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Opinions of Saturday, 15 January 2011

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

Fuel Price Increases: My Concerns

By Alex Bossman Baafi

The most valuable asset of every nation is the citizens or residents of that nation and therefore the well-being of the people must be the topmost priority of every government worth it sort. Governance becomes meaningless if it is not capable to lift the vast majority of the people from abject poverty and underdevelopment. It is therefore critical to ensure that competent and serious minded managers manage the nation. It behooves on the president to make it a duty to build a solid foundation upon which to deliver his vision or agenda that aims at improving the quality of life of the people in the country. Assembling a competent team is part of building the foundation upon which to deliver success because people are more important than plans and programmes. It takes competent team to execute any well thought-out plans or programmes to their successful conclusion for the benefit of the people. Competent managers make the difference wherever they may be by making best quality decisions in solving the challenges that confront them in the day-to-day operational routines. They make the difference by their ability to think outside the box, analyze problems and their possible solutions and deciding on the best out of the potential solutions for the benefit the organization or in this case the nation.

Perhaps the president has come to the realization of the critical importance of this competent team issue hence the recent reshuffle and the sacking of many district Chief executives an action many political pundits have described as “too little too late”. Many people are of the view that this government is still saddled with many incompetent people, “Team B” making the delivery of the Better Ghana Agenda fast becoming a mirage.

Hasty and reckless decisions such as the increase in fuel prices by 30% at a go will undoubtedly worsen the plight of the mass majority of the people, create bad image for the government as well as worsen economic growth and development. What went into the calculation of the 30% quantum is not in the interest of the ordinary average person. Any time a decision like this that has the potential to affect people adversely is taken, if nothing at all can be done, education is very important for people to psyche themselves in order not to be taken by surprise.

Before announcing the 30% hike in the fuel prices the manager explained that, the prices had not been reviewed for the past 14 months. This is unacceptable excuse and a sign of gross incompetence. As a manager of this sensitive sector, what was he doing during that period? Is he paid to work in his own interest or in the interest and betterment of the nation? Common sense should tell him that at least a quarter of a year is a time period long enough to warrant a review that would have brought in about 5% increase per quarter which in my opinion is more manageable than a onetime 30% increase. Again, he should have known better that parliament had then approved an increase in the TOR recovery levy by 300% and that was going to compound the problem. What about the timing? For me the manager’s judgment about the timing was poor. Right after Christmas festivities very many people are already broke. Other commitments like the school fees are just around the corner and therefore such insensitive increase will definitely meet a huge public outcry.

Perhaps, this is the Social Democratic Government that fails to put the people at the centre of everything it does this is because, this NDC government promised to provide tax relief to the people through various tariffs and tax measures so why do they want to take us for a ride? Since its inception in 2009, the government is pursuing obnoxious and draconian excessive taxation policies that are impoverishing the people at an increasing rate. The government has increased the burden of the people through the increases in petroleum prices, increases in water and electricity prices, roads and bridges tolls had shot up astronomically on the average of 1,500%. There are other wide range of taxes on individuals and businesses. According to the 2011 budget, airport taxes have gone up, a new environmental tax of 20% has been slapped on plastic packaging materials, gift tax up from 5% to 15%, taxes on food imports including rice and poultry products risen to 35%, there is abolition of tax holiday incentives for Ghanaian Real Estate Developers, no deferred tax payment for bonded warehouses, increase in vehicle income tax, repeal of tax holidays for hotels and others in hospitality industry, increase in tax stamp for market women, kiosks businesses as well as those in the informal sector.

This excessive taxation will kill businesses, increase unemployment and worsen the plight of very many good people of the country whilst the few in government enjoy their ostentatious lifestyle with arrogance. Do ministers pay for fuel? However, they are in the better position to pay than the average person is. This is clearly tax administration injustice but the poor man has no choice.

I am definitely not against taxes but excessive taxation is counterproductive and you should bear in mind that you are in government because of the people. Government managers should strive to take quality decisions to affect the lives of the people positively. We must also bear in mind that taxes alone cannot generate enough money for government businesses; instead, we must tackle corruption that is endemic in this government and put in place a competent team for the betterment of our dear nation.

Email: abkbossman@yahoo.co.uk