Tuesday, 25 July 2017

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Gambling with our health

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 12:05

The news that pharmaceutical companies are threatening to suspend drug supplies to accredited National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) facilities across the country is a matter of grave concern.

The companies reached the decision at a meeting in the Ashanti Regional capital Kumasi yesterday to consider numerous proposals about their dealings with the NHIS.

The National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) has not paid for services rendered by the providers for months, making it impossible for them to pay their suppliers.

The service providers are preparing to go to court to compel the NHIA to make full payment for services rendered to NHIS accredited institutions.

Director of Operations and Communication of Health Insurance Service Providers Association, Tony Amekah said most of the pharmaceutical companies are in financial distress.

"Since February, with some dating as far back as August last year, payments have been in arrears," he said.

The companies, he said, have had discussions with NHIA but they have discovered the delay is caused by the Ministry of Finance.

Mr Tony Amekah explained that some pharmaceutical companies which went for loans at interest rates as high as 45% to make supplies have now been burdened by huge debts because of the delays in payment.

If the pharmaceutical companies should carry out their threats, ordinary Ghanaians will be at the receiving end.

All this is happening because government has not paid the NHIA monies that accrued from the 2.5% Value Added Tax instituted to support the scheme.

The country needs healthy citizens at all levels to work at full capacity to deliver the required productivity to move the nation forward.

The media is replete with gargantuan levels of corruption on daily basis, yet the government is unable to settle bills such as statutory payments, including the NHIS levy.

 The needless deaths that will occur when drugs cannot be provided can be blamed on the gargantuan levels of corruption that is dissipating state resources.

The continuous funding challenges that the NHIS faces while individuals dissipate state resources can best be described as gambling with the health of Ghanaians.

Government must take a decisive action to institute concrete measures to block all loopholes that encourage corruption.

Additionally, urgent steps must be taken to mobilise resources to pay the pharmaceutical companies to avert any disaster.

 A healthy people build a healthy nation.


IMF's needless slip and Govt's deafening silence

Thursday, 16 October 2014 12:04

It generated controversy and fuelled rumours making the rounds that Ghana's economy had reached a cul-de-sac.

Credence was seemingly given to the suspicion in some quarters that Ghana had fed the Bretton woods institution with false, face-saving data on the economy and specifically the country's debt stock.


Last week, a report by the IMF indicated that Ghana’s current public debt was far higher than the 55% put out by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) as at June this year.


According to the report, the country’s public debt had crossed the 60 % threshold as at last month, a development which has gotten many experts to describe as unsustainable or hitting levels that might make it difficult for government to repay the debt on time.


The Deputy Director of Fiscal Affairs Department at the IMF, Sanjeev Gupta made a statement in response to a question which sent shivers down the spines of many and caused needless controversy.


Hear him: "First of all, the debt-to-GDP ratio in Ghana is 71 percent, not 60 percent so it is much higher than you mentioned."


Subsequently, after the statement had raised eye brows and elicited strong reactions, some of them uninformed, the Fund clarified its position.


Indeed some analysts have argued that Ghana could soon be classified as a ‘ highly indebted country,’ a category which could force the country to take some drastic measures with their attendant untold hardships on Ghanaians.


Others have questioned the manner of data put out by government as it appears most of the time information as this contradicts what the IMF or the World Bank puts out.


We are wondering whether the IMF has had to amend its position on the figure because of its unfinished business with the government of Ghana and also bearing in mind the image of the Fund within the league of member nations.


This obviously doesn’t serve them well and neither does it serve Ghanaians any better.


What has found us amazed and speechless is the loud silence of the appropriate state agency whose duty it is to churn out such information.


We think this has everything to do with the credibility of our country and by extension the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) and the Bank of Ghana (BoG).


For the sake of credibility, we think government must be honest about information on the economy and beyond that must be forthcoming with data but not upon demand.


We wish to remind government that there is a price to pay for providing inaccurate data to international bodies like the IMF and the World Bank.


That humiliation is unwelcome and must be avoided.

NPP unity crucial to victory 2016

Monday, 20 October 2014 12:07

It would seem that the stars are perfectly aligned for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) to return to government in 2017.

The government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) appears tired, riddled with corruption and incompetence, with hardly a day passing without the revelation of more scandals.

The only viable opposition is the NPP.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Saturday secured a massive 94.35% endorsement to lead the New Patriotic Party for Election 2016.

He secured a total of 117,413 votes, representing 94.35%, as against 1,198, representing 0.91%, by Francis Addai-Nimoh, and 5,908, representing 4.75%, by Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen.

The total valid votes added up to 124,449 and the rejected votes totalled 1,277.

Now that the dust has settled, negative happenings that characterised the campaign, such as marching to the party headquarters with cutlasses and sticks to settle differences with party leaders, must stop.
The NPP must begin using the language of love and tolerance in internal dialogue. Calling each other traitors is not the language of democracy.
Secondly, NPP must have “zero-tolerance” for violence. No political party that calls itself democratic should accept the settling of differences with violence.

The party must name and shame those who believe that the argument of force matters more than the force of arguments.
The NPP must revisit its founding principles—tolerance, freedom of expression and the idea that the party cherishes ideas and principles rather than individuals.

Victory for the NPP in the 2016 elections will be a mirage if the party fails to present a united front.

Many were worried about what was happening at the party leadership level and the events that occurred at its headquarters.

It is crucial that anxieties that took place prior to the presidential primaries would give way for harmony and unity to be restored in the party.

