A Deputy Minister of Finance, Charles Adu Boahen has justified the extension of free water for everyone and electricity to lifeline consumers by an additional three months.
Although he admitted that the reliefs seem expensive and socialist in nature, it will inure to the benefit of the needy in society following the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Really and truly, we know that it is expensive and socialist in nature, but when you look at the impact of the pandemic, these are the kind of things that we need to do to benefit a lot more people,” he said.
Adu Boahen made the remark on the Citi Breakfast Show on Friday, July 24, 2020, a day after the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta presented the 2020 mid-year budget review in Parliament.
Among other things, Ofori-Atta announced the extension of free water to Ghanaians for the next three months. In the case of the electricity, he said the lifeline consumers will enjoy it for free for the rest of the year, 2020.
Ghanaians enjoyed such reliefs during the initial stages of the COVID-19 induced restrictions.
The Minority in Parliament had accused the government of using the mid-year budget review to make election-year promises.
Some critics also argue that the extension of the utility reliefs is populist and one that could blow government expenditure out of gear.
But speaking in an interview with Bernard Avle on the Citi Breakfast Show, Adu Boahen said the decision is in the right direction.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about lives and livelihoods. I think the lockdown really showed us the kind of society we live in and the communal nature of our society. We realized that people were really struggling. We had to roll out the food programme, the soup kitchens all over the place. It really was devastating. And the security personnel said that if we continued this, all hell may break loose. So we really had to apply measures and strategies that inure themselves to the type of the environment and community living we have here [in Ghana] unlike what we have in the west.”
“What we don’t have here is a formalized means that allows us to deploy cash or intangible benefits to the needy in society and those who need it most to be able to address this issue and to reduce the possibility of violence and the like escalating. So we are left with some very limited options to be able to distribute or extend any kind of benefit or support to the most needy in society. One of them is water and the other is electricity.”
He said that is why the decision was adopted for the government to bear the cost of water and part of electricity tariffs.
“So you will see that with this new extension in electricity, we said that it is to lifeline customers. So the cost of that is not really that high compared to when we were doing that plus 50 percent for others. And we believe that this is more targeted…and this benefit will be immense to them. The same with water. Water is really an essential commodity everybody deserves to have,” he explained.