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Opinions of Monday, 4 November 2013

Columnist: Anim-Mensah, Alexander

Increased Tariffs versus Petroleum Products Supply and Demand

Increased Tariffs versus Petroleum Products Supply and Demand in Ghana

As it was said during the liberation of Ghanaians from colonialism, “forward ever and backwards never”. This is a phrase which has varied meaning to different people depending on the context and time. The obvious interpretation meant, we were going to have our freedom to technologically advance and amidst wealth as well as improve our standard of living. However, technological advancement does not come cheap. It does however require better planning, prioritization as well as the adaptation of appropriate budgeting. As one leader said “Independent liberation does not mean the struggle is over”. Independent liberation actually means you are liberated to call your own shots, to take care for yourself as well as taking your country to the next level through thick and thin and not the other way around. As foreign as this concept might seem this is the new reality.
Several years ago there used to be no light in the country and Akosombo gave light; this situation changed to no light in some rural areas and there came light in those areas as a result of the national electrification project. Not counting the absence of transportation a couple of decades ago to modern day status of numerous vehicles everywhere within and about the country. Some of the side effects of industrialization are increased in population and the continuous scoring of pollutants. Statistical data on population and EPA records show Ghana has had a significant population growth since the discovery of oil than any other time in the nation’s history. This growth could be coupled with other factors such as a democratic hub for stability for other African countries around the region but the effect of the oil discovery could not be discounted.
One pressing observation is that even with increase in population and the adaptation of aggressive manufacturing technologies in the country the underlining resources has not gone through any expansion to support the growth. Akosombo has not changed much in physical size since it day viewed five decades ago. One may argue that the effective capacity per current population size may have diminished due to wear and tear, age and inadequate preventive maintenance. This ratio of supply over demand is bound to drive rationalization. To restate the obvious, the rationing of electric power in Ghana is a clear indication that the energy sector cannot sustain the current population status and business growth leaving no room for future expansions. A country like Ghana could only resort to an unprecedented increase in tariff if and only if she finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place. This desperate and drastic tariff increase is an over compensation strategy to stabilize a system that is on the verge of collapsing. A system that has been neglected for years, obviously not self sustaining and have not made it to the fore front of the national agenda until now.
One fact that seem mind bugling is the fact that the Government could sponsor pilgrim trips to Mecca, or offer to send 200 Christian Pastors to Israel for casual day of prayer and worship, but cannot maintain the infrastructure that supplies electricity in the country. There are a lot to be done for Ghana to go forward, however, until the basic building blocks are in place we will be singing hallelujah with no power or going in circles with no forward movement. Other basics requirements include adequate food, clean water supply, sufficient accommodation, reliable transportation and communication systems, and above all energy. These necessities need to be effectively in place for advancement ahead of the pursued for national development. Since no builder will like to build in the sand without a solid found! One critical note is that these building blocks stems off from energy availability and reliability. 1590 World Origin & history indicate that the word energy origin from the Greek work “Energia” which means “Activity”. Figuratively Energy drives all activities which are the driving force of any nation.
One may ask can we go forward when the very people who are supposed to make it happen are hungry, thirsty, have no place to lay their head, and especially unpatriotic. Can we innovate and challenge the core of our existent when the very people who are supposed to make it happen cannot commute from point “a” to point “b” and also unmotivated? One dividing difference between Africa and the rest of the world is our perception about work. We feel shy about work. Where as in the Western world everyone is thrilled and proud to have a job and work it with a smile. The cleaning lady will come in every day and on time to clean the bath rooms proudly like her entire life depends on it. She will call to inform you she’s running late but will stay over to make up her hours. She will inexcusably work for money as an example.
Now focusing on Governance and systems: - One of the world’s renowned political figure once said “the present of patriotism among citizens is not indicative of the absence of party differences”. Since the different party groups are resources to express difference in governance, checks and balances, and not for disruption of patriotism. We are quick to reference what is happening in the developed nations and forget about how they got to where they are. Patriotism which is the main engine of national pride comes with enormous sacrifices. Governments should bring patriotism before the party since a party in power only represents at least 50.1 % of a nation’s population (by vote) however patriotism could conquers as much as 99.9%.
Ghana needs a consecutive strategy and sustaining plan for these building blocks and it is each government’s responsibilities to prioritize to accomplish some of them during their term in government. Since it is almost impossible to build a self sustaining nation if the core foundation is not laid. Even though eight (8) year term governance might not sound enough for total transformation, if the core development plan is strategized to be sequential from government to government after a while the effective accomplishment will surface. Surprisingly, each government tries to re-set the clock to zero (0) by dismantling what has been started by the predecessor or discontinuing projects in the pipe line by reissuing contracts, refunding company trucks, rebuilding new accommodations for staff, and reconstruction window curtains to amass wealth in the process.
The blame belongs to us all since part of the problem have trickled down and rippled from the past and inherited today but could not be used as an excuse, since offices are taken to reverse existent situations rather than make them worse. On the flip side, distancing ourselves from world economics in order to go forward will be like “shooting in the dark” with no target.
