Perhaps if we were living on some remote corner of the universe without any contacts whatsoever with the rest of the world we wouldn't have to bother ourselves about any standards. In the first place this wouldn't be necessary. Unfortunately, however, even in this so-called global village we happen to be an integral part out of which we can't isolate ourselves even if we wanted to.
One of the major policies for which the late General Acheampong will forever be remembered is the change of our system of measurements from imperial to metric in September 1975 in line with the wind of change that was blowing across the world at that time. Looking back, I don't even recall how those of us who had already gone through school with the 'lorgo-ligi' conversions of pounds, shillings and pence; miles, furlongs, yards, feet and inches; stones, pounds and ounces etc. managed to get used to the metric system of measurement. But yes, we did, if for nothing at all, at least to enable us move abreast with time. And since to date no succeeding government has found it necessary to take us back to the days of the imperial system it means the change-over was a worthy policy.
Why then does it appear as if there's no officially mandated standard of measurement in Ghana? Why, for example, is it that while our children learn the metric system in school some official documents continue to come out with figures in the imperial system or worse still, in a mixture of metric and imperial systems? While the weight of a bag of cement is given in kilos nails are weighed in pounds. It is only in Ghana that in the same document that distances are measured in kilometres parcels of land are measured in acres, building plots are measured in feet and water supplies are quoted in gallons. For example, according to a release by Aqua Vittens Rand Limited (AVRL) some time ago, the Weija Dam supplies 55 million GALLONS of water a day, with among others things, 500 KILOS of chlorine. Meanwhile on my water bill I'm supposed to be consuming about 20,000 litres of water a month. So with what system of measurement am I supposed to relate what I consume to what I am supplied? It just shows how serious we are as a country when we think that these things don't matter even this technological and digital world.
On one television network the other day I was surprised to see that while the weight of ladies taking part in a contest had been given in kilos, their height was given in feet and inches. Could this be as a result of ignorance or it is simply because no one cares?
Electrical Sockets & Plugs
I don't know of any other country in the world where you go to a local shop and purchase an electrical appliance only to realise that it cannot be connected to your wall socket acquired on the local market simply because while the socket may have come from the United Kingdom or Hong Kong the appliance may have come from South Africa. And the following instruction I read on the label of a drug I bought from a pharmacy shop the other day is just another confirmation of the fact that we are simply not serious as a country. It read: “pour five mls into a gallon of water”. To me, this is more serious than mixing Akuapem and Asante Twi in an examination which as any JHS student knows will result in a failure. So how come that such elementary mistakes are allowed to pass, and whose responsibility is it to ensure that all products made or imported into the country conform to some basic standards including labelling?
Why Did We Have to Re-denominate Our Currency?
In my preparation to relocate to Ghana in 2008 after almost three decades in Europe one government policy I so enthusiastically welcomed was the redenomination of the Cedi. What a relief I knew it was going to be considering the difficulties non-resident Ghanaians always had to go through after a visit to the Forex Bureau. Just imagine entering a forex bureau and pulling out a one thousand Swiss Franc note from your breast pocket and in return receiving about fifteen MILLION Cedis in brownish wads of two or five thousand notes. Of course you know you're expected to check it but how on earth do you do this, especially standing in a queue, when maybe you never ever had to count up to 50,000 whether in Euro, Dollar or Swiss Francs in your country of residence? But compare that to exchanging the same amount for 1,500 GHANA Cedis, especially if you're lucky enough to have it in Ghc50.00 denominations. With time, however, hope soon turned into confusion because you ask for the price of bread, for example and you're told it is TEN THOUSAND! In short, the denomination is only on paper.
If one of the major reasons for changing our currency was to reduce the volume of cash required to transact business why do government officials still have to quote amounts of money in billions which the average Ghanaian doesn't even have a name for in their local language or know how to write? For example, how many Ghanaians know or understand what 'opepe-pee-pee-peee' (apologies to President Mills) is or how it is written?
Its Negative Effect on Our Tourist Industry
The problem in Ghana is that we always take too many things for granted. As a nation we always seem to believe that everybody knows what we know. Were it not so I would have expected the government to come to the realisation that we are not offering any worthy service to a tourist who exchanges US$100 for some GHC140 but asks for the price of a loaf of bread and is told that it costs TEN THOUSAND.
Ghana may be the only country in the world where someone gives you ONE and says it is 10,000 or 100 and says it's a MILLION! Even at home this can be irritating if while one family member calculates in Ghana Cedis (units and tens), another does so in tens of thousands. But the confusion goes even further. You sign a cheque and you forget to precede the Cedi with 'Ghana' and you get it all wrong. Meanwhile sometimes you hear top government officials including MPs and Ministers quoting sums of money in billions of 'old Ghana Cedis' or 'new Ghana Cedis'. Unfortunately, government officials and our politicians don't have any interest in issues like this because apparently they don't win votes, and this is a crying shame!
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