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Helping to ease the tension and misunderstanding over Ghana’s 2021 budget statement

Ken Ofori Atta 2021121121212 Finance Minister-designate, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta

Sat, 20 Mar 2021 Source: Rockson Adofo

Let me borrow from a very well-known Akan proverb to help me better and convincingly explain, in an attempt to ease the tension and misunderstanding over the 2021 budget statement read by Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (Hon), on behalf of the Finance Minister-designate, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta (Hon), currently indisposed and seeking treatment in the United States of America owing to complications he has suffered following a contraction of Covid-19.

The adage goes, “Mfatoho nti na ama oprisani wereanho” It means, “comparisons of situations bring comfort to the prisoner”. To expatiate on this point, it simply means a prisoner may feel his sentence is harsh or he may wrongly have been convicted. However, if the same prisoner hears about the sentence of another prisoner and the circumstances surrounding it, he will end up seeing his as nothing compared to the other prisoner’s. This fact of awareness then brings him some needed degree of consolation.

Without wasting time, let me convey the following true occurrences as are taking place in the United Kingdom in the midst of the devastating Covid-19 pandemic, to the attention of my fellow Ghanaians back home to help soothe their anger and pain.

1. Prices of commodities are now higher than they were in pre COVID-19. Prices have increased, I mean to say, although in COVID-19 period, where many economic activities have come to a standstill and in its wake, brought financial hardships upon people.

2.Council tax has been raised by 6%+ for the 2021 fiscal year, according to a proof of evidence I have in hand.

3. Some company workers, especially the casual workers, some of whom were on what is called “Zero hour contracts”, have been made redundant or sacked, a few months into the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic and had the cooling off period of enjoying some months put on furlough. (“If your employer has less or no work for you because of coronavirus, they could get a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant to help them to carry on paying you. This is known as being put ‘on furlough’ or ‘on flexible furlough’, and means that you’ll get at least 80% of your normal pay”).

4.60+ London Oyster photocard is a travel pass issued to anyone living in London who has attained the age of 60 years old to enable them travel free of charge on the public transport in London. The holder of the pass can travel free of charge on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, TfL Rail (excluding between West Drayton and Reading) and most National Rail services in London. However, following the Covid-19 pandemic, some temporary restrictions which may end up becoming permanent, have been placed on the pass.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the holder of the pass could travel any day anytime on the public transport free of charge. Now, they have changed the hours one can travel to reduce crowding on the services and help social distancing. One will only be able to travel from 09:00, Monday to Friday.

You can still travel any time on weekends and public holidays. To be precise, one cannot use it between the rush hours of 04:30 and 09:00, Monday to Friday. By this, the user who does a day shift starting from say 06:00, 07:00 or 08:00, will have to pay for his/her travel to work. Those doing night shift and finishing at say 06:00 or 07:00 will have to pay for their transportation back home unless they can hang around until 09:00 to use their card free.

5. London congestion daily charge which was £12 before the outbreak of COVID-19 has been increased to £15. Again, the pre COVID-19 hours when one driving within the Congestion Charge zone was charged were 07:00 to 18:00 (7am to 6pm), Monday to Friday, and free all weekend including the last week of December every year. However, the hours have been changed to 07:00-22:00 (7am to 10pm), every day of the week, except Christmas Day (25th December). This means a worker desiring to drive to work will have no way of escaping payment whereas previously, most workers could avoid payment by operating within the free times outside 07:00-18:00 (7am to 6pm).

6. A school employing 12 housekeepers (cleaners) claims COVID-19 has disrupted her finances hence the decision to make half of the workforce redundant. It decides to get rid of six people but the remaining six will do the entire work normally done by the 12 people. Each of the 12 persons does 3 and a half hours a day. However, the six persons to stay will do 5 hours a day. They were on £9.50 an hour when they were 12, the remaining 6 will be paid £11.00 an hour. When you work it out, the school is making a savings of £69.00 a day by her new decision informed by the Covid-19 outbreak while the workers will be working harder than before.

7.There is going to be tax hikes and wage freezes while still in the devastation of Covid-19, leading to decrease in one’s real income.

Nevertheless, upon all the changes or happenings contrary to expectations, likely to bring discomfort to people as in the circumstances specified above, people are not mourning as they are doing in Ghana. People in the United Kingdom have accepted them because they understand they are not in ordinary times. Why can’t Ghanaians understand same and bear with the government in the hope that the disease will be contained for things to return to normalcy?

There should be no partisan propaganda to obstruct the introduction of a budget that could help rescue the country from her slippery descent into economic dungeon where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Columnist: Rockson Adofo