15 July 2014

Ghanaians Grapple With Rising Cost of Living

Accra — GHANANIANS are struggling to come to terms with the latest hike in the price of fuel.

The National Petroleum Authority (NPA) announced the 23-percent increase over the weekend, a development that had a knock-on effect in some industries as prices continue rising.

Already, the Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council (GRTCC) announced a 20 percent increment in transport fares, citing the increase in petroleum products.

A majority of Ghanaians and some businesses expressed their disappointment at the government over the increments, which they said would aggravate the hardship that they are already battling.

“How can you increase fuel prices and taxes without corresponding increase in salaries?” Ebenezer Owusu, a public servant, quizzed.

“Living in Ghana now is very hard. The situation is very bad yet we need to survive. The government must do something to save the people from being consumed by the current economic challenges,” he lamented.

A mobile phone shop owner at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Accra, Ismael Ali, also lamented that the recent increment in utility tariffs, coupled with the hikes in fuel prices and transport fares, would collapse most small and medium scale businesses in the country.

A former Chief Executive Officer of the Volta River Authority (VRA), Dr Charles Wereko Brobbey, added that the hardship Ghanaians were experiencing under the John Mahama-led administration was now unbearable.

“Protecting the price of fuel is the most sensitive decision any government could take,” he said.

Brobbey argued the average Ghanaian paid more for utilities than their “richer” counterparts in the United States.

“The people of Ghana who earn way less than the minimum wage pay more than the average American. How is that possible? If international prices of fuel are going down, prices should go down here in Ghana.

"The mechanisms set up are not working as they should. Why do we have to pay for the inefficiency of TOR (Tema Oil Refinery) and BOST (Bulk Oil Storage Company)?” he decried.

However, NPA, under whose ambit fuel prices continue to surge, attributed the recent increment to the removal of the fuel subsidies, the prices of crude oil on the international market and the depreciation of the Ghana Cedi.

“Since the government is no longer subsidising the price of petroleum products, consumers would have to pay the full cost,” the Public Relations Officer of the NPA, Yaro Kasambata, explained.

He explained that the irregular payment of fuel subsidies by the government in times past “was choking the industry.”

According to Kasambata, the NPA determines the timing for an increment or otherwise, based on the government's decision to intervene.

“The government has the greater picture at any time, and if tomorrow, it feels strongly that it needs to give a pesewa relief on each and every individual, and they have the money to pay, we, as an authority, or even the industry, will not say no to it,” he said.

The recent hikes come amid pressure on the economy with the value of the Cedi weakening against international currencies as well as inflation.

Economists warned that with the recent increment of fuel prices, it would be difficult to contain the inflationary pressures in the country.

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