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General News of Thursday, 10 June 2010

Source: The Business Analyst

There Is No Excitement In The Land

The recent utility tariff increases announced by the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), even though widely expected, has not been taken kindly by many Ghanaians. Threats have already been issued by identifiable bodies, calling for a review or else…! The disenchantment of the people is not because the utility service providers do not deserve to recover their costs and earn margins to continue in business. Long before they made their intentions to raise tariffs manifest, these service providers subjected Ghanaians to sub-standards of services that were highly annoying, to put it mildly. The epileptic electricity supply still continues unabated and there appears to be no indication that the situation would improve very soon. The same goes for the water suppliers, whose neglect of leakages even when patriotic citizens have drawn their attention to them has become legendary. The inconveniences caused by these service providers, through their many unscheduled disruptions have been costly to many businesses, which cannot plan meaningfully in order to meet deadlines for servicing contracts. Now, in the face of unsatisfactory services, many Ghanaians find it a rip-off when, for instance, they see water gushing out of burst pipelines for hours on end and in spite of alarms raised with the water company, nobody appears to be in a hurry to halt that. As far as electricity is concerned, when one sees connection of electricity to the many slums in the city, one wonders who connected power to these places, which appear not to exist on maps. It therefore becomes a mystery how the people in these places are billed or into whose pockets they pay their power consumption if they do pay at all. There have been concerns about the costs of inputs procured by workers of these utility service providers from the public. Accusations have flown about, for instance, that they engage in a lot of over-invoicing, which any cursory verifications could uncover. All these avoidable costs, invariably end up on the accounts of these service providers and are passed on to customers, who are expected to pay just tariffs! The intention of government to mitigate the impact of the tariff increase by cushioning people in the consumption range of zero to 50 units sounds laudable. However, any serious analysis of the living patterns of the poor and vulnerable (average Ghanaian) would reveal that they mostly live in compound houses, where they have to deal with compound bills from compound meters! A chunk of the consumption from such shared meters automatically fall in the range expected to belong to that of the above-average Ghanaian. The result is anybody’s guess. But even long before the utility tariff increases were announced, many Ghanaians have been suffering quietly from the austere policy measures being implemented by the government. Whereas many agree that the country could not continue with the deficits run by the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration and therefore debts had to be serviced, they still expect from a social democratic party, which the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) party professes, more caring and humane policies. For now, as far as The Business Analyst is concerned, there is no excitement in the land and the earlier the government did something about it to put smiles on the faces of people, the better. The Business Analyst