Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Ghana's Minister For Power Must Form Alliances With Dumsor Critics

It would help our present crop of politicians a great deal if they  saw their critics as potential allies - instead of viewing them with suspicion: and constantly berating those who criticise them.

Those in power now need to understand the potential the power crisis has to destabilise our country - and give measured and reasonable responses to those who complain about its effect on the national economy and on society generally.

Far better to have disenchanted citizens criticising their country's rulers openly, and  organising peaceful public  demonstrations in Ghana to vent their frustrations over power outages, than resorting to the kind of violence that led to the overthrow of the Blaise Campoares, the Maummar  Gaddafis and the Hosni Mubaraks.

Public demonstrations are a safety valve to ease the pressures that build up from time to time  in democracies due to public anger over unpopular policies. Politicians in Ghana need to understand that - and find creative ways to deal with disaffected sections of society at such times.

Electricity underpins modern civilisation. Without it modern life as we know it will grind to a halt. Indeed modern life cannot be sustained without round-the-clock electricity supply. That should be a no-brainer for our political class.

(That is why some of us urge the minister for power to ask his Bahamian counterpart to let him have copies of the proposals submitted over the years by companies wanting to enter the Bahamian power sector. Some of those companies  could make a huge difference to Ghana's power sector if they were invited here to partner with  Ghanaian companies. But I digress.)

The minister for power must find  time to meet with the organisers of the #DumsorMustStop campaign. Their impact on the nation should not be underestimated.

It would be an expensive folly on the part of President Mahama's administration were it to be dismissive of the impact of the #DumsorMustStop campaign on society generally.

The question is: why does the minister for power not  ask his senior officials to meet with, and explain to the #DumsorMustStop campaign organisers, how a lack of investment in the power sector over the decades - because it was not attractive to private investors - has led to our present predicament?

The organisers of the #DumsorMustStop campaign could play a critical role in preventing the power crisis from being turned into a political football by cynical scorched-earth politicians desperate to get to power by any means necessary.

Instead of scorning them, President Mahama's government would be wise to  enlist the help of the #DumsorMustStop campaign's organisers - in educating the public about the need to conserve electricity:  and for Ghanaians to accept that those who invest in power plants need to make profits that enable them pay back the loans they take to build power plants here.

For their part, honest and law-abiding Ghanaians, should not  expect to see the power situation improving any time soon, if those who steal electricity with impunity continue to do so.  That is why individuals and businesses that steal electricity ought to be reported to the relevant authorities.

Neither should honest and law-abiding citizens expect the power situation to improve if most Ghanaians continue to resist paying realistic tariffs. Above all, we all need to revise our notes - and see the situation for what it actually is: a collective failing we should all accept blame for.

If consumers are careful in their usage of electricity, they will never have large monthly bills to pay, no matter how high tariffs get. That is a fact. We waste electricity needlessly in Ghana, if truth be told.

We can have a vibrant power sector that provides stable and reliable electricity all year round, only if the power companies are profitable businesses. There is no disputing that, either.

We must all accept that a tariff regime that ensures a fair return-on-investment is vital if we are to attract investors to build power plants in Ghana.

That is a message the #DumsorMustStop campaign organisers can take across Ghana - if the government accepts them as allies in sensitising Ghanaians on what needs to be done to provide Ghana with reliable electricity supply all year round.

The minister for power must form alliances with his critics - and get them to see the power crisis from the right perspective: a problem that can only be solved if power companies can make decent profits after investing in Ghana.

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