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17.04.2007 General News

Dark age of business

By Xoese DOGBE

Government, to be precise the President, John Kufuor on assumption of office in 2001 declared that we are in a golden age of business… and over the years that mantra has been repeated both home and abroad, albeit muted over the last couple of months for reasons not very clear to me.

What I do know however is that the current state of affairs do not at all exemplify a country that is in an era or age of golden business. When you think about it carefully, the best description at least for now will be a 'dark age of business'.

A very dark age, thanks to existing conditions and the combined forces & sheer lack of concern of the ECG and VRA who have been inflicting some bitter pills on us.

In this perilous times, the insincerity of the ECG makes matters worse with virtually most private businesses, factories, industries and especially small businesses feeling the immense pressure and pain of this continuous and unannounced light offs.

Despite the fact that the two “power houses” have wasted money on publishing the load shedding time-table for the various regions and suburbs, they have 'secretly' decided to ignore it, and as a Daily Guide cartoon depicted recently, “have with the connivance of their children been turning the switches on & off at will and a their pleasure.”

Small businesses desirous of a golden age of business are the worst affected, more so because they cannot afford the smallest capacity of generators around.

And countless business owners don't have a clue when this crippling situation -that makes your heart pound on and on anytime the light goes off unannounced not just once but on the low seven times in a day when you are not scheduled to go off- would come to an end or perhaps will be indefinitely suspended because for sure the country's politicians would just be organizing talk shops and at the end of the day the situation would resurface in a few years.
Barbering salons, hair stylists, dressmakers/fashion designers, electricians, entertainment centers, newspaper publishers and printers and all sorts of businesses are experiencing a terrible nightmare.

Some factory and industry workers have been laid off because the owners have cut down production due to inadequate power supply so there is no need for an increased staff. And this definitely (no one must tell you) will bring more untold hardship to the ordinary Ghanaian who is trying to make ends meet.

Government officials everywhere they go remind us that the private sector and small businesses are the means to a country's development and growth but unfortunately the energy challenges will collapse them and there is no way that statement will hold if a total solution and permanent cure is not found for this energy disease which has attacked Ghana for so many years.

Government institutions and organizations which are there to promote government business and develop government proposals and all the numerous blueprint of ideas and programs have also had their fair share of this energy quagmire.

The talkatives on radio & others have decried and bemoaned the low productivity at various work places and with the load shedding hitting the 5th gear, together with the insensitive on-off-on by the ECG, I tell you, productivity is fast dwindling.

Just picture yourself leaving home for work early in the morning hoping to finish some paper work and meet timelines, forgetting that your lights are off. You get there and the reality hits you. Worse still, the small office generator is faulty, and you need to finish those paper works for a client that very day.
Definitely, it will be frustrating.

The frustration is worse when the next day you enter the office full of energy to salvage the situation somewhat, and every 20 to 30 minutes, the folks in the ECG switch room, joined by their children decide to sing lullabies while playing with the switch?

And your generator is not working? Hmmm!! The other day when I decided to call one of the advertised numbers for the ECG Damsoman Customer Care centre, a boring, arrogant and annoying voice with equally bad control over the English Language provided the best example of a bad customer service experience and further demonstration of the fact that the ECG needs a human resource retooling.

I can just picture the sort of atmosphere that exists at the ministries and other government agencies. Even when there was no load shedding “wahala” there was lots of talk about the laziness, lackadaisical and lackluster attitude towards work.

This dark age of business will certainly be bad for possible investors who might want to come in and do business in the country. Every major business over the world largely depends on electricity and I wonder how prospective investors doing feasibility studies on probable business locations will be attracted and convinced to do business in the 'gate way to West Africa'.

The various political parties and political figures in the country have come out to offer their opinions to this problem and some are using it to score massive points on the political scoreboard en route to the 2008 general elections which will not be easy for any political party who thinks that it will have a landslide victory.

The fact however remains that the challenges with our energy generating system did not start with the elephants. Unfortunately for the NPP, the energy situation has gone bananas under their leadership so it will be wise on their part to exhibit great commitment to solving the problem.

The Bui dam, thermal plants and lately nuclear energy have been outlined as some of the ways that could get us out of this mess and I hope the government and its machinery would work hard at it and get the job done hopefully once and for all which I really doubt, in all fairness. I am sure the problem will be temporarily solved and later on it will resurface in a different dimension.

In one of the [email protected] commercial, President Kufuor says “it is a great time to be a Ghanaian” but unfortunately with what most of the people are experiencing because of the energy problem, many will say it is not exactly a great time.

Is there anything great about living without electricity every 48hrs or there about, not to talk about the frequent interruptions that are much worse than the scheduled light offs? What is great about having to work with no power on most of the working days? In fact what is great about people loosing their jobs because their employers will not be able to meet their demands because of reduced production?