It has been coming for a long time. Mahama and his government do not care about the Ghanaian," a resident fumed.
The Chronicle gathered from its interaction with citizens throughout the country that the new increases in petroleum prices would harm industry. It has also got the potential of causing serious harm to restaurants and other food businesses, with serious consequences on tourism in the long run.