Friday, July 31, 2015

Ghanaians speak out About the Upwards Adjustments in Water and Electricity Tarriffs

The Public Utilities And Regulatory Commission (PURC) has announced an upward adjustment in water and electricity tariffs by 15% increase in water, as well as a 51.73% increase in electricity tariffs, effective 1 July using the Automatic Adjustment Formula.

But please hold it! The PURC says“it has decided to defer the increase for electricity due to the current electricity supply situation but has decided to pass on the adjustment for water because of the notable expansion in water infrastructure and considerable improvement in supply”

The price at which fuel is sold at the filling station has also not remained stable but there has been a downward adjustment already with another one yet to the announced.
Well, what do the people say? Please lets go to the streets of Accra and find out what the people have to say and what do you have to say dear reader? Please send your comments and lets keep the blog active.

Mr J.K Asante (Exercise Books Supplier)
“We have complained several times about the rise in the price of basic utilities over the years but no one listens and we seem to have been holed up into a system we cannot remove ourselves from, I do not like the increment because it is a major drain on my pocket.
I used to work at the Ghana Publishing Company set up by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah until sometime in 1982, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) came to sack over two-thousand and four hundred workers in Tema, Accra, Takoradi and Tamale under a redeployment policy during the era of Jerry John Rawlings.
Within a twinkle of an eye a few white men and local collaborators changed the destiny of thousands of workers of this country for the worse.
We took the matter to court and to the Commissioner for Human Rights And Administrative Justice but nothing came out of it. What we see today has happened before and all it tells me is that not much has changed and it can easily be predicted that for the next three to four years, we are going to be subjected to a reasonable level of suffering.
The government will have to implement austerity measures after the money they took from the white men and sick people, school children, trotro drivers and ordinary Ghanaians will have to suffer. What is painful is that our consent is not sought when they do these things but we are the ones who must pay not the policy makers”

Mr Robert Ofori (Car Hiring Services Operator)
“I am more concerned about getting the fuel readily available so that I can go about my regular duties without being stranded or having to queue at the filling station for long hours.
Of course we are also worried about the increases because the amount of litres I got when I bought Ghc 100 has decreased drastically and we must all be worried. I am not happy also because there has been no corresponding upward adjustment in my monthly salary but we must be realistic and address the matter before us appropriately.
On the other side of the coin if these increases are meant to ensure that there is efficiency and stability in the supply of fuel then we must bear with it.”

Mr Kojo Afful (Private Security Worker)
“Everyone is deeply worried about the recent increases in the price of water and electricity because it is a threat to the national security. We are even more worried because we do not have these utilities provided consistently and the income of the average Ghanaian has not improved. However, we must be sincere and admit that we need water and electricity so it is up to everyone to make small contributions to the government to ensure that it is able to provide these services.
It is very easy to blame the government for the shortages of water and electricity we have in the country but who could have done differently? We have to change electric cables and extend water to areas where there is none and it takes money to bring these about so we must pay.
Mr journalist, I have a disturbing matter more important than water and electricity and I think the Mahama government must move in and find solutions to them immediately else this country will be dragged into a terrible state of insecurity. That problem is killing me and other security officers and it has brought untold hardships into our households. My brother, we have a law in our country which allows for individuals to set up private security companies to protect private and public property apart from the Ghana Police Service.
The problem is that the owners or the directors of the private security companies are robbing their employees brutally. Why must the director of my security company charge Ghc800 for the security services I provide, he takes my money and gives me only Ghc 150 or in some instances Ghc 200 of that amount. We do not do the work with them because whilst they sleep in the comfort of their beds with their wives and children, we watch through the night to make sure that our clients are not attacked and their properties are safe.
We are calling on the President to step in and order that henceforth private security officers are paid through the Controller and Accountant General’s Department because we are also offering essential services. We have been cheated for far too long and the time has come for justice to be done.
Security men also have envious academic credentials but we are here because there are no jobs in the country and we have wives and children to feed and clothe. We are citizens of this country and if the Head of State is concerned about my welfare and that of my colleagues, the time has come to prove it. We must not be treated with impunity. The only difference between me and my director is the money that is being stolen from me by him. That is how they get rich and they tell us they are working hard. What hard work do they do? Everyone must understand that private security operatives are more in control of the security of the state because we offer more services than the Ghana Police and it will not be in the interest of anyone of us if things should get out of hand. If the Police is not treated with disdain, no businessman must be allowed to treat his workers so. We are better Police men and women and we are equally qualified to join the Police Service. We no longer want contract security, we need permanent employment. We cannot even take loans because our salaries are on table tops and are not good. We beg the President to intervene and stop this vicious and inhumane treated meted out by private security companies on their security men. We also deserve better.”

Zinabu Halidu (Koko or porridge seller)
“We rely almost entirely on electricity to mill our maize or millet which is used in preparing Koko so why must you increase the price of electricity even more at this time when there is an erratic power supply. The power crisis has gone on for too long. How am I expected to survive and take care of my children when I cannot be sure that I can have consistent supply of electricity to mill my grains and prepare breakfast for the workers and the school children. We pray to Allah to help the President to solve the problem.”

Mr Emmanuel Yabani (Trade Unionist)
“The recent increases have undoubtedly added unto the burdens of workers and the general public.
Over time, the prices of goods and services have risen sharply because of the fall in the value of the cedi.
The traders are saying Enye Mia, Eye dollar nu (It is not me, ) because of the fluctuations in the exchange rate of our currency compared to the other currencies. So to slap the suffering workers with increases in the prices of fuel, water and electricity at this time is too much for the ordinary Ghanaian to bear.
The conditions in which Ghanaian find themselves is distressing and the Government must do something about it.”

Mr Osei Boateng (Driver)
“ I live in Tema and work in Accra. Previously I paid Ghc2 for transportation to Accra and another Ghc2 when I going home. As we speak, I pay Ghc4 to Accra and Ghc4 back to Tema without any significant improvement in my salary. This is how the increase in the price of fuel affects me every day.
There can be no justification for the increases in the price of fuel because we also have crude oil in Ghana as a property of the people of this country. Why are only a few people benefitting from the crude oil while we continue to live as if that resource never existed? We are suffering in this country because the majority of us have to sacrifice in order that a few people can live ostentatious lifestyles.
I find it troubling that whilst there has not been any significant improvement in the supply of electric power and the government is asking us to bear with it, the PURC can announce upward adjustments in electricity. My general expectation is that the prices will be reviewed to bring the prices down else the Mahama administration will suffer dearly for it. They should not wrench our hopes and hope to revive it a few months to the elections next year because we have become wiser and we will hold them accountable today and pass a verdict on the 7th of December 2016. Nobody will be allowed to cheat the workers of this country any longer.”

Matthew Tulasi (Driver, TUC)
“I think the problem is not about the increases in the price of fuel and electricity and water because those increases have always happened in the past and I am therefore not surprised when they happen today.
The problem is that the people we stand in the sun and elect into office have no credibility. If they had a shred of credibility and they are true to themselves as public servants and to God, you do not come to solicit my vote and once you get elected you do amazingly contrary to every promise that you made to me.
Since the return to multi party politics in 1992 up until now, none of the parties which managed to get elected into power have been sincere to the people. They only exploit the frustrations of workers over our ever worsening economic conditions to win political power and that is all.
If I may ask, what homage are we paying to the countless number of people who died in the struggle to return our country to a democracy if this is all we have to offer?”

Alidu Agume (Car Hiring Services)
“A few months ago, when I bought 100Ghc worth of fuel I got 36 litres but as of today I only get 30 litres. The reason why I refuse to accept this situation is that the price of crude has fallen on the international market and that is where we buy the crude. If the government cannot reduce the price of fuel what it must do at worse is to stabilize the price.
It is absolutely unacceptable and we demand answers to the questions we are asking. Why have the people who bring fuel into this country been allowed to form a cabal and cut the throats of the citizens of this country? We are feeling the pinch in every sphere of our national lives and something must be done to alleviate the suffering of the people of this country.”

Isaac Afful (Trader)
“I believe that in a third world country like Ghana, we cannot expect to live in so much comfort until we work a lot harder to turn over the fortunes of this country.
What we can do to avoid buying so much fuel after the increases is to use fuel enhancers which prevents too much consumption of fuel by the vehicle and maintains the strength of the engine.
With respect to the power crisis, what we need to do is to bring in investors from other countries to take over the management of the power sector to make it better. We are told that the turbines at Akosombo Dam have broken down so when we even have so much rainfall, the Dam cannot generate the power we need in our homes and workplaces. At this moment, we need the white men to come in with their high technology which can produce power very cheaply and will help with the take off of the industrial base of the country.
I do not know much about the state of the Aboadze thermal plant but we expect that it will add some megawatts of power to the national grid. There is so much talk of solar panels as an alternative and I know that there is a Chinese company called Sunshine Ghana which has brought in solar panels and are installing them very cheaply for many households. These are the kinds of things we must do to solve the problem of the erratic power supply. The time has come for us to move away from the Akosombo Dam and bring in other alternatives which are cheaper and more efficient.”

