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Opinions of Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

The Persistent Liquefied Petroleum Gas Shortage Is a Shame

By Alex Bossman Baafi

President Mills on numberless occasions had reiterated that the purpose of his government is to improve upon the living conditions of the people. This in my humble opinion cannot be traced anywhere near the actions and inactions of the president and his team.

Evidence abounds that the vast majority of the people of this country are really struggling with severe economic hardships under the leadership of the President Mills and his corrupt government. Since Mills-Mahama government took office in January 2009, there have been intermittent severe gas shortages. For almost three years but the government seems to have no clue to solve the problem. Nobody is aware of any conscious and consistent efforts the government is making to halt the problem in order to improve upon the living standards of the good people of this country. There has not been any initiative or policies tailored towards reduction of poverty, diseases and underdevelopment. The gas shortage is compounding the woes of our people. I am not saying that poverty will disappear overnight in this country but poverty reduction is not a problem to be fought with kids’ gloves. The government must act with urgency to find a contingency solution to the gas shortage in order to end the hardships the good people of this country are going through.

Mills government’s failure to pursue a policy of constant, reliable and uninterrupted supply of gas means the government has not realized that the energy sector holds one of the keys to make life better for the vast majority of the people. This government has underestimated the importance of the Energy Sector. The sector has so far, been marginalized that, its potential contribution to the country’s gross national product is missing. That is the gospel truth. The resources available in this sector could be carefully utilized to bring relief to many by any serious government focusing on improving the welfare of the masses that are wallowing in abject poverty.

Because of corruption and personal interest of some few people in government to the detriment of the national interest, coupled with incompetence, the management of the energy sector has proved a huge challenge for Mills’ administration. The management of Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and the fuel supply including Premix, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and kerosene have been despicable in my opinion. At least in Tema and other parts of the country there used to be a door-to-door supply of gas during the NPP Administration. This is a fact that is still vividly fresh in the minds of many in face of the ongoing severe shortage of gas throughout the country.

The shortage of gas in deed had disrupted many businesses including, commercial transportation, chop bars, hospitality businesses as well as other industrial establishments not to mention the inconveniences the domestic users go through. It has compounded the problem of mass joblessness and hence hopelessness. Many wonder what the government has been doing for almost three years when the destiny of our dear nation was entrusted in their care. When will they exude the seriousness, commitment and the will to work in the interest of the masses that are wallowing in poverty, diseases and underdevelopment instead of their selfish interest?

In all, our dear ones living in the rural areas are the hardest hit. Kerosene is now a luxury commodity in our rural areas since it is the privilege few that have access to it. Because of scarcity, a tot of the product is sold at very exorbitant price when one chance to come across any. This unfortunately has been the situation since the advent of this NDC government with nobody giving a damn. The acute shortage of kerosene that runs alongside the shortage gas with the advent of this government has been swept under the carpet. Living conditions in the rural areas are in jeopardy. Since the government has no ears, it has not heard the cries of our people living in the poor rural communities. What a pity. What a shame.

If you look around these days, you will notice long queues in lorry stations and bus stops similar to the hustling days in the early 1980s where transportations difficulties in the country created a huge unfortunate opportunity for Pickpockets who normally operated their dirty trade at the trotro and bus stops during rush hours, the morning and evenings. They struck anytime innocent commuters struggle at the entrances of trotro or buses in their desperation to get to their destinations. That practice has reared its ugly head in our country again because of the long queues. This is happening because sizeable numbers of taxis are queuing in gas filling stations that are rumored to get supply of gas soon or probably the next few days, weeks or months ahead. What a shame for the government of a lower middle-income country that is also producing and selling oil in commercial quantities lamenting over shortage of gas. Because we failed to plan, we planned to fail.

Today, most of the natural gas associated with our oil production at the Jubilee field is flared because we were not quick to put the necessary gas infrastructure in place. What was the government waiting for? It is a shame to note that the Mills’ government has toyed with the energy sector to the extent that its potential growth and intersectorial synergistic benefits have been insignificant under his administration.

So is that the best this government can do? I marvel. The only unconvincing explanation the good people of this country has been offered is that, there has been astronomical increase in commercial transport that now depend on gas as a source of fuel and therefore the demand of gas far exceeds the supply, hence, the shortage. The social democratic government wants us to believe that for almost three years that the good people of this country have known no peace for want of gas, premix and kerosene, nobody in government or the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), found it a duty to look for solutions to the problem. Is the shortage of kerosene also due to increase in commercial transportation?

If nothing at all, gas as a source of fuel energy could provides huge chunk of employment and incomes for most people in the country. It has the potential to create more direct and indirect jobs. A resource that can be harnessed for poverty reduction and underdevelopment. Therefore, the government should not behave like the Ostrich by burying its head in the sand with unacceptable excuses about the shortage. She must live up to expectation by fixing the problem and stop fixing the blame. In my opinion, the persistent shortage is due to lack of vision, a clear case of incompetence and failure of Mills’ social democratic government administration, which is a shame.

Email: abkbossman@yhoo.co.uk