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Opinions of Saturday, 19 March 2005

Columnist: Ampofo, Ofori

The 13,500 Daily Minimum Wage, How Will You Classify It?

I have classified it as a DEATH WAGE IF the former speaker of the national assembly Mr. Peter Adjety a few months ago could classify over six million cedis MP's monthly salary as STARVATION SALARY.

Accra February 24th GNA- The National tripartie committee on wage announced a 20.5 percent increase in the National minimum wage with effect from 1st March 2005. As a result, the minimum wage, has jumped from 11,200 cedis to 13,500 cedis per day. Fellow Ghanaians, the depreciatory manner in which Ghanaians at the bottom of the ladder struggle through life daylily for survival makes it imperative to classify the approved minimum wage as a DEATH WAGE.

In a month of 30 days, the minimum wage earner has only 11,000 cedis to spend per day. Realistically, what can 11,000 cedis buy in today's Ghana? If you go to a local chop bar for instance, a satisfying lunch will probably be 30,000 cedis. I am not saying the minimum wage earner should go in for that kind of lunch anyway, however are we saying that class of people are not entitled to a fair living wage? Who in his/her fair mind would ever think that 13,500 cedis a day would be enough for a single unmarried individual? That person will be living in a fools world. HOW CAN ANY BODY RENT A ROOM AND EAT WITHIN THE MINIMUM WAGE? To be blatant, I believe everyone in the minimum wage bracket steals from wherever they work everyday in order to make ends meet. They know if they are caught they will be fired but they prefer to gamble and have something to eat with no regards to consequences. Members of the tripartie committee have done the job they were told to do, using certain determining factors. We thank them for their efforts; however in real terms, do they think the lives of people in the minimum wage bracket is worth living in today's Ghana? If their answers would be no, then why wouldn't people in power stop bankrupting the system and give every working Ghanaian a fair share of the National cake?

In my estimation, a fair minimum wage considering the level of hardships, should be about 25,000 cedis per day. 500,000 cedis a month. How can the government afford to pay that? I know some people will ask but here is how. There are numerous ways if government and people in power are prepared to fix the system. I will only throw some light on a few areas where government can create funds and I mean substantial funds to make life a little meaningful for those at the bottom. The simple reason that the system has been as we have known it, politicians do not want to fix it for shear selfishness.

(1) Government must expand the tax base. Only civil servants and industrial workers pay taxes in Ghana. About 60% of the people in the streets and market places don?t pay taxes, even though they make incomes more than those in the public service.

(2) We have to slim down the size of our government. We don?t need the many ministries and their ministers. For the size of the country, population and economic constraints.

(3) There was no need for the creation of the 30 additional constituencies at least not for now. The fact that the constitution allows it does not mean it had to be done if we cannot fund them. They still could have been created ten to twenty years from now depending on resource availability.

(4) Government officials including Ministers, should no longer use state vehicles like their private cars. They should be restricted to office use only. If we are not rich, we must operate within our means.

(5) Ministers, parliamentarians, and other government officials should be paid real basic salaries and be fully taxed instead of paying them huge tax free allowances. If government is willing to raise the living standard of the poor in the country, it should be more pragmatic instead of idealistic in its policies and yes in a matter of months the minimum wage can be raised to 25,000 cedis. We have labeled ourselves as a very poor country but in reality, we are not poor. A country of 20 million people with vast arable lands and abound natural resources, why should we with proper planning and management belong to HIPC? This is unacceptable but let us even accept the fact that we are poor, if so, then we must let the world recognize and see us behave as such. If we can purchase a 94,000 US dollars Mercedes Benz for example and other luxury fleet of cars, then it doesn?t confirm our claim as a HEAVILY INDEBTED COUNTRY. I really do think the world bank and IMF don?t believe our claim as HIPC that?s why they put too much pressure on us to deregulate the petroleum sector of the economy. God only knows what and how they think about us as a people in the first place and government, as an institution of the country. Countrymen and women, let?s face the facts, we should not live and behave extravagantly if we claim to be very poor. The fact that NDC government under Rawlings had big government, doesn't mean the NPP should also have big-time government as some of our NPP politicians argue. Popular Ghanaian opinion thought NPP was really going to loosen our belts with all our known history on belt tightening under previous governments, but we rather see the opposite; more tightening. Well, if rich countries are writing off our debts, we should prove to them by our strategy and behavior as a government, that we are truly poor and need some more debt relieves.

In any case the minimum wage earners in Ghana also deserve their fair share of the National cake; 13,500 cedis a day is only a death wage. I am an NPP camper and contributor even though I am not a registered voter for apparent reason however, I am not happy with the way government is running the business of the country. I am criticizing because I thought we were a better alternative to the NDC government but if the yard stick by which poor Ghanaians will measure the success of each government doesn?t show any difference at determining the welfare of the mass of the people especially those at the bottom, then I am sorry.

In practical sense, let me put it this way even if we build all first class roads, with flyovers everywhere, and build the world?s best airports and harbors etc. as long as the cost of living, FOOD, RENT, TRANSPORTATION AND UTILITIES, GOES ON SKYROCKETING, the suffering Ghanaian at the bottom of the ladder will never praise the government by any measurement. WE SHOULD BETTER SIT UP AND PUT ON OUR THINKING CAPS.

If the situation doesn?t improve the next three years, then Ghana will need a new kind of sincere and selfless people to take over the administration of the country by the year 2008; to save it from total economic catastrophe. IF the NPP can't bring the cost of living down siginificantly to bare on the poor in Ghana, then certainly not the NDC again after 20 years of corruption and mismanagement. NO; INSTEAD, I will like to promise Ghanaians wholeheartedly that a better alterative is on its way and that will be THE SAVE GHANA NOW ASSOCIATION. Read save Ghana now - politically and economically.

GOD BLESS OUR HOMELAND AND OUR PEOPLE.

OFORI AMPOFO
NEW JERSEY(NJ)USA.

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