Friday, 14 February 2014

The Value is a Shame

I don't really understand all what these experts talk about when discussing the economy. All I know is that at the beginning of 2013, Fan Yogo (Ice cream) was 50p and by the end of 2013 it was GhȻ1.00. The price of everything went up by at least 100% and yet at the end of the year, smug faced politicians were all over the radio and TV telling us how good the economy was.

I knew there was going to be trouble in 2007 when the cedi was re-denominated. The problem is that Ghanaians hate any form of mathematics that isn't a simple multiplication or division by the number 10. Decimals just freak us out! The conversion from the old currency to new was;

(Old cedi)/10000 = new cedi

The first problem with this was the Ȼ50 and Ȼ20 coins disappeared and the Ȼ100 coin became the 1p which was the smallest denomination. The 1p was discriminated against right from the beginning. It created the uncomfortable problem of having prices like GhȻ2.7 something, as I said, Ghanaian absolutely loathe. People immediately started rounding prices to the nearest multiple of 10. Even the 5p coin was discriminated against. Prices started jumping ridiculously no thanks to this. Back then, the cedi the value of the cedi to the dollar ($1) was  around Ȼ10,000 (GhȻ1.00).

I remember then President Kufuor on TV smiling and making a rather dry joke about how the cedi was now equal to the dollar. Yeah, right, all we had to do was drop four significant zeros.

I used to be able to feel good about myself when I gave Ȼ5000 collection at church or when an Uncle gave me Ȼ10,000.00. Now Ȼ5000 is 50p and even beggars ask for GhȻ1.00 (which used to be Ȼ10,000) with straight faces. 50p is what you pay for the shortest distance by public transport. I'm not even that old and I am already missing the 'Good Old Days'.

Right now, the 1p coin is a critically endangered species that is not legal tender anywhere except Shoprite in the Accra Mall. There, everything costs an annoying Something-something and 99p. They always give you the impotent 1p coin giving a whole new meaning to “Change is constant”.
Fast forward to the not so distant future passed, 2013 and the 'new' cedi was a mess! The price of fuel went up almost every two weeks and with it the price of everything else. Utility tariffs went up but utilities services became irregular. The only thing that stayed constant was salaries! Minimum wage is officially pegged at GhȻ5.24(currently just under $2) but many people earn far less than that.

The cedi depreciates against the Dollar everyday so people stopped quoting prices of anything which mattered (which is everything) in Dollars. Rent, School fees and even in some case medical bills. For a while one couldn't be sure what the official currency of Ghana was anymore. The dollar at is now Ȼ2.41 (Feb 14, 2014)

Can someone please explain to me how in one of the top Cocoa producing countries in the world the average person can't afford to buy chocolate or chocolate products? All the explanations I've heard so far make no sense to me. That's like telling me Bill Gates' kid can't afford a computer because Microsoft only make the Operating System but not the Hardware. Any justification makes no sense. But that is Ghana for you. Nothing makes an iota of sense so when oil was discovered in 'commercial' quantities and we were promised a better life by these politicians, I laughed.

With the economy shamelessly wallowing in filthy, people started looking answers everywhere. That it when things moved from frustrating to ridiculous. Ghanaians are a very religious and superstitious bunch so of cause, every problem should have a spiritual root.

The National Women’s Organizer of the Ruling NDC, Anita Desooso, went on radio and blamed the fall of the cedi on dwarfs, black magic andother malicious evil spirits. *Pause*; Yep, she actually said that. So the abysmal state of the economy wasn't due to the mismanagement of successive governments and most recently by her party the NDC? Seems Legit. Next, famous Nigerian Pastor asked Ghanaians to pray for the cedi because he foresaw a massive economicdown turn for Ghana. Wait, what?! It was going to get worse? Who could have predicted that? It is not as we knew that things were bad. Then Superstar Man-of-God Archibishop Duncan William made the news (once again) when he “commanded the cedi to rise”. Everyday a new Spiritual leader pops up with some expert advice or solution for the demise of the cedi. The cedi's plight is that bad. Most recently, one Pastor actually threatened to drag the ruling party (NDC) to court if the party fails to offer him the position of Spiritual and Special Advisor to the President. I couldn't make this up even if I tried.

We await the Lazarus moment of the cedi, it past the customary 3 days required for resurrection but with all these men of God praying, we remain optimistic.