The Minister of Information, and the New Patriotic Party (NPP's) 'General' in the last elections, Mr. Dan Botwe, has stated that the National Democratic Congress (NDC's) criticism of the government over the recent fuel price increase and other government policies is unjustifiable.
Mr. Botwe said this yesterday, when speaking to The Chronicle in a follow-up telephone interview, after he had earlier in the day 'charged' at the NDC on Peace FM. According to the Information Minister, the NDC have full knowledge of the fundamental difficulties of the economy, which they even acknowledged in their 2004 manifesto.
He said the NDC had acknowledged this on page 18 of their manifesto, which reads: "The difficulty the nation has since, point to another thing. The fundamentals of the economy are still weak, despite all efforts at restructuring and reform by the PNDC/NDC administrations. The dependence on the cocoa mono-crop is debilitating and the export of primary goods holds us hostage to international economic forces. External factors, over which we have no control eventually to take the performance of the micro-economy."
He accused the NDC of failing to do anything to transform the structure of the economy over their almost 20-year rule (adding the PNDC's 11 years to the NDC's 8). According to the Information Minister, the NDC's 2004 manifesto had also acknowledged that the economy had remained on auto-piloting for a long time.
Mr. Botwe said Mr. Kwame Peprah, the Minister of Finance under the NDC administration, had, under paragraph 24 of Appendix 1 (Memorandum of Economic & Financial Policies of the Government of Ghana for 1998) to a Letter of Intent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) dated November 12, 1998, spelt out key measures to deregulate the petroleum sector, which programme had been initiated in 1996.
The paragraph reads: 24. Key measures to deregulate the petroleum sector were introduced in mid-1996, including the liberalization of crude oil imports, and the adoption of an "import parity" pricing mechanism to ensure transparency in the setting and adjustment of ex-refinery prices of petroleum in line with import costs.
The government is continuing to make progress in this area by introducing uniform ex-regional depot wholesale prices in February 1998, and by taking steps to phase out the setting of uniform marketing/retail margins for oil marketing companies that result in a uniform national pump price for petroleum products. By end-December 1998, the government, through the Energy Commission, will introduce new regulations that will liberalize margins for petroleum product marketing and retailing activities. The GNPC completed the repayment of its long-standing debt to the Bank of Ghana in April 1998.
Mr. Botwe, could not tell when the National Petroleum Authority, which under deregulation, is to announce the price of petroleum products, would be in place. He agreed that the increase in the petroleum prices was also to generate revenue for government. He however said some of the revenue is to directly subsidize for premix and kerosene.
He further stated that paragraph 25 of that same appendix also showed how the NDC agreed to effect utility price changes through the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC), which is the body still handling utility price fixing.