Since my article appeared on Ghanaweb on May 1, 2005, I have received a number of criticisms for not comparing income levels in Ghana versus the developed countries. Although I commented on income disparities in my opinion piece those who already had their guns cocked to attack ignored my comments and started firing wildly in all directions anyway. I therefore deem it necessary to expand what I said about income disparities. Hopefully, the deaf ears will hear this time.
It is true that Ghanaians do not earn as much as those in developed countries. But the odds are stacked against us. The price of crude oil and associated shipping and handling costs are set on the world market. Ghana does not get a special discount because of income levels in Ghana. So, in short, Ghana and the developed countries pay almost the same price for crude oil. In my article I also explained that the production cost for petrol, gas oil, kerosene, and diesel oil is higher in Ghana because we are not able to extract all the individual components of the crude oil to sell for additional profit.
Despite our economic condition and income levels, the government has to sell petroleum products at prices that should enable it to recover costs, build revenue for road maintenance and improvement, and maintain a reasonable cushion against the continuing rising crude oil prices. The starting point for the price buildup is the crude oil price on the world market which is completely unrelated to income levels in Ghana or USA. We pay the same price.
This is what those who are concerned about income disparities can do to help Ghanaians. Please ask OPEC to give Ghana a 'reduced' price for crude oil, much lower than the advanced countries, because Ghanaians do not earn as much as those in the advanced countries. Please ask car companies to give Ghanaians reduced prices for spare parts or stop shipping cars like BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. to Ghana because Ghanaians make less money and cannot afford to buy their expensive spare parts to maintain them. The money saved on spare parts can go towards petrol purchases. Ask the government to ban the importation of big gas-guzzling SUVs into Ghana to conserve fuel and reduce crude oil imports. Ask Ghanaians to stop drinking imported bottled water and use 'free' local water because, on imperial gallon basis, bottled water costs more than petrol. The money saved can be used to buy more petrol. Tell the government not to worry about the state of our roads and bridges because we are poor and our roads and bridges do not have to be as good as those in the advanced countries. Tell the government we do not have to drive on paved roads like they do in advanced countries because we do not make the same income as they do. Tell the government our roads do not have to be as safe as those in advanced countries because a few more deaths on our roads due to potholes and poor maintenance are acceptable and consistent with our state of poverty. Our problem is that we want to live like those in advanced countries and enjoy the same comforts as they do but we do not want to pay similar prices for similar goods. Who should absorb the difference? Government!
Some people have made the argument that we should compare Ghana with other African countries and not developed countries. Ghana is the most advanced country in our sub-region. In our march forward, we have to look at the more advanced countries for guidance and copy the right things that have catalyzed their development. We cannot look backwards to other less developed African countries for guidance in our march forward. We will end up sinking to their level. Charles O. Dankwah Springfield, VA USA. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.