For the past several months, Ghanaians have been wringing their hands in anguish and gnashing their teeth as they continue to complain over their deteriorating living conditions. This has been predicated on the ever increasing price of almost everything imaginable save air.
These complaints started with the hikes in utility tariffs-water, electricity, fuel and its attendant transportation cost of goods especially food not to talk about their rise in production cost for manufacturers.
Though government has sought to bring some palliatives, these have not been enough to stem the anguish of the citizens who since last year have had to endure these increments while their wages and salaries have remained stagnant.
From the east to the west, from north to south, there is only a refrain one hears from the lips of 99 percent of the population: Life is hard while others have translated it into a whimsical ‘boys/girls abre’ which is not a joke at all.
On a fortnightly basis, fuel prices have been going up although marginally but cumulatively translates into a big dent in the pay packets of the citizens. On a daily basis, we have seen transport fares gone up while liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, for cooking is literally going up beyond what many citizens can afford thereby defeating government’s own long term plan of arresting deforestation. Cooking with firewood and charcoal is back on the works though each government has made a conscious effort to wean the citizens of these modes of cooking.
The National Health Insurance Scheme, the safety net that guarantees the good health of the poorest segments of the society does not seem to be working as it is supposed to be.
The provision of clean potable water in the urban and per-urban areas which at the best of times has not been enough has worsened occasioned by regular shutdowns of the pumping stations has forced many to go looking for the proverbial ‘Kufuor gallon’ to go get water into their homes.
Most times, state authorities have attributed these problems to the ‘declining value of the cedi’ or to ‘external factors or shocks’, explanations that do not sit well with the citizens who feel it and know where it is pinching them most. They cannot understand why prices of these crucial life-supporting or enhancing facilities cannot be controlled most especially now that the country’s revenue base has improved with extra money coming in from crude oil exports in addition to the traditional cash from cocoa, gold, timber and the non-traditional exports of horticultural products.
President John Mahama, in his state of the nation address last week admitted the hardship being endured by Ghanaians – from the epileptic electricity generation and supply, unreliable domestic water delivery, problems with the supply of foreign exchange to ensure that manufacturers get their imported raw materials on time to keep the wheels of industry running. Articulating these concerns is one thing while finding the solution and implementing them is another. This is where Ghanaians are looking up to him for remedial action to bring the smile back on their faces.
The campaign to buy Ghana, eat Ghana is a laudable one and a step in the right direction but it also leaves a lot of questions whose answers the President did not tough on in his address.
What level of support is government giving local entrepreneurs?
How far can the banks go to kick-start this programme with interest rates going up, inflation including production inflation inching up?
We should not forget that the banks are in business to make profit and will therefore not lower their rates in the name of patriotism or nationalism or because they have found a new love for the president.
At this point, we can also say we stand together with the citizens because as their living conditions deteriorate many businesses, the media included, will be the biggest losers as sales and advertising revenue will dry up which translates into business and the attendant redundancies, a situation no government on earth is happy with seeing its citizens unemployed with the attendant social ramifications.
It is time for President Mahama and his team to start rethinking the way forward. Excuses and theoretical solutions are not the way out. We want tangibles that will translates into food on the table, good health and jobs, that is the only way the President will warm his way into the hearts of the doubting Thomas’ who have continually criticized and lambasted him for the rough economic landscape the country is currently traversing.