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24.02.2005 Press Review

EDITORIAL: Stop These Acts of Impunity!

By Ghanaian Chronicle

When petroleum prices were increased in January 2003, the price build-up for that increase showed an item that was later to be classified as Debt Recovery Fund Levy.

At the time it was introduced, it was to be placed in an escrow account, an admission that it had no place in the price build-up, until parliament approved of its introduction. That act by the government, was clearly a violation of the laws of this country that do not allow any authority to introduce new taxes or vary existing ones without the approval of Parliament.

In 2003, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) then had a majority in Parliament. There was therefore little doubt that if any Bill was introduced to Parliament that needed a simple majority to implement, it could easily sail through.

Yet, the government chose to levy consumers before going to Parliament to seek ratification. That was an act of impunity! Considering the fallouts from that act, and the furore that it attracted, one would have expected that the government would be more circumspect and not go that way again. Alas! The government would not demonstrate that it is a listening one.

A look at the price build-up of the new fuel price increases that took effect from Friday, February 18, 2005, reveals that some new levies have been introduced without the prior approval of Parliament. These new levies include, 'Deregulation Mitigating Levy' and 'Cross Subsidy Levy'. For the former, a consumer is levied 442.56 per litre, whilst 500.00 is levied for the latter.

From these two levies alone, a consumer pays ยข4,241.52 for a gallon of premium fuel! However, the increase is not limited to only the above. Other existing levies have been varied, and as would be expected, in an upward adjustment.

The NPP is a tradition that prides itself in being the pacesetters in introducing democratic movements and principles into this country, since the days of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC). It is therefore expected that having assumed power since January 7, 2001, it would not only continuously demonstrate its democratic characteristics, but also grow.

In a multi-party democracy, the fact that one party obtains a majority does not even mean the choices of the minority constituency should not be considered. It is the mark of progressive democrats, to compromise and accommodate the minority viewpoint.

Unfortunately, the NPP is behaving in a manner that contradicts the democratic credentials it proclaims. The action of the government in setting aside the law requiring it to seek prior approval of parliament is a clear violation of the terms of the mandate the people of Ghana entrusted to them.

The NPP can do better. They must not abuse the goodwill with which Ghanaians renewed their mandate. A continuation along these lines would surely erode the confidence that we have within the last two decades been trying hard to restore in democratic governance.

Just last week, we had cause to sound the alarm bells against, the 'show your vote to your colleague' balloting that the NPP members of Parliament had resorted to, to represent secret balloting. That was after the party had adopted the practice for the second time.

We are alarmed again that the government decided for the second time to treat Parliament, in which it commands an overwhelming majority, with contempt. It is our hope that this is not a case of coming events casting their shadows. We also hope that true democrats within the government would prevail upon their colleagues to stop these acts of impunity, as they undermine democracy.

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