General News of Friday, 24 January 2003
Source: Weekend Agenda
The two year-old New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government is facing its most strenuous test since storming to power on a crest of popular acclamation on 7 January 2001.
When the party defeated the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the December 2000 elections to consign the era of military strongman Jerry Rawlings into history, it looked like the Kufuor administration could do no wrong.
A 60 per cent hike in fuel prices followed by another quantum leap in utility rates, did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of Ghanaians to rally behind the government.
Now, though the popularity of the NPP and its administration is facing its most strenuous test. It follows the unprecedented 94 per cent hike in petroleum prices announced last week, which has resulted in the extraordinary high cost of living.
The hike in fuel prices has triggered off a free-for all rise in goods and services testing the resolve of the government. Drivers have ignored the Ministry of Roads and Transport directives to increase their fares by only 40 per cent. They have hiked their fares by as much as 200 per cent, in some cases.
At the Tema Station in Accra, ?bookmen? demanded ?1,000 from each passenger before they were allowed to board tro-tro to Tema, and that has nothing to do with the fares. It was when passengers were seated that the drivers and their mates also asked for 150-percentage increase in the old fares before moving their vehicles.
A culture of impudence is emerging after the petroleum increases undermining the government?s ability to hold things together.
On the airwaves, Ghanaians are calling in openly criticising the government for the first time. The minority NDC in Parliament expressed its outrage and rejection of the new petroleum prices in a statement signed by the Minority Chief Whip E.K. Doe Adjaho.
?The increases, almost 100 per cent in the case of petrol and only a little less in the case of all other petroleum products, are unprecedented in the colonial and post independent history of the country,? the NDC said in their statement.
The statement said not even at the height of the Gulf War in 1991, when crude oil rose from $10 a barrel to $40 a barrel did the government raise prices by as much as 100 per cent.
The statement said it is the ?greatest paradox of our history that persons who proclaimed to be champions of the interest of the ordinary people of this country while in opposition by organising massive demonstrations against policies of the previous government, inflicting such cruelty on the same people.?
The government might not worry too much about the NDC statement in the sense that it was the NDC?s accumulation of ?3.4 trillion debt at the Tema Oil Refinery which ended up threatening a collapse of the Ghana Commercial Bank and other banks in the country that forced the hands of the NPP into adopting the drastic price hikes.
The Kufuor Administration though could ill-afford to ignore the pleas of ordinary Ghanaian and the Trades Union Congress especially. The TUC asked the government to adopt realistic plan for achieving realistic incomes for Ghanaians in the wake of the hike in fuel and utility rates.