The current economic situation demands that we take a clear look at our expenditure list and  decide on the things that are not absolutely essential
The current economic situation demands that we take a clear look at our expenditure list and decide on the things that are not absolutely essential

Living the austerity

I have been trying very hard to take the advice of the experts and cut out some things to cope with the economic difficulties.

I acknowledge of course, that whereas some people will be faced with having to postpone painting their houses, others will be faced with giving up lunch so they can pay their rent.

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Then there are the things about which there can be no question of cutting back or cutting down. The cost of my eye drops has tripled and I dare not stop buying them or I go blind. Obviously, these won’t feature in the things we are talking about.

I am taking a clear look at my expenditure list and trying to decide on the things that are not absolutely essential. It would be a good idea, of course, if you could increase your income, but the truth is that it’s not an option for many people.

Transportation and food are the two frontline items that are taking the most money in our current situation. So, that is where my attention first went.

Every time I go past a fuel station and see the advertised prices of petrol and diesel, I wince. A friend of mine puts it this way: when the petrol is being put in your tank, you can feel the blood draining out of your body.

The cost of fuel means that driving a car now must be for the brave and every journey has to be carefully considered.

What I need to do really is to park the car and resort to public transportation. I am cursing under my breath that the Ayalolo buses have never worked and the promise of a sky train did not materialise.

So, I have cut down on all journeys, and when it comes to funerals, I am joining the funeral services by Zoom and sending my donation by MoMo, E-Levy notwithstanding. Nobody has complained so far.

Trips to Abutia, especially, are no longer as frequent as they used to be. It is not quite as easy to discharge family head duties from afar. MoMo is welcome but there are things money can’t do and it is beginning to show.

Since there are fewer journeys and I still enjoy driving and have a valid licence, I am thinking of putting my driver on furlough.

Such thoughts lead to toying with the idea of giving up on the services of a driver altogether. That will save me a lot of money, but I dare not think of what the consequences will be in Mister John’s household if he is suddenly without a job.

I really must approach my neighbours and propose some arrangements for car pooling and one person doing the market round for three homes on the street.

I am trying to enforce the regimen on the use of electricity that I was brought up with as a child. You put the light on when you enter a room and put it off when you are leaving the room. Strange that the tech generation has to be taught something so simple but there we are.

We are not making much progress on reducing the amount of water that we use in the house, but I am working on it.

Before the government activates the plans to discourage the importation of certain items, I am doing my bit. In truth, what I am doing does not involve any sacrifice, I prefer plantain to pasta, prefer yam to rice and if a grain of rice is not imported into this country, I shall not feel there are austerity measures being introduced. Thus I might be doing my duty to God and country, by eating foods that are in season and are grown locally, but I am making no sacrifices.

Visits to restaurants would be severely restricted and I would simply have to pretend that those places don’t exist and there would have to be more activity in my kitchen.

I have considered the consequences for these measures and not come up with any satisfactory answers.

If I cut back on eating out, what happens to those who work in the eateries and those who have invested in the restaurants and the hospitality and catering industries. Would they survive until the crisis is over and I am able to patronise them again?

The theory I have evolved for surviving the rising cost of living is that the government Statistician might be churning out the inflation figures which are said to be national, but the survival strategies have to be personal. Grapes no longer look attractive to me and apples are no longer irresistible.

But there are consequences for these personal decisions that go beyond the individual. Cutting back on attendance at funerals, for example, saves me money. I use less fuel and I don’t have to worry about making funeral clothes. If many people adopt my survival strategies, the entire funeral economy would be in danger of collapsing.

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If everyone cuts back on making new clothes, what happens to the tailors and designers and the entire clothing industry?

If I don’t and others also don’t buy any fuel for a week or two, what is going to happen to the fuel stations, car workshops and the government revenue?

If many people cut out going to restaurants or even the night markets and start cooking at home, what will happen to the women who make a living by feeding the multitudes?

The anecdotal evidence is that the volume of traffic has decreased in Accra as some people have parked their cars because of the cost of fuel. Accra can certainly benefit from less traffic, but does that lead us to an individually imposed lockdown, I wonder.

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The very lockdowns that triggered the economic meltdown?

Instead of my once a week visit to the salon, I am making it once a fortnight. It means the staff also get a tip once a fortnight instead of once a week.

I’m happy to cut down on anything, even on the things I like doing the most just for as long as there is a time limit on it. If I know I am stopping going to the Ice cream joint for a month or six months or even a year, I’d be happy to do it.

It is not knowing for how long you are giving up these things that is frightening… that is what was so horrible about Covid, that is what is so unnerving about this situation we are in, not knowing how long anything would last.

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