The Mathematics Of The Suffering Masses & The Political Class
By Latif Giwah
Once again, the aristocratic class has found it expedient to sacrifice the ever-suffering masses to cushion their bourgeoisie interests and political egos. The announcement over the weekend of fuel price hikes was just a matter of course.
The hint was dropped long before the announcement was made. It was like a well written and rehearsed script. From Alex Mould, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA); Seth Terkper, Finance Minister, and Fifi Kwetey, former deputy Finance Minister and Minister-designate for Financial and Allied Institutions, Dr. Henry Kofi Wampah, acting Governor of Bank of Ghana (BoG) – every little opportunity to interact with Ghanaians was to preach about the removal of fuel subsidy. Even communist Russia has thrown to the bin of history, the use of such communist inferior tactics.
Scene One Act One: Alex Mould gave the first clue by noting that for the government to cut down on its debt stock and totally scrap fuel subsidies there is the need to adjust the prices of petroleum products upwards. Seth Terpker increased the crescendo, when he said Ghana will narrow its budget deficit this year by reducing fuel subsidies.
Scene Two; Enter Fifi Kwetey, who said fuel subsidies inflict damage on the Ghanaian economy. The acting Governor of the BoG, Dr. Henry Kofi Wampah, cautioned the government to remove fuel subsidies in order to sustain the economic gains, what else do you expect from a person in an acting capacity.
The swan song was picked up by the various government communicators, and like a national symphony orchestra, the message was to befuddle the minds of Ghanaians and prepare them towards the bitter pill that was going to be forced down their throats. The decision had already been cooked, and the government and its surrogates were on a mission to make it work.
For a Social Democratic government that is not ready to support the fuel subsidy that affects the general masses, it has opportunistically embraced gargantuan hikes in the salaries of the executive and legislature, which has completely disproportionated the national Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS) for the public service.
According to the Prof Ewura Ama Addy Committee, which was set up by the late President Mills to review the salaries and emoluments of all Article 71 office holders, the wages of the Executive and Members of Parliament (MPs) will increase from between GH¢3,000 to GH¢4,000 per month to between GH¢7,200 to GH¢12,000
With the latest upward adjustments, members of those two arms of government would all benefit from arrears which would take retrospective effect from 2009.
The president and his ministers would be paid salaries of 49 months, multiplied by their new respective salaries. It is based on this that their ex-gratia would be calculated from January 7, 2009 to January 6, 2013. If you want to have an idea about the ex-gratia scooped on the old salaries from 2005 to 2009, the President reportedly received GH¢293,000, and each of the 230 MPs was entitled to GH¢82,000.
The Executive Director of IMANI-Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, criticised the proposed salary increases to the Members of Parliament, and questioned the logic of paying MPs 72 times the annual Ghanaian median income, and 60 times the average annual per capita income. Yet, the nation was ready to absorb this high wage scale from the government chest.
According to the NPA’s Chief Executive, Alex Mould, fuel subsidy for last year was one billion cedis ($526 million), and was expected to rise to 2.4 billion cedis this year. The same NDC government was prepared to support the gargantuan salary increment for the executive and legislature, but can’t provide fuel subsidies for the long suffering masses.
It has been argued that the fuel subsidies do not benefit their target of the poor and vulnerable, but rather help the rich and high class who can after all bear the full cost of fuel. Up till now, nobody has proved this palpable lie with an empirical survey to tell us who indeed benefits from the fuel subsidy.
Speaking for myself, with a family size of four, and trying to live a modest lifestyle and driving my own car, the removal of the fuel subsidy will do enough damage to my pocket and purchasing power. The rich will still be able to afford with or without fuel subsidies.
The government talks about the removal of the fuel subsidies, and instead, providing the vulnerable in the economy with social mitigating policies of an efficient transport system, for example. Yet, the subsidy is taken away even before these social programmes are laid out to mitigate the suffering that will be visited on the people.
Once the government achieves its aim of removing the subsidies, the so-called myriad of social mitigating programmes remain just that, a mirage.
Maybe, the government has at long last given in to the pressure from the Bretton Woods institutions. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have been on the neck of Ghana to cut fuel subsidies. In 2010, the EU spent €57 billion on agricultural development, of which €39 billion was spent on direct subsidies.
When it comes to subsidies on fossil fuels, the rich countries of the world are playing a double game. On one hand, the demand to include measures aimed at cutting subsidies on fossil fuels in any future treaty on climate change is growing.
On the other hand, it appears that most such subsidies are being doled out in the rich West itself. A word to the wise…
When water does not flow through my pipes, erratic (dum so dum so) electricity the order of the day, and my take me home pay cannot take me home, a Social Democratic government finds the easy way out for me by sacrificing the masses of Ghanaians on the altar of gains in macroeconomic stability, by removing fuel subsidies. The boomerang effect of this decision is inevitable.
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