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Opinions of Sunday, 26 July 2015

Columnist: Asare-Donkoh, Frankie

When Parliament loses power

For almost four years, Ghana has been struggling to solve the problem of erratic electricity supply leading to the now famous term, dum sor, which sums up the on-off nature of the electricity supply.

The situation had continued to worsen reaching a point where in many parts of the country the situation is no more dum sor, but rather dum dum (meaning the lights go off without coming back as it used to be at the start of the problem).

This forced the President to create a new Ministry of Power from the old Ministry of Energy with the hope that a new ministry would be able to solve the problem quicker. However, with the creation of the new ministry, many Ghanaians don’t seem to have noticed any improvement in the supply of electricity and therefore do not see the need for the creation of the new ministry.

Many companies and industries have sacked some of their workers as they are operating at a much reduced capacity in the absence of regular electricity supply and the extra huge cost they were incurring to fuel stand-by generators.

Conservative estimates put the number of workers sacked from their jobs as a result of the erratic power supply at 20,000. Industry managers have warned that more would be sacked in the coming months if the situation does not improve.

In March this year, one of the telecommunication companies operating in Ghana, MTN, said it spent GH¢86 million on fuel alone in 2014. The company said it budgeted for GH¢51 million but with the situation deteriorating on daily basis, the figure shot up by additional GH¢35 million.

Many companies have also scaled down their operational hours to safe cost. One of them is the Multimedia Group Limited, operators of Joy FM and Joy News TV in addition to a number of radio stations across the country. The group said in March this year that it had cut back on overnight transmissions, because its fuel cost had increased astronomically from GH¢2,000 to GH¢20,000 a month.

Despite the fact that President John Dramani Mahama, has on a number of occasions publicly accepted that we have a problem with electricity supply and that he was trying to ‘fix’ the problem, many of his ministers and other appointees seem not to care about the feelings of the ordinary people, and thus continue to argue that our electricity supply situation is not bad compared to other countries.

Even the Finance Minister, Mr Seth Terkper, who undoubtedly should know how much revenue the country has lost from personal income tax, company tax and other levies as a result of reduced production by industry, does not recognise that the country faces a problem with electricity supply.

On July 2, this year, he said: “Let us remember that even during the period that we coined dumsor and all that, Ghana has a record, the country has 72 per cent access to electricity,” adding that when it comes to access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana is ranked second to South Africa “so we may not be too bad after all.”

Throughout these four years the general concerns of majority of Ghanaians have been that because some individuals and organisations like the Presidency, ministers, members of Parliament (MPs), and other influential people don’t experience dum sor, they have not shown the requisite seriousness in pressing the government to end the problem.

Last Wednesday, in the middle of their deliberations, MPs experience dum sor causing some of them to express their disappointment. Media reports said after waiting for a while after the dum without the sor, many of the MPs left. Thank God, they would not lose their jobs as ordinary people have experienced.

The MP for Ablekuma North, Justice Joe Appiah, described the situation as embarrassing, and that, “it is just unprecedented in Ghana’s history. We have not seen such a thing before. On the floor of the house, power will just check off and for one hour we cannot do government business…everybody is suffering for these unnecessary interruptions.”

On November 20, 2014, intermittent power outages in parliament infuriated the MPs, and the Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, who described the situation as ‘unacceptable.’ The situation forced that day’s proceedings on the floor of the House to be suspended for about one-and-a half hours, just after the opening prayers for the day’s business.

It seems we are playing with the electricity situation. As a nation we should have by now considered the solution to the problem as a national priority and looked for funding to tackle it once and for all. Approving loans has become a regular feature in parliament of late, but it does not seem to us as a nation to consider taking a loan purposely for solving the erratic power supply to end the ad-hoc measures we have applied for years without solution.

We should have been saddened that deliberations in parliament were interrupted by power outage last Wednesday, but however, many were the Ghanaians who jubilated over the incident saying it made our MPs feel how ordinary workers and citizens feel when electricity goes off in the middle of their activities.

We don’t have any time to experiment again. It was time we took a bold decision to find funding from whichever source to solve this dum-dum problem.


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Posted By Frankly Speaking to Frankly Speaking by frankie asare-donkoh on 7/25/2015 07:30:00 a.m.