Ghana's democracy and indeed government's tolerance passed the test when thousands of workers poured out onto the streets across the country to protest the dwindling economic fortunes of the country without any mishap. The demonstration which took place simultaneously throughout the country was to draw government's attention to the ever - spiralling inflation causing the cedi to fluctuate making the cost of doing business in Ghana extremely high. Indeed every Ghanaian heaved a sigh of relief when the demonstration passed off peacefully given past experiences like the Kume Preko demonstration which claimed some lives.
Government itself acknowledges the challenges facing the economy so much so that, the Finance Minister had to go before Parliament with a mid- year review budget statement and economic policy, and to request for more money. There are a number of factors militating against Ghana's economic growth critical among which are the continuing shortfall in tax and non-tax revenue, the depreciation of the cedi, high public expenditure and other macro-economic variables. Equally adversarial are declining gold and cocoa prices, power sector disruptions arising from the year-long shortage in gas supply from the West African Gas Pipeline and a lot more; but suffice it to say pragmatic measures need to be taken to reduce the impact of these challenges on industry and for that matter the livelihood of the people.
Currently over 20 industries in Tema are threatening to shut down, which could throw a lot of people out of job. All over the country, workers are being laid off and prices of foodstuffs and other commodities keep shooting up, beyond the pocket of the ordinary man. The Single Spine Pay Policy has been rendered useless with the adoption of the Automatic Adjustment formula for utility prices. The paradox of the situation is that though utility prices get adjusted, workers salaries are hardly reviewed. The recent cost of living allowance given to workers to cushion them against the harsh living conditions have been consumed by taxes. It is like government gives with one hand and takes it back through the other. It is in this regard that we see the demonstration by organised labour as opportune. It is said, if you desist from complaining about meat, you are given hard bones.
The demonstration must be a wake-up call to government to work assiduously to ease the frustration of workers. The numerous strikes and agitations are sending wrong signals to the investor community. Nobody will be prepared to invest in an economy which is riddled by industrial disharmony. It is unfortunate that the strike by organised labour had to coincide with the second anniversary of the death of Ghana's economic savvy President, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills who is generally acknowledged as a peace maker. It is obvious the strike took a lot of shine from activities marking his remembrance.
Whatever it is, time is not on the side of government. With a year and half to general election, it would have no excuse if things continue the way they are. Luckily, the Senchi consensus document has been presented to leadership. Recommendations made at the forum must be implemented to the letter to avert the looming economic crisis. It is not a hopeless situation yet. Let us think outside the box to fix the ailing economy. Collectively we must resolve to give up all negative altitudes that tend to draw the economy back. We must work hard to increase productivity. We need to end our craze for imported items. Let us grow what we eat and eat what we grow.
Lateness to work must cease forthwith. Those of us who often malinger must rethink our actions. We are part of the problem and must be part of the solution. State monies that have found their way into individual pocket must be retrieved immediately. We know government is doing all it can to halt the steep decline in the value of the cedi. Indeed no father will live in a family whose demands he cannot meet. The father is happy when the children and other family members are joyful.
Government should therefore continue dialoguing with organised labour to address their concerns. The strikes and agitations in the country are one too many and the earlier government keeps its fingers on the pulse of the nation, the better.
BY JUSTICE MINGLE, A JOURNALIST