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Opinions of Friday, 28 January 2011

Columnist: Ampofo, Samuel Ofori

The Politics of Petroleum Pricing

Each time any Ghanaian Government needs to raise money for whatever purpose it deems fit, they find a way to raise prices of Petroleum Products to astronomical proportions. For the past four decades, successive Governments have taken the people of Ghana for granted with deceptive excuse of taxing Petroleum Products. One general excuse has always been to pay off the accumulated DEBTS of The Tema Oil Refinery, (TOR). I have never been satisfied with this blatant lie.
Again, I have never been convinced by Government’s ploy of “subsidizing” Petroleum products for Ghanaians. However, whether true or false, sometime under the NPP Government, Ghanaians were made to believe that under the directives of the World Bank, subsidies were being withdrawn for Ghanaians to pay full recovery prices.

This is one typical system among many of our dysfunctional systems that retards our economic growth. And yet despite our economic losses suffered under these state institutions, what is the economic sense in officials of state enjoying everything free when we have never in our history balanced our budget? We need to ask ourselves, and ask all our (Law makers) Parliamentarians, Chief Directors, Directors and the President: Are we really serious as a Country? Are we willing to move forward economically?

Today the NDC under President Mills is defending the Petroleum price hikes. They claim they withdrawing subsidies and making Ghanaians pay full recovery price of the products. Even without the figures, I have always had the firm belief that Ghanaians have always paid full recovery price for Petroleum products. Presentations by Professor Michael Gyamerah of Houston, Texas, on the GLU forum and on Ghana Web, shows that we have been fooled and deceived by successive Governments all the time.

In the 1990's the NPP capitalized on the insensitive Petroleum price increases under the NDC, and every Ghanaian was a witness to the (KU ME PREKO) demonstrations by the NPP. No one would have thought that the NPP would ever come to power and increase petroleum prices.
In 2008, the NDC capitalized on the arbitrary Petroleum price hikes under the NPP Government and promised during the 2008 political campaign, never to raise prices but a reduction of prices of Petroleum products if and when they were voted to power. Yes, Ghanaians as usual listened, lined up, and gave Political power back to the NDC after eight years.

Unfortunately, over the last four decades, Politicians have been playing on the vulnerability of the Ghanaian population over the Politics of Petroleum pricing. The question is: How long shall we allow such Political deceptions override our common sense judgments?

The truth of the matter is that Ghanaian governments in the last several decades have always been economical with the truth, because of political consequences.
On 3rd January 2011, President Mills Government gave Ghanaians yet another shock of Petroleum price hike by as much as 30%. An official of GNPC claims the rise is to offset the rising cost of crude oil prices, and also to help pay off debt owed by the Tema Oil Refinery.

Until my assumption that Ghanaians pay full recovery price is proven wrong with reasonable numbers, I like to ask the present Government on behalf of the people of Ghana, three simple questions:

1) How did the TOR debt come about?

2) How long has the TOR debt been accumulated?

3) Will Ghanaians ever finish paying the TOR debt?

These are questions whose answers will help me end my years of agitation for the total withdrawal of FREE allocation of petroleum products to Government officials, Ministers, Parliamentarians, Chief Directors, Directors, and even friends of these officials. This is a typical system among many dysfunctional systems that retards our economic growth.

I do not see any economic sense in officials of state enjoying everything free when we have never in our history balanced a budget. Are we really serious as a Country, willing to move forward Economically?

Applying simple arithmetic, if a minimum of one thousand State officials throughout the country enjoy 200 gallons each of free Petrol a month, as being speculated, it sums up to about 1.2million dollars a month. Multiply by 12 months and we are spending 14.4 Million dollars a year that is not accounted for in any budget! Is it any surprise we cannot balance the TOR budget, and the government budget! How can one run a profitable business when part of the products is taken free without any money coming in!

People like Okudjeto Ablakwa and Kofi Wayo, the CJA and many others who made noise during the NPP days are quiet because they are enjoying the bogus system under the NDC. This behavior is absolute HYPOCRISY. I will always stand by my principles and ethical values, in or outside Government. That is what I expect people like Okudjeto and Kofi Wayo to do, even as they are in the NDC Government. That is the only way we can change and move forward.

My fellow Ghanaians, the Constitution of Ghana states clearly in chapter one that, the Powers of Government resides within, the sovereign will of the good people of Ghana. Let us therefore exercise those powers on our Politicians for common sense systems that will work for all Ghanaians.

I have just given the above figures as a typical example, and I will challenge any Government official to come out with the facts, and convincing numbers, to avoid speculations.
Besides allocations to all state-run institutions like the Police, Military, Prisons, Fire service, CEPS, and many others, I challenge Ghanaians to rise up and vehemently oppose all forms of free Petrol and all other forms of Perks to Government officials.
Those who enjoy the bogus, stinky, hopeless, exploitative and retarded system will never change it, because it favors them.

For Ghana to move forward, we need to practice a system that favors all, not a small segment of government employees. We need to practice a fair and open system that works under the developed economies.
One way is to remunerate officials deservingly, let them take care of their problems, and abandon the exploitative colonial PERKS.
Ghana needs to be progressive and innovative, applying common sense economics to recapture our lost glory.

Samuel Ofori Ampofo (2008 Aspired MP for Kade Costituency) 001 908 340 7782