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Just Thinking Aloud!!-

Thu, 16 Apr 2009 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa - oasamoa@gmail.com

Are marketplaces private entities or are they operated by the various district assemblies for and on behalf of the people? For those wondering where this question is coming from, just hold your fire and read on. So if these public places are put up with taxpayers’ money and are supposed to be managed on our behalf, why then do we have the situation where certain individuals arrogate to themselves the ‘power’ to determine and decide who is ‘fit’ to use the facility and who is not.

I bet many of you have heard about the so-called ‘market-queens’ I have nothing against a group of traders trying to ‘streamline’ their activities and thereby forming associations, and electing leaders. But I do have a big problem when such ‘leaders’, with no legal mandate, take upon themselves responsibilities that they have no right to. How is it that a market-queen can refuse to allow another person from selling in a particular market?

The reasons being that such individual has no permanent stall/store in the market, or does not belong to the association. The other reason is that allowing that would drive prices of the produce or commodity down. Now what is wrong with prices going down??

We all know of the seasonal tomato glut that we have lived with for 52 years since independence. The market women go to the tomato-growing areas to buy the tomato at ridiculously cheap prices. They come and charge an arm and a leg for them. Many of these farmers have no means of getting their produce to the markets so they are forced to accept these cheap prices from the market women. For the few who decide to bring the produce themselves to the market, guess what awaits them!! Yes, they are refused access to the market for the already-stated reasons.

The argument that the ‘residents’ at the markets pay taxes and so have every right to send away an ‘outsider’ is not valid. Let me explain why: users of our markets do not pay weekly or monthly taxes or anything like that. They operate on pay-as-you-use basis. Everyday, you have these ‘tax-collectors’ going through the markets issuing ‘tickets’ to the market-users. So if somebody comes from elsewhere with his/her produce on a particular day, he/she would pay the toll for that day, ino bi so?

So what is the result of the actions of the market queens? They succeed in driving prices up!!! Demand and supply! There would be more ‘supply’ of the produce and prices would decrease if these farmers are allowed to sell directly without any ‘middle-women’. Are these market queens seeking the best interest of the people of Ghana? Would such practices not fall within the ‘corruption’ category?

In Ghana, the tradition has always been that it is only politicians who are corrupt but that is so very far from the reality. We are a bunch of hypocrites!! We criticize others and point accusing fingers at others when we, at the same time, are indulging in those very same vices or even worse. On a daily basis, there are individuals, from drivers to civil servants, who engage in acts that border on criminality and thus retard the economic progress of the country. I would like to see our media folk focus on some of these areas and bring to light such bad practices.

There are individuals who parade the various marketplaces (particularly Central market, Kumasi and Makola #2, Accra) daily and all they do is harass the market women and other users of the markets. In Accra they are the truck-pushers and in Kumasi they are known as ‘paa o paa’. Should any individual have the right to harass another individual for no reason at all? They are usually strongly-built and with that they believe they have the right to do just about anything. They push and shove people out of their way, they shout at people (and they can’t say anything back for fear of being attacked), and they basically are a law to themselves. Shouldn’t such harassment be checked by our law-enforcing agencies?

What are our law-enforcement authorities doing about such criminal activities that do go on at places like Alabar (Kumasi) and the area stretching from Accra Poly to the former Workers’ College (Accra Campus, UG)?? The Police Administration does know all the ‘trouble’ and ‘problem’ areas in the country; they know the ‘hideouts’ of the pickpockets and the armed robbers. It is common knowledge that some of them even provide cover for these criminals. How do we create a safe environment for our people under such a situation?? We should demand more from our Police. We should ‘harass’ them till they start doing the right thing. We should call them out (by name or number, if possible) and demand their suspension or dismissal when they are found culpable.

Let’s look at a place like Nima. Cast your eyes or mind to the Kawokudi Park. Take a look at Accra Girls’ High School. How many of us are aware that some residents of Nima have turned parts of the Kawokudi Park into a place of convenience? What about the health hazards that these residents are potentially presenting to the ladies of Accra Girls’?

Every morning, and I guess in the evenings too, you see people scaling over the walls of the school and going within the school’s compound to do their own thing. Yes they actually use the grounds of the school to take care of their toilet needs!!! But you would find the same groups of people turn round to lash at politicians. They call, on air, and say whatever they like; all because on one particular day, they spent a couple of hours under the sun to vote for (or against) these politicians. By that single act, they believe they have all the right in this world to ‘pin’ labels on those they perceive as corrupt. But using a school’s compound as a place of convenience is just fine, by them!!! O what a country we have!!!

We can also take a look at ‘chop bars’ and other eateries. Are there any regulations regarding the citing and operations of these eating places? If one wants to set up a ‘chop bar’ operation, what are the processes that one has to go through? Or is it just a matter of identifying some space somewhere (could even be besides an open drain or close to a landfill) and then putting planks together to create a structure and bingo, one is ready to start operating. The district assembly may come later to collect the tolls and not be bothered about the hygiene (or otherwise) of the place. Why can’t we have standards??? Why can’t we have the district assemblies come up with specifications regarding these structures and the requirements one needs to meet before one can be issued with an operating license?? Is it too much to ask?? These are some of the issues that keep me thinking and sometimes I can’t help but think aloud!

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw