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24.03.2005 General News

President's claims on fuel price increase was perverse -CJA

By GNA

Accra, March 24, GNA - The Committee for Joint Action (CJA) on Wednesday said claims by the government that the recent 50 per cent increases in fuel prices were to discourage smuggling of the commodity to neighbouring countries was perverse.

In a statement reacting to comments by President John Agyekum Kufuor and Energy Minister Prof. Mike Oquaye at the Peoples Assembly held earlier in the day, the group said the logic of the government's position was that henceforth, Ghana's fuel prices will be dictated not by the country's needs but by the dictates of neighbouring countries.

"It is interesting that our President, while willing to match our commodity prices in neighbouring countries, refuses to consider adjusting salaries upwards to match the level of incomes in those countries he refers to," the CJA said.

The statement was signed by Emelia Arthur, Nana Danny Ofori Atta, Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, Bede Ziedeng, Michael Nunoo and Ben Bediako. The group said information supplied by the government indicated that the Tema Oil Refinery's cost were being fully recovered at 13,700 cedis per gallon while taxes and levies accounted for about 43 per cent or about 12,900 cedis of the new prices.

It held that these levels of taxes were excessive and burdensome and will worsen the plight of Ghanaians.

"The people of Ghana are already overburdened with high school fees, high cost of water and electricity, unbearable costs of health and rising food prices," the CJA said, adding that a reduction in fuel prices will give relief to the people.

"After all the NPP government has deemed it fit to reduce the taxes and duties in imported rice, poultry and meat products even as they are telling Ghanaians that they need more revenue for development," the CJA said and added that it would address the issue more substantively at a later date.

The group countered a comment by the President that Ghanaian workers were regularly paid, saying that medical officers on contract in the country had not been paid for periods ranging from between five to 12 months and that additional duty allowances were also five months in arrears.

It also called on the government to cut down on waste and corruption.

The CJA said it has taken note of "the President's open support" for pro-government groups that have indicated their readiness to organise counter-demonstrations to back the fuel price increases.

"We recognize the right of all citizens, including those who consider hardship to be a virtue, to demonstrate in support of the government," it said and expressed the hope that "presidential support" for counter demonstrations will not lead to state resources being spent on it.

The group said it remains convinced of the validity of its cause and will continue the nationwide 'wahala' campaign. It announced that its planned demonstrations to be held at Wa and Ho will come off as scheduled on Thursday, March 31, this year.

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