Business in Ghana

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O Dumsor Where is Thy Sting? Critical News, 25th January 2015

Posted by Business in Ghana on January 25, 2015

Sydney Casely-Hayford, sydney@bizghana.com

Haven’t you eventually braved the ides of Dumsor? Everywhere I went this past week everybody complained about the erratic power cuts and how there is simply no regard for Citizen Ghana and whether we deserve such punishment after the small holiday largesse at the expense of the Volta lake.

Now regular kiosks around the city have invested in small generators to survive and carry on basic services. My local barber down McCarthy Hill proudly announced to me how he has arranged for a generator on hire for a few days in a week just to keep his customers from drifting. He did the calculations and figured he could do a bit more if he spent a few extra cedis.

He asks for three cedis for a haircut, beard and moustache trim. He operates from a kiosk, and me, big supporter of KIOSKENOMICS patronize his “barbary” at least every other week. He fears an increase in charge will turn customers away.

My advice, charge a few cedis more. Our conversation went somewhat like this. Translate into Twi to get the import.

Yaw: “If I ask for more they will not pay”

Syd: “How much do I pay when I come here?”

Yaw: “Five cedis”

Syd: “Why do I pay five cedis?”

Yaw: “Wofa, you do that to help me out”

SYd: “No, I do it because I think you do a good job, and I can afford it”

Yaw: “Oh, Daa, I did not know that”

Syd: “Raise your charges and paste it on top of the mirror. Everyone will see it. If you have ten customers a day and they pay three cedis, you make thirty cedis. If you start charging five cedis, you only need six customers. So even if you lose four customers, you are still in the same place”.

The next time I was there his prices had gone up, none of his customers had left and he was having a love affair with the generator, asking if I thought he should buy one instead of hiring.

Syd: “have you done the calculations to see how long it will take to pay it back? At what interest rate?”

By the time we finished the calculation he abandoned the marriage. With dowry interest rates at 10% a month from the local moneylender, no can do!

But our President wants to accept responsibility for all the “dumsor” in the country. I refuse to let him take that too. I bequeath to him the irresponsibility of false promises and his lack of attention to the Institutional heads whose advice should be the best under the circumstance.

The power problem has been with us since I can remember as a little boy fifty years on. During that time we have always had Heads of the ECG, VRA, then GRIDCO and BUI and all those in the Energy Commission and responsible for ensuring power generation is in place. Where were they when things were going bad? They simply step aside and allow political masters to ride shod over their technical competence and advice.

Maybe the President does not remember, on account of his age, but we have had many a power dearth in this country. Even Kutu Acheampong refused responsibility, questioning the wisdom of the Almighty in not permitting adequate rainfall during his time.

So he cannot have the responsibility. I suggest he assumes responsibility for what he has created, which is an economic mess. As Vice President he was head of the economic team and as President he has issued a budget every year from 2012. That is what he is responsible for, not power supply.

He should hold his Institutional heads to account and serve notice that till they give him the right advice and solve the problem in hand they can consider one foot out the door. He can accept responsibility for not being tough enough with hiring and firing, but his heads are directly responsible for establishing proper engineering and professional conduct and solving the on today off tomorrow crisis.

And I will advise those heads, that if their advice is ignored, they should step out and speak out. Their replacement will think twice when the same happens to them.

After all, Asiedu does not accept responsibility for his female coat, he blames it on the mistake of not looking carefully when he packed his case, and claims poverty also played a key role, prevented him from getting a new one.

But if the President accepts full responsibility, then he has failed and must step down, because the energy crisis is raging and has been so since he was part of this government the past six years of which he has guided two and a half.

So here is my suggestion for how to deal with “dumsor”. Strategise to convert all domestic energy demand to use solar energy. The technology has improved and costs are down.

Go to Parliament and under emergency orders (which our Parliamentarians are very good at) enact tax legislation to allow all imported solar solutions free of duty. The parts are very easy to identify and hopefully we can plug any crooked loopholes very quickly.

Since when did it make sense not to take advantage of free energy from nature and harness the natural forces of gravity, wind and light? Australia, Germany, China, USA, UK and many other countries already have made-in-box solutions. In this, as in some other cases, you simply import the technology.

Every household needs to save about two hundred watts of energy a day and you can do this by turning off your fridge and/or freezer at night, say 8pm; not leaving any room lights on when you are not in the room, and powering only necessary lights for say TV, radio, a fan and a light where you relax as a family.

This should be a personal goal by all households. If we do this, we could reduce the demand for energy in say two million households @200 watts, which is 400MW. The current “dumsor” crisis is looking to fill a gap of between 400 and 500MW.

If we have more households, the conscious effort of reducing demand, because the supply cannot be available within two years, will enable us to have consistent supply while VRA and other Independent Power Producers make ground with cheaper gas to increase supply.

The lads at VRA and GRIDCO have the solution to this problem. Move the politicians out of the way and we will get this matter sorted out. I don’t care much for the politics; let those who have been trained for this work find the solutions.

And we can fix the “dumsor” matter if we think outside the box. Government is so paralyzed by its self-inflicted cash crisis; domestic borrowing is breaking the ceiling at over ghc850million a week and “dumsor” has acquired international stature and threatens to make life a perfect misery.

The lights are already being switched off every day. Why not lets do it voluntarily? We have learnt to mange life without constant supply of power. We have learnt to manage our food without storing it for too long. We have learnt to sleep without a fan or aircon all the time. We shouldn’t leave the erratic on off to make us miserable.

We take the misery out when we control our destiny.

But look back at Christmas and smile quietly to yourself when you reflect those few days and how comfortable life was. It has to be worth it; turn a few lights off everyday, take the sting out of “dumsor” death.

Sadly I have other work to do. Some Social Democrat Brigands, have asked us at #OccupyGhana to go and tell the taxis and Trotros to reduce and implement the price reduction announced by Government, which we should have placed on our agenda when we started attacking Government about fuel prices.

But Asamoah Gyan came and interfered with that classic late AFCON goal against Algeria and I lost focus, so I promise I will get round to it next week. Who am I to disobey such a powerful group?

And if you think you are struggling, read what Brazil is going through. You ain’t seen nothing yet from the cost of poor planning.

Ghana, Aha a ye din papa. Alius atrox week advenio. Another terrible week to come!

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