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Opinions of Friday, 23 March 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The cedi goes to hell in a hankie

Source: George Sydney Abugri

The cedi goes to hell in a hankie … and I come bearing newsy tidings and eureka solutions to all issues problematic

By George Sydney Abugri

Jomo, you have probably heard it said that a bad workman keeps mumbling and grumbling and quarreling with his working tools all the time and that a bloke stoned to the bone marrow cannot be trusted to think straight but I swear to it, Jomo, I have no quarrel with my PC which is in perfect working order and its keyboard {which is really my sub-machine gun}, has the full complement of the English alphabet. As for the question of a couple of pints in my skull, why, I am as sober as the Pope during Morning Devotion.

So how did all that gibberish come to appear in this pre-historic column last week? Scrambled is the word, old chap. Well and truly scrambled, Jomo. As I worked at my manuscript, the Electricity Company kept behaving like an excited fairy playing pranks with the power supply switch.

It got me losing and desperately trying to recover lost text and realign skewed paragraphs again and again, until disaster struck: A few minutes to the deadline for manuscript posting to the editors, the darned lights were flickering very threateningly again, so click…there went one textually scrambled manuscript which made less sense than one written in coded hieroglyphics.

There is this irritating buck-passing game the ECG plays with the Volta River Authority and GRIDCO which respectively produce and transmit power for the ECG to distribute to consumers: “The power cuts...? It is him!” “Who? Me? Absolutely not. It is him.” “That is a lie, it is HIM!”

Energy Minister Dr. Oteng Adjei says the ever recurring power cuts are a consequence of obsolete equipment and increased energy demand and use. See why I can never get into the golden books of these guys, Jomo?

They come to us asking for the mandate to manage our affairs on our behalf and we give them the full mandate with a capital “M”. The next thing you know, they are asking us to do their work for them while they enjoy their privileged status: Is it the responsibility of energy consumers to anticipate and project increases in national energy demand and provide the necessary resources for coping with progressive increases?

In all seriousness, Jomo we need to banish those behind the power cuts to the Dwarf Islands or some other such outlandish location where they can do no more harm to the national economy.

Economists have never made sense to me and probably never ever will but what they are telling us about the rocket nose dive of our cedi straight for the ocean bed takes the stale bean cake straight to hell in a stained handkerchief.

The economists say our economy is going at a phenomenal gallop and is expected to grow by more than seven percent this year, making it the fastest growing economy in sub-Saharan Africa.

Does it make sense to say ours is becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world and at the same time complain about the phenomenal depreciation of the cedi against the dollar? I do not recall the last time our cedi plummeted earthward progressively for 10 straight days running as has happened in the past fortnight!

Some economists say it does: Such a near dramatic growth in the economy requires a corresponding expansion in economic infrastructure and that means importing more equipment and materials with dollars to build the requisite infrastructure. That leads to a scarcity of dollars and a depreciation of the cedi.

I hear the oil companies, telecom companies and manufacturing industries are in a dollar buying frenzy, lapping up George Washington’s green bucks all over the place like no casino gambler’s business, for the importation of raw materials and equipment.

Then of course, there are there are the huge numbers of retail supermarkets and commercial businesses who know no other word than “import.”

Show me a single consumer item which is not imported with the almighty dollar and I will show you one straight, clear path out of our predicament. One economist also suspects some businesses and enterprises watching the steady plunge of the cedi, have been engaging in panic buying and hoarding of the dollar, making it more and more scarce and expensive.

Yet the solution is so incredibly elementary, isn’t it? Produce most of what you need locally, limit imports to the very barest minimum and then export and export and export as if there were no tomorrow and bingo, we earn lots of dollars which then become more readily available and less expensive while our cedi appreciates.

Amid all that, the usual election year threats to tear the sky down and burn up the place is back with a ritualistic, if also annoying and depressing familiarity. The destructive propaganda, barefaced lies and free-for-all libeling and defamation of political opponents, are all back in boring earnest.

While they are about it, they are simultaneously asking again for our mandate to rule. The development challenges we now face are of such a nature that we stand in very dire need of people who can THINK, Jomo!

I have had the opportunity in recent weeks to travel through scores of neighbourhoods and residential communities in suburbs like Teshie, Nungua, Abeka, Lapaz, Madina, Adenta, Kwabenya, East Legon, Abokobi, Mallam etc and there is one thing common to more than half of them discounting the problems of congestion and environmental insanitation: They have very, very bad access roads.

In the rainy season, its makes movement for both people and motor vehicles unnecessarily messy, inconvenient and economically wasteful in more ways than one and places limitations on the ability of crime and fire fighters to gain easy access to communities.

A project manager of one Construction Company told me how ten years ago, after building a residential community in one of the suburbs, they sought the approval of the District Assembly to reconstruct and tar a dusty road linking the residential community with a highway, at a cost of the equivalent of GHc25.

No way. You cannot do that. That is the responsibility of the Department of Feeder Roads. That is what the contractor was told. Ten years later, users of the dangerously narrow, dry and dusty road are always engulfed in massive clouds of red dust. The estimated cost of reconstruction and tarring the road, I am told, could now be a hundred times the estimated cost 10 years ago.

There has to be a way out of this kind of lethargy. The matter of bad roads in most suburbs is a very serious one that needs to be discussed by the Minister of Roads and Transport, the Assemblies and the Department of Feeder Roads. Voters in communities with the worst roads may consider giving the authorities an electoral scare by picketing and threatening to withhold their votes if nothing is done.

Between them, economic crime investigators, the Attorney-General and the Judiciary, could help us recover all the loads of public cash the Auditor-General says have been stolen, and spend the lot or loot if you like, on building good roads, yah? Website: Email: