General News of 2014-04-01

Workers in danger: Thousands being laid off

Companies are laying off staff as a means of surviving the harsh and unfriendly business environment currently prevailing in the country.
The Finder’s investigations have revealed that companies are laying off between 20 and 30% of their workforce as they cannot cope with the falling demand for their goods and services, high utility bills and the free fall of the cedi against major trading currencies.
Hardest hit are restaurants, manufacturing and services.
Already, a freeze on new government contracts has compelled road contractors and contractors executing GETFund projects to lay off staff.
The Ghana Mineworkers Union recently said between January 2013 and March 2014 it lost 3,080 members, or 16.1% of its membership, through retrenchment, blamed on the slump in the price of gold.
Minister of Youth and Sports, Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah also revealed that over 450,000 jobs were lost as a result of the cancellation of contracts between the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) and its service providers.
A number of restaurants and chop bar operators say their sales have fallen by over 50% in the last two years.
They noted that while patronage is reducing, water and electricity bills have increased significantly.
According to them, they have no option than to lay off workers to survive the harsh economic conditions.
Captains of some manufacturing companies say the cost of production has risen sharply to as much as 100% in some cases while demand for goods has declined sharply.
According to the captains of industry, the situation has compelled them to cut down on production as goods are stuck in warehouses.
Consequently, they have no choice than to lay off idle hands to remain in business.
A Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) staff told the paper that it was going to be difficult to meet the authority’s revenue target because of prevailing economic conditions.
The Managing Director of one company that employs over 500 workers and has been in business for over 18 years said for the first time in the history of the company salaries are being delayed and workers are to be laid off due to low patronage.
He said it was not pleasant to lay off workers, but added that they have been compelled by the challenging business environment in the country.
In addition, companies which import goods into the country for sale say their goods stay longer in warehouses because of the low patronage, and, as a result pay more for keeping the goods in the warehouses.
The importers are appealing to the government to extend the period goods can be kept in the warehouses before they attract higher charges.
In a related development, the Producer Price Index (PPI) released by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) shows that the inflation rate for February 2014 (year-on-year) was 27.1%, representing an increase of 3.8 percentage points relative to the rate recorded in January 2014 (23.3%).
Ghana risks running into more serious financial distress unless urgent spending cuts are made, Standard Charted Bank has warned.
According to the bank, the cedi has depreciated rapidly, touching 2.67 at the end of March, from c.2.30 at the beginning of this year.
Fitch Ratings has revised the Outlook on Ghana's Long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDR) from stable to negative, casting doubts over the country’s ability to service its debts in the future on time.
Ghana's fiscal position has worsened further over the past six months. Revenue underperformance and intractable expenditure on wages and interest led to a budget deficit of 10.8% of GDP in 2013, wider than the government's target of 9%.
This, combined with a sharp 20% depreciation of the exchange rate, caused government debt to rise to 61.8% of GDP in 2013 from 48.9% in 2012.
Source: The Finder
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