Accra, Ghana (PANA) – The demand of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for Ghana to remove fuel subsidy, registration of prisoners to vote and the blame game in the sale of government lands and bungalows were some of the stories reported in the Ghanaian media this week.
The state-owned Graphic said an IMF team, led by Ms Christina Daseking, which held discussions with President John Evans Atta Mills on the economy, noted that oil imports had risen but the domestic price of fuel had not changed, a situation which was accruing a 60 million Ghana cedis (US$1=1.85 Ghana cedis) debt every month.
According to Ms Daseking, cost of living was increasing because of the depreciation of the Ghana cedi, with fuel subsidies benefitting only those in the higher echelon of society.
She expressed worry over the challenges confronting the economy this year, as opposed to last year, saying that “the fiscal situation last year was very strong”.
President Mills expressed the government’s determination to confront, head on, the challenges facing the economy, particularly as the country geared up for the general election in December.
He said, “We have challenges, particularly during election periods, but that does not mean we should not address them.”
An Accra-based radio station, Citi FM, carried the story on its website under the headline, “Increase fuel prices to save ailing economy - IMF tells Mills.”
It said the IMF had expressed concern about the economic challenges in Ghana raising the red flag, especially over escalating oil imports without corresponding increases in fuel prices domestically.
An IMF Mission led by Christina Daseking expressed concern about the high cost of living and continuous depreciation of the Ghana Cedi against the US dollar. The IMF is now asking the government to be swift in arresting the situation.
“Price of oil import (has increased) a lot but the domestic price, however, has not been adjusted,” Daseking pointed out at a meeting with President Mills on Tuesday. “This is now creating cost of about 60 million Ghana cedis every month.”
“Certainly, we want more people to support social programmes. The cost of living has increased because of the depreciation (of the cedi). Most people know the subsidies on fuel benefit the higher income groups and we’ll encourage you to take necessary (action)…”
“Prisoners register to vote in Election 2012,” was the headline of the story of the voter registration exercise in the prisons. This followed a Supreme Court ruling, which declared null and void a law which imposed a residency requirement on prisoners as a condition for voting.
The Graphic said a number of prisoners were on Tuesday registered by the Electoral Commission (EC) for them to exercise their franchise in the December general election.
The exercise took place in all 43 prisons throughout the country, the Graphic said.
Before the exercise, the Ghana Prisons Service had set up a task force to screen and verify the identification of all inmates since most of them used fake forms of identity in the prisons.
The Graphic said although officials of EC described the exercise as “highly successful”, turnout at the various prisons was far less than the country’s prison population of a little over 13,000.
The state-owned Ghanaian Times also carried the story under the headline, “Prisoners register to vote.”
It said for the first time in the annals of the country’s elections, prisoners had been registered to enable them to exercise their franchise in the December election.
“It was an exciting scene at the James Camp at Roman Ridge in the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency in Accra when some prisoners were issued with ID cards to enable them to vote.”
On the controversial sale of state lands and bungalows, the Graphic said the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) had asked the Lands Commission to publish the full list of beneficiaries of state lands and bungalows from 1982 when the erstwhile Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) under former president Jerry John Rawlings assumed the reins of power.
In the story under the headline “Sale of state bungalows/lands - NPP calls on Lands Commission to publish list of all beneficiaries,” the party said this would set the records straight to debunk the perception that all the lands were sold during the NPP administration.
The issue of the sale of state lands and bungalows was revived when the Supreme Court, by a 6-3 majority decision, said the NPP chairman and former cabinet minister Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey was right in purchasing the bungalow in which he lived until the NPP was voted out of power. Cabinet subsequently declared that it would no longer sell the bungalow.
The Graphic, in another story on the headline “Public servants illegally allocate government bungalows/land”, said a government report had revealed that public officers at the Lands Commission, the Ministry of Works and Housing and the Town and Country Planning Department designed various illegal schemes to allocate government bungalows and parcels of land to politicians, government officials and their friends, without Cabinet approval and direction.
According to the report, the first phase of the Cabinet-approved allocation of government bungalows for redevelopment took place between 2000 and 2003.
The Graphic published a list of former government members and opposition party members as some of the people who benefited from the sale.
However, the NPP Communications Director, Nana Akomea, said the sale of state land was started under former president Jerry John Rawlings, who preceded the NPP.
The Ghanaian Times had the headline “CJA demands probe into sale of govt lands, assets.”
A pro-government pressure group, Committee for joint action (CJA), has called on the government to set up an independent commission of enquiry to conduct a public investigation into the allocation of state-lands and government assets.
It described as unfortunate the practice by which ministers of state of the former administration and officials in the Lands Commission, especially the Greater Accra region, arrogated to themselves the powers to make decisions to sell off government bungalows to their friends.
The CJA said in a statement that the need for land for the purposes of building hospitals, schools and accommodation for public and civil servants was a pressing one and if by any stretch of imagination, the state did not require them any longer, those lands must be returned to the original owners as provided for in the constitution.
It lauded government's decision that no political appointee should purchase state land meant for public purposes.
-0- PANA MA 2June2012