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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Columnist: Adongo, Rita

Ghana’s Inflation And E-Zwitch.

Hmm, Ghana is really one interesting place to find yourself. One Greek philosopher had said several centuries ago that something new always emerges in Africa. Today, I dare say that newer things always emerge in Ghana. While in secondary school, I remember that while we were treating the topic Money, Banking and Finance with Madam Emelia Ania, for that was the name of my economics teacher, I remember mumble jumble of an over monetized economy drives the spiral of inflation to unstoppable heights, capable of throwing the whole economy out of gear. She would then proceed to mention the former East Germany and Poland as examples where money lost so much value that even common and harmful commodities like cigarettes and beer were more valuable and accepted for transaction and exchange than paper and coin money.

My then, my little mind could neither comprehend nor apprehend with what she meant. The English people should forgive me if my hands are moving faster than my brain. But all the same thanks to the Ghanaian Educational system, I was able to “chew and pour” to pass my economics exams exceedingly.

Thanks again to my insatiable desire for knowledge, I was later to understand and appreciate the need for an economy with just the right amount of cash in circulation. When I therefore had the opportunity to get myself an e-zwitch card, one of Ghana’s newest innovations in the financial industry towards a less cashless system, I felt proud and elated because I would be contributing my widow’s mite towards the reduction demand pull inflation with over monetization as its chief course.

After getting the card, I realized that most of the shops, kiosks and outlets which served members of the proletariat class students like my humble self were afterall not equipped to do business with e-zwitch. Let me however be quick to add that the plush and senselessly extravagant and ostentatious malls, shopping centers and inns where a common tin of ideal milk can go for as high as GH¢5.00, as against the average price of GH¢2.00, mostly have e-zwitch terminals. As if that was not, in an attempt to try my new card to proof and satisfy myself of the fact that I now owed an e-zwitch card, I frantically searched for an outlet. When I finally had one, the machine wouldn’t recognize my fingerprints. What was even more infuriating was the fact that this machine could not recognize one, two, three or even four of my fingerprints, but all ten prints were rejected.

I was really discouraged and demoralized. I fought very hard to prevent myself from regretting the acquisition of the card. I therefore wish to use this medium to appeal to the Bank of Ghana to as a matter of seriousness look the e-zwitch and other forms of electronic cash movements. If I am not mistaken, the Bank of Ghana had at one point or the other last year assured the public that Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) through out the country would be tailored to be e-zwitch compatible by 2010. I am therefore reminding them that the 2010 is here with us!! If even the ATMs cannot be made compatible, then all the commercial and rural Banks should be directed (ordered) to have e-zwitch outlets to serve the general public. If this happens , controller and accountant general can for instance pay the pension allowances of pensioners on their e-zwich cards so that they can assess their money at the nearest rural bank. In the same light, the ministry of communications or which ever ministry that controls the Post Offices in Ghana should ensure that our post offices have e-zwitch machines. I have information that some banks have paid and provided their national service clients with e-zwitch cards. I do not know how true this is. But it is commendable and worth trying by the national service.

In conclusion, I want to urge the state and individual Ghanaians to all help move the nation towards a less cash monetized economy so as to reduce the repetitive high inflations which almost always plague the country. May I also at this stage congratulate the telecommunications magnate MTN for rolling out their innovative MTN mobile money. It is good and worthy of emulation. Erstwhile SSB now known as SG-SSB should kindly let me know what became of their Sika card. If it only went dormant, they should think of reviving it. By RITA ADONGO. Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).