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Export, Trade, Agricultural And Industrial Development Fund

A stakeholder’s conference has been held in Accra to assess the impact of the Export, Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund on small holder farmers who produce the majority of the food crops consumed by Ghanaians. The Export Development and Investment Fund (EDIF) currently the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund (EDAIF) was established by the Export Development and Investment Fund Act, 2000 (Act 582), and it became operational in 2001 as an agency of the Ministry of Trade and Industry.
The act was, however, amended in 2001 by the Export Development and Investment Fund (Amendment) Act, 2011 (Act 823), to expand the scope of application of the fund to include the development and promotion of agro-processing industry, hence the change of the name of the fund to EDAIF.
EDAIF operates by handing over money to designated financial instructions or banks like Stanchart, Stanbic and the ADB. These banks then evaluate prospective applicants to find out about their financial viability before they get the funding.
The primary source of funding for the EDAIF fund is money realized from the divestiture of state owned enterprises.
What do small holder farmers and farm based CSOs have to say about the fund?

Edward Kareweh (Deputy General Secretary, GAWU)
“My major concern with the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund is that it is an ideological orientation which retards progress. It simply encourages the export of raw materials to feed the industries of the metropolitan areas of the world whilst local industries scrunch up and suffer.
To use state resources to meet the taste of foreign consumers and further the development needs of external people is detrimental to the national interest and runs contrary to the principles that underline nation building. We must divert financial aid to support the activities of local farmers to meet domestic demands.
Over the past three decades Africa has proven to provide the most buoyant market for trade in all manner of commodities but unfortunately, the continent has not benefitted. Foreign multinational companies are trooping into Africa in droves siphoning super profits out of the continent and yet our own people are not empowered to also take advantage of this new era.
The time has come for us to change our mindset of development by concentrating on exploiting the labour and the other resources of Ghana towards economic transformation.
The working forces of this country have proven many times that when the leadership of the country supports their initiatives, they can turn over the fortunes of our country and bring about comfort and meaningful progress in the lives of our people. Why must we have arable lands which can feed every Ghanaian three times a day and yet some go to bed without food in their stomachs? We cannot simply allow a situation where farming is only conducted so that some businessman want to make money. Why are many workers spending a huge chunk of their wages and salaries on imported food? This situation is completely not acceptable and we have to take a new turn in how we run the affairs of this country ”

Frank Bodze (Programme Manager in Governance at WILDAF)
“The Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund is a good initiative of government which will help our farmers to have funds to support agriculture in Ghana. My view is that there is a need to streamline the programme so that the funds can go to those who need them most and here I mean the peasant farmers who provide the majority of the food we eat.
If we have the resources to produce enough food we would not need to import food into this country because excessive imports just destroys the industrial base of the country. We must also put in place stringent measures to ensure that the people who receive the funding pay back so that others can benefit.”

Victoria Adongo (Director of Programmes, Peasant Farmers Association of Ghana)

“It is very important for policy makers to recognize that it is the small holder farmers that feed the twenty-five million people in Ghana and therefore every policy that emanates from the state must first seek to support local production.
We do not condemn the EDAIF programme but our worry is that it is overly concentrated on export of the produce of our hard working farmers. Small farmers also want to expand and go commercial but we prefer that our effort and our produce first benefit the local people and that is why we are demanding a reform of the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund to support small farmers who feed the local population.
One benefit of this reformation is that once the local poultry farmer is well resourced and he is able to meet domestic demand, we will then be emboldened to halt the import of frozen chicken which does not provide the nutrition needed by the consumer.
The other benefit is that maize and soya farmers who produce feed for the local poultry industry will grow, they will employ more people and by that we can contribute effectively to the development of the country. We will slip and fall as farmers if we continue to rely on grants. We must move away from our current over-reliance on grants and begin thinking as businessmen and women who can manage our affairs”

Kweku Boateng (Vegetable Farmer)
“My aim in granting this interview is not to express disapproval of the Export Trade, Agricultural and Industrial Development Fund but to call for a re-engineering of the programme and get it to redirect its focus to solve the problems that confront local food crop producers.
My position on the EDAIF funding is that at least it makes money readily available to qualified farmers. It takes away a major burden hanging on the necks of a farmer who seeks to increase productivity for his wellbeing and that of the society as a whole but there is an issue which has to be addressed.
Physical cash alone is not what the farmer needs. We also need markets which does not only buy cash crops but crops cultivated by the majority of our farmers.  Under the Kwame Nkrumah government, efforts were made and in fact there was a programme to buy the products of small farmers by creating a ready market for them. There were specially set up brigades that bought the produce of farmers and extended other support to them so that our country can be food secure and that was how come our country became self sufficient in food production within a relatively short period of time.
If you proceed by dolling out physical cash to the farmer in grants and loans and he does not have the market to sell what he has produced, how can he pay back?
South Africa has the biggest vegetable market in the world because the government set up councils to support farmers who produce all kinds of crops for local and the foreign market. Vegetable farmers in Johannesburg, for instance, send their produce to the Johannesburg Food Councils who buy them and sell on the local market. Cocoyam, potato and cassava farmers have grades which determine the prices of their produce and every farmer stands to benefit.
At least in the case of Ghana, I humbly suggest that EDAIF uses our money in their possession to build infrastructure and make markets available for farmers to sell the product of their labour, make money and thereby remove the over reliance on grants and credit facilities.”