The trend is written in black and white since the standard of living and other socioeconomic situations going forward is going to be unbearable. And it’s during these times that one should cultivate survival-economics and smart ways to live during such unprecedented hard economic times. As a matter of fact it is going to get tougher if we do not change our ways as Ghanaians. The defector might be to blame the government but the “reality is reality” and often controlled by external forces and world banks. Rather than complaining and begging one need to get smarter to adapt to the current hardships as a results of the increasing tariffs, petroleum products, introduction of new sale tax etc. The following are some tips to help you save some money. For additional clarification the focus here is on domestic and individual rather than companies who have their own effective systems in place.
• For appliances like electric stoves, hair dryer, kettle, fan, fridge, TV, air conditioners, generators, etc. used in our homes if one can afford buy those with energy star rating or with low power consumption ratings. These electrical appliances consume less power. Most old appliances may not be very energy efficient and could cost you more money to operate.
• Use tinted glasses windows on buildings to reflect sunlight away you’re your house and rooms which will have positive net benefit to lower power used to cool your rooms.
• If air conditioning system is used, setting the thermostat at acceptable minimum temperature and letting the system run continuously is better than switching off and on as needed.
• For central air conditioning system also check that all the windows and access ways are well sealed to prevent losing of cool air to the outside.
• For building with no air conditioning system, having more windows to ventilate the room rather than using a fan could save some energy. However, more windows might not be practical because of possible increased access ways for thieves, cost of security (burglar proof) and other associate costs. Enough ventilation might be helpful for home safety because of the numerous chemicals and medicines we keep in our homes when aging may break down to release toxic gases where enough ventilation could help.
• Use motion or dark activated lights if possible to regulate the power use.
• Use florescent or LED lights instead of incandescent bulbs if possible.
• Use sun roofs if possible and may not possess access ways for thieves.
• Turn off any electrical gadgets when not in use.
• Boil the amount of water you need unless equipment requires more to function.
The rest of the write up focuses on how to minimize use and save on petroleum product:
In general most vehicles in Ghana are older, very inefficient, have high operating cost which require frequent and regular maintenance. This coupled with the bad roads, high fuel cost on top of relatively lower salaries of the ordinary working Ghanaian necessitate an absolute way to save money. Having said that the following are some tips to consider;
• When you have an option to purchase an automatic car versus manual, opt for the manual since manual cars don’t consume much petro.
• Plan your trips to avoid multiple trips in a day.
• If you have options travel during non peak hours of the day to avoid traffic jams.
• We all know that traffic consume a lot of fuel because of the stop and go manner. Traffic coupled with air conditioning could cost you more money. Use air-conditioning when necessary.
• Check your vehicle’s air filter to make sure they are clean and not clogged hence if clogged or dirty one will require a new one since an amount of air need to mix with an amount of fuel for efficient burning to run the vehicle. If the filter is clogged or dirty one need to replace it to make sure that you are not burning fuel with less air. This overtime may kill your engine because burning fuel in less air (oxygen) environment will deposit soot (carbon) in your engine. If you cannot afford a new filter try to clean the filter yourself; this could include soaking filter in soapy/detergent solution and blowing air in the reverse direction to dislodge trap dirt. Do not destroy the filter in the process. The filter is to prevent dirt from getting to your engine while allowing air to pass through.
• For vehicle’s having sensors for monitoring and maintaining fuel to air (oxygen) ratio, make sure the sensor are working right. Most signs of check engine light while vehicle runs may be associated with the air (oxygen) sensor. This will not result in one’s vehicle stopping but could cost you an engine over time because of the possible fuel/air ratio out of range. Note that not all check engine lights are as results of the fuel/air ratio problem. Contact a seasoned mechanic for the diagnosis. Potable diagnostic instruments/tools are available for zeroing into the problems; eliminate try and error method which involves tempering with one’s vehicles.
• Use fuel cleaner to remove gum and dirt from injectors if your car is automatic. Gums and dirt could collect on injectors which could lead to inefficient use of fuels. These are chemicals that are regularly added to the fuel in the vehicle tanks.
• Make sure your inflated tires are well within the manufacturer recommended pressure- this value is always on the tires.
• Change your spark plugs regularly. This is necessary to improve vehicular efficiency.
• Change your oil within specified distance traveled or date. This is necessary because some oils may break down after some time or distance travelled. Note that engine oils are for engine lubrication and cooling. Oil change periods in some vehicles could be indicated by “service engine soon”.
• Check level of oil, transmission oil and coolants regularly.
In conclusion, one stands to feel that the-have or rich have more economic-flexibility to be efficient, while the poor in most cases are inefficient and behind when it comes to maintenance and system sustainability. But the answer could be inscribed on the cedi note. Which means, there are opportunity for the not-have to take advantage of the listed suggestions to be efficient and save on money as well as self innovate. Since every drop of saving will add-up over time. I believe by adopting some of the tips above could keep some money in your pocket to do something meaningful for yourself and mother Ghana.
At this point both our government and the radio stations have a task on hand to use all media outlets to educate Ghanaians on how to manage efficacy to meet the changing and challenging economic times. Since even minute inefficient use of petroleum product means huge revenue for the corporations from sales revenue point of view, huge loss to the consumer and irreversible impact to the environment. In final, it is a natural phenomenon that the stronger and faster will always survive no matter what. Those who surfer and perish are those that are slow to change and weak to understand or adopt. These principles have always been the corner stone of human survival and evolution theory in general. A word to the wise is enough and let live smarter.
God bless.

Alexander Anim-Mensah, PhD (ChE), , Dayton Ohio
Jacqueline A. Anim, MSc. (ChE), , Cincinnati Ohio