The Minister for Energy and Petroleum, Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, has broken his long silence on the rising outrage triggered by the recent 78.9 percent rise in electricity tariff.
“…Electricity is no more going to be some free water flowing. It is expensive; it is going to be expensive going into the future and the reality is that we must begin to understand that,” the Minister bluntly told Citi FM’s Richard Dela Sky in an exclusive interview to be aired later tonight on Point Blank on Eyewitness News.
The Minister somewhat echoed a member of the legal team of ruling National Democratic Congress, Abraham Amaliba, who told Citi FM listeners on Saturday that critics of the recent electricity tariff hike should try using candle if they believe the power tariffs was too high.
“We need to understand that there is balancing act to do as a government. The survival of the utility agencies is also vital and critical. What would we prefer? Would we prefer the collapse of ECG, the collapse of VRA, to having these agencies provide us with the services that we have? So government has to balance the situation and ensure that these services are at least floating and providing us with what we want but a situation where people want to see the utility services being deprived and at the end of the day collapsed. If anybody thinks that electricity is very expensive to consume, they should resort to buying candles and see how it is” Mr. Amaliba said.
Mr Amaliba’s Saturday morning comments came shortly before National Security Advisor, Brigadier General Nunoo Mensah, went on a public platform in Accra to slam critics of the government who say Ghanaian workers were suffering under the Mahama Presidency.
“If you don’t want the job, Ghana is not a police state. Take your passports and get out of this country and don’t destroy the country for us; if you can’t sacrifice like what some of us have done, then get out. If the Kitchen is too hot for you, get out,’’ the retired Army Chief said in Accra, provoking a storm of public anger.
This morning’s edition of the Citi Breakfast Show aired excerpts of the Energy Minister’s interview in which the Ellembele Constituency Member of Parliament minced no words about what he called the dire need for consumers to reduce power consumption if they want to pay less for energy.
“One of the ways to avoid paying high electricity (bills) is to make sure you turn the lights off and conserve energy…” he said, adding “the electricity we produce, almost 40 percent is wasted (so) turn it off.”
His comments follow a wave of public anger after recent utility tariff increases that saw water tariff rise by 50 percent and electricity tariff climb by nearly 80 percent.
Since the raise in tariffs, organised labour, represented by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), has slammed the decision to raise tariffs as insensitive.
In a statement to issue a ten day ultimatum to government to reverse the tariff increases, the TUC said: “We have made it clear to the government that the prevailing income levels in the country do not allow us to pay such exorbitant increases; we simply cannot afford to pay.
“We are therefore left with very little choice to implement our own roadmap for getting the tariffs down to levels that are consistent with the income of Ghanaians.”
The ten day ultimatum expired last week Friday and expectations are high that the TUC will soon call a nationwide strike, although President John Mahama has appealed for calm.
Last week, President John Mahama announced that his government has set up a technical committee to review the recently announced tariff hikes after threats and ultimatums issued by organized labour since the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURC) announced the increases late September.
“We have tasked a technical team to consider the issue and make recommendations to government,” the President said.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to organized labour to allow the committee time and space to finish its work and present its report to government,” he added.
In his exclusive interview with Citi FM’s Richard Dela Sky, the President’s Minister for Energy and Petroleum Minister stressed the point that Ghanaians must be more than ready, going forward, to pay realistic tariffs for energy, dismissing claims that the tariff increases have expose the Mahama administration as insensitive to the plight of Ghanaians.
“This argument about not being sensitive has been made before to almost every government that has come so because of that we postpone the decisions…that is why President Mahama has to deal with it. And I dare say President Mahama must make those decisions today so that those decisions do not surface again for another government to worry about…”
Later tonight, listeners of Citi FM will hear the Minister throw out a string of statistics on power tariffs in other countries in the West African sub region to explain why the view that Ghanaians are paying too much for power is, to him, misleading.