Opinions Thu, 17 Aug 2006

The Lie About Petroleum P R I C I N G

The Ghana government has always claimed to be subsidizing petroleum products featuring; life and death kerosene and petrol. In the light of spiraling world oil prices this is a credible explanation. The truth is that the government has always been lying to the people.
In the Daily Graphic issue of Tuesday, May 16, 2006, the Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Honorable Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu stated that; “the 2006 budget statement and economic policy of the government targeted ¢26 billion as the estimated government revenue, with taxes from petroleum products contributing ¢4.6 trillion, representing 15 percent of the budget.” When one raises the issue of the price of petrol, (about $4.75 in Ghana), the retort is; “how much is it even in America?” The fanaticism of some people for this government defies reasoning. How on earth does this government, with a straight face, tell the people of Ghana that the petroleum product prices are the result of pure price increases in oil prices? The Government has tried to deceive the people by forming the National Petroleum Agency (more “end of service benefits” for the party hacks) as an independent agency for fixing the prices of petroleum products. The statement by Honorable Baah-Wiredu clearly demonstrates that this is a big lie.
The truth about the price of petrol and others is that, the Kufour government like an alcoholic has been so dependent upon getting 15 percent of its total revenue from petroleum products that she cannot wean herself of it. The Government does not care about the people of Ghana. The government officials don’t feel the pain of their economic oppression because all they do is stop at the Government petrol stations and fill-up their SUV’s that give them 10 to 12 miles per gallon. They don’t have to pay for them and they are amassing so much personal wealth that they would be immune to the unbearable economic conditions they have created for generations when they leave office.
If the present government really cares, she should start by putting measures in places to reduce the pressure on poor Ghanaians by desisting from sucking the blood out of petroleum. Nana Owusu Ansah II, Chief Executive officer of “Total Fuel Dealers Association” observes that the NPA review downwards the taxes on petroleum products to bring some relief to Ghanaians. What is the essence of increasing LPC products (cooking gas) when the country has embarked on efforts to fight desertification associated with cutting down trees for fuel wood? Nana Ansah, II concluded that “kerosene was the essential source of energy for rural dwellers and the increase in the price of the product would make life unbearable for them” (GNA 07/24/06).
The only way the Kufour government can save Ghana Now and for the Future is to start cutting costs and using her imagination:

    1) The Government must drastically reduce End of Service Benefits (“ESB”). Political and institutional heads buy super luxury cars, barely use them during their term of office and virtually steal them as ESB. This institutionalized stealing is just as bad as armed-robbery. Money to be used to develop the country and alleviate poverty is abused by the politically-privileged officials making the poor suffer more.
    2) The same hard-earned dollars the poor farmers have earned plus the “daylight robbery” custom duties at the ports, are used to pay for the government’s large entourages on their travels, the plane tickets, hotel bills and inordinate night allowances. Their gas-guzzling SUV’s are a pain in all our pockets –vide; the price of petroleum products!!!
    3) Are you aware that a member of parliament (MP), who has been in parliament 2000 and 2004 has been loaned $45,000 (¢400) million to buy cars by our highly indebted poor country? What is the justification for this?
    4) Would it make sense for President Kufour to go to Venezuela to ask for the $40.00 per barrel oil contracts the Venezuelan government has given the Caribbean countries? After all, no government beats Ghana in begging. The Venezuelan government even gave the poor in the Bronx, New York free oil!!! Paying the high price for fuel and some Ghanaians swallowing this lie is mind-boggling. Are we that ignorant and gullible? Or, like ostriches we just want to bury our head in the sand? The price of petroleum in Ghana includes “Duty Specific, Debt Recovery Fund Levy, Road Fund Levy, Energy Fund Levy, Exploration Levy, Social Impact Mitigating Levy, Cross-Subsidy Levy. Margins on the products also include primary distribution margin, BOST margin, (don’t ask me what this means) UPPF margin and in the case of LPG, filling plant costs and distribution compensation (“Chronicle” 07/31/060).
My fellow Ghanaians, democracy can only function properly when the people are properly educated- there is too much ignorance. I bet you most Ghanaians don’t know that Nigeria imports petrol and yet it is well below 9000 cedis per gallon in Nigeria. Ghana has her own refineries (which the Govt. even wants to sell to the Koreans) and we import crude oil and refine it. I am not saying that we should be cheaper than Nigeria. All that I’m saying is; The Govt’s premises for the galloping price increases is built on sand. A house built on sand cannot stand. The shallowness of a very significant part of the Ghanaian populace is amazing. Like the characters in Arthur Koeslers’ “The God That Failed”, some Ghanaians cannot bring themselves psychologically to accept that this Kufuor Govt cannot hack it. The Ghanaian, who is the most affected by the economic punishment inflicted by this government, is the first person to defend her. Then he turns around to ask you money to buy kenkey because he has not eaten the whole day!!! Go figure.
I don’t think anybody in his or her right mind expects the Government to give away petrol and cooking gas. But the truth is ¢40,000 per gallon of petroleum is vicious. It is sheer callousness because every Ghanaian knows the harsh economic punishment they inflict on the general populace. I am not referring to the Ghanaian who spends ¢100 million in custom duty on a 2000 SUV but the Ghanaian who has to pay ¢2500 for a finger of plantain. The Government needs money to implement her programs, let her cut her coat according to her pants and find that money somewhere else – may be in President Kufour’s traveling allowances.

Kwamena Mbra Panford (N.Y.)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Panford, Kwamina Mbra