You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2015 07 06Article 366548

Opinions of Monday, 6 July 2015

Columnist: Frankly Speaking

No, Mr Terkper, you got it totally wrong

For over three years, Ghana has experienced shortages in the supply of electricity for both industrial and domestic use. This has resulted in the laying off of about 20,000 workers in the formal sector.

Several other thousands of Ghanaians in the informal sector have also lost their jobs, but because data on that sector is almost hard to compile, not much is talked about the sector. But, considering how many people who hitherto relied on electricity in communities for selling iced water, or small-scale artisanal work, but have been made jobless, any good observant would see that there has been a very devastating effect on the economy of the country.

We need to note that averagely every working person in Ghana caters for at least five people, hence about 20,000 people losing their jobs could have very serious and devastating effect on many people including pupils and students.

Many Ghanaians including some government ministers and top officers of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) have at one place or another admitted to the effect that the country’s power supply had deteriorated thus having an adverse effect on the economy.

Despite the fact that almost every Ghanaian knows and acknowledges the worse situation of the supply of electricity, Mr Seth Terkper, the Finance and Economic Planning Minister, says Ghana is still a shining star in Africa in terms of electricity supply, and that the situation we have endured for almost four years was not that bad.

Speaking last Thursday at the Graphic Business-Fidelity Bank breakfast meeting in Accra, Mr Terkper is quoted as saying that: “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.”

It is so strange that no mean a minister than the Minister of Finance would downplay the worse situation of power supply the country has ever had. Has Mr Tepker been in Ghana all this while or is he pretending that he hasn’t been aware of the devastating effect of what has now become dum-dum, and no more dum-sor?

One would have thought that if no minister understood the effects of the erratic power supply, the Finance Minister would be an exception. With industry laying off workers and producing at reduced capacity, some to as low as below quarter of their strength, does Terkper know that this has affected government revenue, as all those laid off don’t pay tax?

When companies and industries are producing at half and/or quarter capacity, doesn’t Mr Terkper consider that they would pay less tax than producing at full capacity? With small-scale enterprises including artisans and other traders all losing their jobs, doesn’t Mr Terpker not see a bigger problem, bigger enough not to allow himself to see it as “not bad after all”?

I’m not surprise Mr Terkper is happy Ghana comes second after South Africa in access to electricity. I don’t know when was the last time the minister visited South Africa, but I can tell him that when I was in that country in November last year for almost a week, the country was experiencing electricity rationing which is still going on. Being second to South Africa therefore is no achievement, Mr Finance Minister.

Very recently, led by Mr Terkper, Ghana has gone to beg the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $918 million loan bailout. I’m not an economist, but I can tell from my uneducated understanding of economics that the total tax of workers who had been laid off in the last three years, and the reduction of tax payments by companies and industries all because of erratic power supply, would be more that the $918 million loan we have begged the IMF for.

Is Mr Terkper aware that industry players have warned that if the power crisis was not resolved within the shortest possible time, more people would lose their jobs? Hasn’t the Association of Ghana Industries cried so loud about the effect of the almost four years dumsor? Having we lost patients in some hospitals because of dumsor? Haven’t we read about and seen pictures of students and pupils learning by roadsides with the light provided by companies in front of their premises from their stand-by generators?

President John Mahama has on many occasions admitted the damaging effects of dumsor and promised to “fix it”. He therefore needs people who can think outside the box to contribute ideas in solving the problem.

In view of this, it becomes disheartening when the Minister of Finance who should have better understood the problem, at least from the dwindling revenues from taxes, and come out with ideas, would rather behave like an ostrich and conclude that the problem was “not that bad after all”.

With cabinet ministers who should help the President solve the problem of erratic power supply rather brushing aside the issue, are they not denying the President the needed support and advice to solve the problem?

Mr Terkper must know that he wouldn’t be fooling anyone by tickling himself to laugh. His comments smacks of arrogance or ignorance about the real situation. He needs to do his calculation and find out how much revenue the government has lost in the last three years from the effects of dumsor.

It’s unfortunate that our Finance Minister is rather interested in going to borrow from the IMF with severe conditionalities including withdrawal of subsidies from essential services and utilities, instead of contributing ideas to solve the electricity problem to increase national productivity.