21.04.2005 General News

PURC`s Shocks!

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...Threat of utility hikes as ...Electricity consumers continue to suffer terrible outages Last week, a group of frustrated youth in Asante-Mampong went on the rampage as a way of protesting the atrocious services of the Electric Company of Ghana (ECG).

Considerable damage was caused to public property belonging to the District Administration, Electric Company of Ghana, National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO) and the National Fire Service.

The action of the town's youth, though unacceptable, was precipitated by the many power outages customers of ECG have been suffering these past few months.

Accra, the national capital, probably suffers more than any other part of the country, for no day passes without some huge swathe of the metropolis being denied power supply averaging from 30 minutes to several days.

It is a most frustrating experience to be caught in an unannounced (or even announced) ECG power cut.

It is against this background that people are not taking kindly to the threatened hike in utility prices announced by Mr. Kwame Pianim, Chairman of the Public Utilities Regulatory Commission (PURC) this week. The threat, according to Mr. Pianim, may take effect next month.

ECG is generally regarded as not giving efficient services and therefore not deserving of more money from customers.

The perception is that if the two main utility monopolies, Electricity Company of Ghana and Ghana Water Company eliminated the waste in their systems, they would make considerable savings that would make any price increase demands from customers negligible.

"They are always demanding for more money", said a small time trader at Abeka/Tesano, an area prone to ECG black outs, "but they do not respect us."

The stock-in-trade answer from the ECG fault offices has always been "we have trouble with an underground cable". With that, customers are shut off without protection from either PURC or any other consumer protection organization.

Currently, there is what seems like a load shedding regime in Accra, but then consumers are simply told that "we have problems with our underground cables." These cables must certainly be a source of worry to the engineers at ECG because they never seem able to get a permanent solution to the problem.

Even though Mr. Pianim has declared that any hikes would take on board the interest of the poor, PURC would have to tread carefully because the grumbling ADM has been picking from consumers, big and small, is that, this is one price hike that may go a bridge too far!

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