Charles Nyaaba (PFAG)
“The initial plan of the EDAIF fund was to promote export but it has been reviewed to cater for agriculture.  What is happening is that the fund is being managed by a secretariat and a 13 member board of EDAIF but they do not give the money directly to the farmers. They put it in designated financial institutions like ADB, Stanbic Bank, Stanchart Bank and some others. Now these banks evaluate prospective applicants to find out if that person is financial viable when he gets the loan.
They want to know whether that person can pay back before they will advance the money to the farmer and they will make follow ups to recover the money and give it back to EDAIF. Now the challenge with small holder farmers is that you need to write a proposal and then they will access it to find out if you meet the criteria of the fund before you get it. And that is the area where small-holder farmers are having a problem because majority of them are not able to write good proposals to help them access the fund. It also then means that elite farmers or big-time farmers who have the capacity and business plans and are able to write good proposals, stand better chance of benefitting from the fund than small holder farmers.
However the grant facility which is also meant to help the farmers to come up is what is disbursed by EDAIF itself as an organization. This that one is interest-free so farmers do not need to write long and winding proposals. Nonetheless, EDAIF will identify prospective farmer associations or groups and give them that money to do their activities.
 Our other concern is that the fund first considers farmers who are engaged in the production of cash crops for export and we demand that the time has come to support farmers who grow traditional crops for the local market.
 If you look very critically you will realize that we are not self sufficient in producing all the food we eat in this country, we still import some food so why do you put concentration in producing food for export when you still have the potential to expand your domestic industry?
Apart from that even the crops they are asking us to produce for export are crops that the farmers do not have specialties in those areas. For instance we know exotic mangoes and pineapples are not what majority of farmers cultivate so they are forced to go in there but they will not be able to do it well as they do with cassava, maize, pepper, yam, groundnuts and several others which they have been doing over the years but because they need the credit, they are compelled to go in and at the end of the day they are not able to do it well meanwhile we are not sufficient in the crops they are producing.
EDAIF has stated that they are going do a complete assessment of the programme so we hope that when they do those reviews they will try to consider the indigenous or traditional agriculture where our people have the expertise to produce more so that if we produce more to feed the local market then we can begin thinking about storing some for the future and export what we cannot save.”  

Ben Kanati (Rice Farmer)
“My problem with EDAIF programme was that I did not really understand the components of the programme. As a rice farmer I have always held that we were not part of the programme. It was by attending an evaluation workshop that I was made to understand that already twenty-one million Ghana Cedis has been devoted by the EDAIF programme towards rice production and that a commodity exchange has been set up by the government to help farmers market their produce. But what kinds of farmers benefitted from the funding?
How does the small holder really access these programmes? Does the commodity exchange market of government accept all produce or are there restrictions to what you can send there? The fund must also be flexible so that all of us can access it.
One other observation I have made of the fund is that it tends to lend more support to farmers who produce cash crops for foreign markets and that approach is problematic because it deprives local farmers of the revenue to expand and grow to meet the local market. On the other hand pressure builds for lower tariffs for already highly subsidized imported goods which in turn affects government’s tax revenue. When this happens, it constrains government space and we end up going to the IMF  and the World Bank with with attendant negative social consequences.”

Godwin Atokpleh ( Fmr. Vice President of PFAG)
“I think there needs to be a lot of sensitization meeting for the EDAIF programme especially for some of our farmers who can neither read nor write but are in the forefront of food production.
It is a major challenge for the fund if there are some farmers who cannot access it because they do not know about it or even when they do, they have no idea how to also benefit from it.
The other concern I have is that EDAIF is now moving from a grant scheme to a loan scheme without an adequate evaluation of whether farmers have the capacity to stand on their own when the grants are withdrawn. We need to do a lot more about these problems and to ensure that the programme does not become the sole preserve of a few sophisticated farmers who only seek to produce for export and contribute nothing to the balanced meals Ghanaian eat on their dinning tables.”

Duncan Amoah (Rice Farmer)
“ Part of our problem with this fund is that we are unable to apply for it because of the processes that are involved. In the first place, the money is not given to the farmers directly by the EDAIF secretariat. The money is deposited in some private and public banks to do an examination of the people who apply to satisfy themselves that the people can pay back the money when it is given to them.
Unfortuately, some of us are unable to write the proposals so we cannot meet the criteria that is  set. That is where we have a problem because some of us cannot read nor write the standard proposals that will help us to meet the expectation of the bankers.
 For these and other reasons we call on the government to prevail on the fund managers to consider these concerns of local farmers who were meant to be the primary beneficiaries of the fund.”