Feature Article of Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Columnist: Mensah-Pah, Jerry Detse
By Jerry Detse Mensah-Pah
Almost every time in the media, government apparatchiks and the so called pro capitalist and neo-liberalist think tanks express deep concern about the rising wage bill. This sort of commentary makes me feel strongly that workers particularly those of us in the public sector have to come together to set the records straight to disabuse this propaganda which is gradually eating up the minds of some people.
Hitherto, Ghana was touted as one country in the sub-Sahara which had very good number of social interventions (Social Wage) that aims at providing a sort of cushioning to the vulnerable workers and their dependents which culminated in taking off wage demands as businesses and government itself strive to recover. Unfortunately successive governments after nineteen seventy-nine’s (1979’s) government has not added onto the foundation laid by the latter but have instead relegated it to the background if not destroyed.
As of now Ghana has no properly functioning social wage. When I say Social Wage I mean to say a form of interventions and policies initiated by governments to cushion public sector workers and to a lager extent citizens as a whole. Social wage is a subsistence which is provided as a free public service rather than purchased. It is a non-monetary compensation such as basic social amenities and interventions provided by government to it citizenry in exchange of income and other taxes paid.
Interventions and policies as subsidies on utilities, fuel, agricultural inputs as well as enforcing socially friendly laws(policies) such as the rent law enhances the ‘social wage’, taking pressure off wage demands as businesses and government strive to recover. These measures also help mitigate inequalities and enhance the welfare of all, thus contributing to social and political stability.
Certainly that has not been the case here in Ghana even at a time where the country is governed by a so called social democratic government according to the Honourable Minister of Communication, Hon. Dr. Omane Boamah .
Rather this so called socially democratic government has announced to us that it has removed subsidies on petroleum products; government has also instituted an automatic utility tariffs adjustment which always point to an increment; the national health insurance authority is indebted to service providers in spite of monthly deduction of two and half percent from workers salary as premiums forcing workers and their dependents to pay at the health facilities when one visits the hospital to seek healthcare. Capitation grants is also in serious arrears; GETFUND is equally in arrears forcing Ghanaian studying abroad who are on government scholarships doing menial jobs and to some extent pushing these students to engage in all forms of inhumane and criminal activities to eke a living.
As per the Rent Act, one is not supposed to pay more than six months rent advance however that is not the practice; majority of landlords charge far in excess of two years advance. Strangely, state agencies with all their power and might also pay two and even more years rent advance without recourse to the laws. What a joke!
In view of these happenings in this country, I become quite worried if I hear these neo-liberalists and pro capitalist think tanks in the media attacking workers that we are demanding too much. Instead of this propaganda by these neo-liberalists and pro capitalists as well as government apparatchiks; I venture to suggest to them to rather focus their attention on assisting government to mobilize more resources domestically to afford government embark on a social wage that shall culminate in labour reducing it demand for wage increase. I humbly suggest to you also to put in much efforts to ensure that government closes the loopholes that have let multinational entities enjoyed some sort of tax havens allowing these multinational entities to legally avoid paying millions of cedis in taxes.
In addition, there is the need for us as citizens to pressurize governments to retrieve all monies illegally paid to individuals as well as prosecute all who are alleged to have embezzled hundreds of thousands and millions of state monies.
The author of this article is an Industrial Relations Practitioner and a fellow at the Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS). He can be reached on [email protected] or +233(0)243164704.