Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rot at Ghana's Electricity Company? Yawn

I yawned when I read the headline Rot At ECG – Anas Catches Corrupt Officials On Tape. It sounded like something new that Ghanaians have never known of, except its just a regurgitation of what I call a generally accepted act of public corporations. 

Walk into any state owned corporation in Ghana and you either will puke at the incredible rot or just get so stupefied you get swindled by those so called Goro Boys. Walk into the Ghana Water Company, the Electricity Company, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing authority among others. Those companies are so hopelessly inept and inefficient that they're more like dinosaurs that have outlived their usefulness.

I also feel sad when government officials keep telling us how much money is needed to recapitalize these rotten public bodies without actually tackling the root cause of the chronic lack of funds : hopelessly incompetent management and corruption so bad it's bordering on insanity. 

Find out how much the men- and women- who sit on the useless boards of these public entities get paid, compare that to the output of those bodies and then listen to government after government telling us how much money is needed to capitalize those bodies, then draw your own conclusion. 

To give you an example, not so long ago, the Electricity company suddenly embarked on a drive to fit every house with prepaid meters. It was not a bad idea except for the lingering questions that never got answered or the incredible theft that was and is being committed with those meters. Was it true the directive for such an exercise came about because the son of the then president owned the company that imported those meters? 

Why were consumers asked to pay for those meters? Why do you always get short changed anytime you buy a top up voucher for your prepaid meter? Why did the exercise suddenly cease with the exit of that particular government? These and other questions still remain unanswered. Try getting electricity connection to your house using legal, clear means laid out in the very books of the ECG and be lucky if you ever get an official to even give you any sensible feedback. Use the backdoor means and you'll have power in no time.

What is it with these public businesses that has made them so corrupt and inept to the point of incredulity? Why can't any government do anything about them? Why have the hard working tax paying law abiding citizens  of Ghana become so docile as to believe they are deserving of such greed, rot and outright incompetence from corporations that keep milking us dry? Why?

Of Fuel prices, African governments and useless education

Yes, first I think we're wasting time on our public university education. I mean, lets just dump all that money into the bank accounts of the populace for them to find good use for. OK now to business. Here in Ghana, about a decade ago, the government decided to deregulate the petroleum downstream sector, leaving private oil marketing companies to lift and price crude as per demand and supply.

It was not a bad idea in and of itself, except that those greedy apes only implemented just one side of that logical deregulation economics. You see, if the government is going to peg the price of petroleum products to the world crude price, then a measure must be put in place to cushion the overwhelming poor against the incredible greed of private transport operators.

Now let's backpedal a little. Fuel subsidies, never ever get to the poor. No, it always goes to subsidize the rich, you know, those who ride the latest Mercedes and BMWs, those are the beneficiaries of fuel subsidies, not those of us who rely on private transport operators. So if a government says it's taking away subsidies, I fully agree with them.

But, to make deregulation and subsidy removal fair and equitable, the government has a responsibility to cushion end users from private transport operators by providing subsidized and efficient government owned transportation. Ghana's own Metro Mass Trans service was a good attempt at that, except that so far it's been a massive flop. Yea, a ground breaking flop.

If government owns the trans service, it can subsidize the prices charged commuters who patronize it. This will cushion commuters from a continuous escalation of crude prices on the world market. Rather than subsidize fuel, subsidize the cost of transportation through your own bus system. Doing so will mean two things: if you're 'poor' you go with the government trans, if you have your own car and can afford the non-subsidized fuel price on the deregulated market, go for it. Win win for all. 

But for a government to callously say they're removing subsidy and deregulating the petroleum downstream sector without putting in place any measure to cushion the majority of the populace is both immoral and a waste of our educational budget.

Listen to the radio and none of the so called panelists who discuss the economics of fuel ever mention public transportation from the government, they keep beating about the bush, wallowing in their self adoration, spewing even more rubbish and mis-educating an already ill educated populace. Why can't any of our so called economists and financial experts ask the government to revamp the rail sector? Why isn't anybody asking the whereabouts of all those once shiny yellow, Yutong buses that were for MMT service? 

What is the essence of our university education system if it will keep training people to become members of the Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana? Let's count the thousands of people that graduate every year from the University of Ghana alone with degrees in Economics, and then see if those degrees are being of any benefit to society? It's more than unfortunate to have self elevated experts sit on radio and spew out lots of garbage about the economics of fuel without once ever mentioning what the real solution is. 

Again, what is the essence of our educational system if we can't ask government to get its fuel economics right to make life a little bearable for us tax paying law abiding citizens?