Topic for Discussion
From the exhilaration characterising the discussion of the rising Ghana Cedi, one can gauge the pit of unease that swamped residents in these times of Cedi fluctuation.
In the immediate past period of its steep downward tumble, anxiety was rife but hope lurked in the shadows. The informed recognised that a global events have triggered global recession, but economies keep bouncing back from the recession. They advocated restraint and trust in the Finance Team, while saboteurs and uninformed ran amok, raising alarm to be political even while distracting others from focusing on salvaging the economy. Yet, the optimistic Ghanaian maintained trust, not in the Finance Team alone, but also in the nation’s dignity and ability to rise from a fall.
Therefore, that cross-section of insightful Ghanaians continues to advocate the capability of the Finance Team to strategise for recovery. Indeed, it has managed to regain some trust among nationals. One hopes that whatever workable measures they are putting in place can be sustained.
Educationists acknowledge that reward motivates performers to strive for better achievement. Hence, the Finance Team must be heaving a small sigh of relief, from the recognition and positive comments floating on social media. Of course, the naysayers neither see nor hear any improvement, so they remain caustic. The cautious Ghanaian earnestly prays that no complacency will set in to make the Team rest on its oars.
That commodity prices and transport fares are not falling with the rise of the Cedi continues to raise mass levels of headache. One argument is that current goods were bought when the exchange was very high. That argument is somewhat specious because the price hikes were to a highly disgraceful extent, a ploy by avaricious traders to cheat the consumer. Prices were doubled or tripled by wicked traders who used currency fluctuation as an excuse to rob fellow country people. The least said about tro-tro mates and some taxis the better.
Those greedy can never have enough and will not conscientiously give back to consumers what was stolen from them. In fact, they are more likely to trump up reasons to sustain the cheating culture. They can do so because the Cedi is yet to stabilise, so the market space is still most vulnerable. It is difficult to achieve steady progress when a nation has a majority of its citizens leaning towards sabotaging its own system. To save the Ghanaian consumer from unscrupulous, unconscionable traders, there is a need for targeted intervention.
The most effective antidote to trader greed and Ghana Union Trade Association (GUTA) side blindness will be a mass consumer boycott.
However, many Ghanaians are not assertive, so protecting their consumer rights might prove quite a foreign concept. The intrepid excuse will be “yεhia nneεma no, enti yεbεtͻ no saa”, to wit, these are essential commodities, so we have no choice but to buy such. Many Ghanaians negotiate their own helplessness, then blame others. Any attempt to organise a mass boycott of local market might just yield a “Ku Me Prεko” reloaded effect, so the idea can rest.
The Digitisation Team should set up an online task force that will work like the Stock Exchange Market and track market prices 24/7. Its electronic board will blink unendingly with price changes. Consumers can visit the site to estimate shopping costs to legitimise their budgets.
Stakeholder ministries can monitor the board to counter sabotaging angles.
The Ministry of Finance can collaborate with the Communication and Trade ministries and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation to set up a local Market Stock Board. The wheel does not have to be reinvented, because the latter runs a daily business bulletin as part of prime news. Commodity price list features in the bulletin. That service simply needs to be digitalised for widened accessibility.
All that is needed is a digital transformation of the existing service into the digitalised platform explained above, which can be accessed at all times by traders and consumers. A dynamic Information Technology team would, practically, live on the digital global market to track commodities and prices and disseminate such in local and foreign currency, as currently done, in bulk and retail prices.
Such a trade platform will serve multiple purposes: It will enhance transparency in the market. Willing consumers will be informed and given better control of their money. Ethical traders who price realistically will be identified by cautious consumers who will patronise ethical shops.
Cheating traders will be exposed and be avoided by conscientious consumers. Loss of patronage will bring such cheats to book. Despite the times, digitalisation can help to reward good acts a little bit and offer the consumer real choices.
Then each region shall set up a special Military-Police task force to patrol markets and shops to check local prices, all in the day’s work. All shops must display price tags, as many are reneging on that to trap consumers. Shop operators know that the high prices might dissuade consumers from picking items, so they leave out price tags, often under the pretext that the shelves are being stocked. Payment receipts enlighten buyers about exorbitant slaps, which realisation might come long after the buyer has left the shop. Consumer vigilance has never been more urgent. A market task force might give transparency to the final consumer. Delinquent price hikers can be heftily penalised, and if still undeterred, prosecuted. All fines would go directly to national coffers.
Another cheating angle that ought to be properly monitored by consumers is the payment processes of many supermarkets. The tellers deliberately short-change buyers, making it a point to keep some pesewas. The cheating tellers, who pocket the proceeds, must be thriving on such pilfering, considering the high numbers of consumers who get short-changed. Melcom Supermarket could easily top the list and might be followed by Shoprite. Supermarket patrons need extreme caution to avoid unnecessary drain on their pockets.
The writer is a Snr Lecturer, Language and Communication Skills, Takoradi Technical University, Takoradi, Email: