By William Yaw Owusu
Friday, 15 January 2016
Barring any hitch, organized labour, led by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), is expected to embark on a demonstration on Wednesday, January 20, in protest of the economic hardship in the country.
DAILY GUIDE is also reliably informed that the TUC is likely to embark on a sit-down strike after the demonstration to put pressure on the government to reverse the dwindling economic fortunes of Ghanaian workers.
The recent increment in prices of petroleum products, killer utility tariffs and the introduction of new taxes, have incensed the Congress and other labour groups to embark on the demonstration and the strike, a source said yesterday.
Labour is asking government to among other things, withdraw the Energy Sector Levy which it believes had resulted in an ‘astronomical’ and ‘unjustified’ increases in prices of petroleum products at a time the world market price for crude is at an all-time low.
The new Income Tax Act, 2015 (Act 896) was passed in September 2015 to replace an old one that was in existence for about 15 years and it has made changes to the various tax types while introducing new taxes on sectors that were initially outside the tax net.
They are particularly angry that the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) could authorize 59.2% increase in electricity tariff and 67.2% for water at a combined rate of 126.4%.
Immediately the PURC announced the increments, the Steering Committee of the TUC described the action as “insensitive and a stab in the back of the Ghanaian,” but utility providers went ahead to implement them.
“But as has been the trend, for purposes of political expediency, the PURC, acting on the promptings of the government, failed to apply the automatic adjustment formula agreed on by all stakeholders. Now the PURC and the government are calling on Ghanaians to foot the bill that has been occasioned by a political decision,” the TUC expressed in a statement issued late last year.
The statement expressed concern about the impact of tariff increases on industry and businesses as these sectors are already saddled with “too many constraints” and added that the least the government could do was to compound their problems.
“Already, some industrial entities are being over-charged, making them uncompetitive. The committee reiterated the long-held view of the TUC that at this level of national development some subsidies are needed for some groups of Ghanaians who cannot afford electricity and water at the so-called realistic rate,” it advised.
“In addition, for the fourth time this year government has increased the price of fuel cumulatively over 30 per cent. Given the noisy nature of utility tariffs and fuel prices, workers and indeed, Ghanaians, are already reeling from the harsh economic conditions. The committee and the TUC are proposing a dialogue, not only on tariffs but, equally important, on the entire energy and water situation in the country,” it said.
“Even more disgusting is that, every round of tariff adjustments has been formulated on the premise that the adjustments were needed to enable the utility companies to deliver quality and efficient service. Thus far, such promises have turned to be a hoax, an indication that there are other more important issues affecting the provision of utilities than the supposedly low tariffs.”
According to the TUC, employment creation had stagnated due to policies imposed on the government by the Breton Wood Institutions particularly the International Monetary Fund (IMF); and many workers continue to be laid off.
“The slow rate of employment creation, particularly for the youth, constitutes the greatest policy challenge facing Ghana today. A review of budget and economic policy statements for the last several years shows that the employment challenge has not received the needed attention in terms of resources committed to employment creation programmes.
“Government’s net employment freeze policy has worsened the situation. Even though health and education sectors are officially exempted from this policy, we are aware that the Ministry of Finance either deliberately delays or even refuses to approve requests from the authorities in these two sectors to employ more education and health professionals, even when additional personnel are obviously needed in these two sectors,” the TUC said.