The 2016 election is expected to be close given the fact that the NDC government has faced economic headwinds, including rising inflation, a stubborn budget deficit and a currency that has fallen sharply this year.

The NPP remains the government in waiting in the event that Ghanaians decide to change the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2016.

In political science, it is said that the ultimate goal of every political party is to capture political power.

As someone said, it is better to be a servant in a party in power than to be the chief executive of a party in opposition.

The monumental challenges facing the NDC do not guarantee the NPP automatic victory in 2016.

It is therefore crucial for the NPP to do everything possible to unite the party for victory.



Govt: Release workers’ money now

Tuesday, 21 October 2014 12:43

Organised Labour’s two-week ultimatum to government to transfer funds into the various public sector pension schemes under the second-tier mandatory occupational pension scheme by July 14 or they would embark on an industrial action has elapsed with no action.

The unions that issued the ultimatum include Civil and Local Government Staff Association (CLOSSAG), Health Services Workers Union (HSWU), Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT), Judicial Services Staff Association of Ghana (JUSAG), Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and Government Hospital Pharmacist Association (GHOSPA).

In January 2013, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), in accordance with section 80 of the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766), increased (indexed) pensions-in-payment for 2013.

As a result of the increase, all pensions-in-payment as at December 31, 2012 has been increased by a fixed rate of 12% and a flat amount of GH¢21.36 per pensioner.

This gives an overall indexation rate of 22.6% for the year 2013.

However, the minimum monthly pension will now be GH¢100 for new pensioners with effect from January 2013.

Furthermore, all pensioners receiving monthly pension of less than GH¢100 were placed on a pension of GH¢100 per month.

With these figures, it is clear that workers only retire after more than 30 to 40 years’ dedicated service to God and country to be poor, lonely and a burden on society.

Most of these retired workers contributed a lot to the building of this nation when they were in active service and needed to be properly taken care of by the state now that they were old and out of employment.

Even though the issue had been a protracted one, it was hoped that something concrete could be done about it to enable SSNIT pensioners in the lower-income group to also enjoy a decent living.

For this reason, the new three-tier pension scheme was introduced to enhance pension benefits and increase the retirement income security of workers both in the formal and informal sectors. 

Contributions to the scheme would be 5% of the employee’s gross salary. 

Benefits would be lump sum payments which are expected to be higher than presently exists under SSNIT and CAP 30.

Being a Defined Contribution (DC) scheme, level of benefits would depend on both level of contribution and returns on investments.

 Proceeds could be used to purchase annuities to enhance the monthly benefits or to fulfil any other financial objectives set by the individual.

 It is therefore sad to hear that government is frustrating the release of workers’ contributions to the occupational scheme that will enhance the plight of the Ghanaian worker in retirement.

As a matter of urgency, government must immediately release all monies due public sector workers to their fund managers to alleviate the suffering of the poor Ghanaian worker in retirement.













NPA must crack the hip now

Wednesday, 22 October 2014 12:09

Fuel dispensing stations across the country continue to cheat their unsuspecting customers through various illegal acts.

Some filling stations deliberately adjust their pumps to sell less quantity of fuel at NPA approved rate to unsuspecting customers.

Similarly, anytime fuel dispensing stations get wind of the news that the National Petroleum Authority (NAP) was going to increase fuel prices, they hoard the products, creating discomfort for motorists.

According to them, instead of selling the fuel, they would keep it for future use because when the increment occurs, they would have no option than to sell at an increased price.

Anytime NPA announces price increase, fuel dispensing stations only sell the product after adjusting their pumps to reflect the new prices.

Drivers have to park at the station for hours waiting for the adjustment to be completed before they are served the products.

However, when the NPA announced a 2% reduction in the prices of petroleum products, these same fuel dispensing stations now give flimsy excuses for not adjusting their pumps accordingly.

As at yesterday evening, several fuel dispensing stations across the country had not reduced fuel prices by the 2% as directed by the NPA.

A visit to some fuel dispensing stations yesterday revealed that petroleum products were sold at the old prices, with attendants giving flimsy explanations.

Some fuel dispensing station attendants had the guts to tell motorists that they were waiting for technical people to adjust their pumps for them while others said they did not receive directives from the owners of the stations to reduce fuel pieces.

This development incurred the displeasure of some motorists who were eager to enjoy the 2% reduction, resulting in hot exchanges between attendants and motorists at various places.

There was no word from transport unions as to whether transport fares would be reduced to reflect the reduction, and efforts to reach them were unsuccessful.

Already, the NPA has come under severe criticism that the 2% reduction was insignificant because Brent crude in London, a benchmark for more than half the world’s oil, has lost about a quarter of its value since June, the biggest four-month slump since 2008, when the financial meltdown drove it to below $40 a barrel.

In this time of economic crunch, it’s just prudent for the NPA to make sure consumers enjoy any reduction in the prices of petroleum products.

The NPA must deploy its monitoring team to check on fuel dispensing stations to make sure that they do the right thing.

Those found culpable must be punished to serve as a deterrent to others to justify the taxpayers’ money used to pay NPA staff.




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Strike bites ordinary citizens

Monday, 27 October 2014 12:21

Twelve labour unions embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike from Wednesday, October 22, 2014 over issues relating to their pension scheme.

The unionised bodies are rejecting government's imposition of the Pension Alliance Trust and are also calling on the government to allow the full operationalisation of the Public Sector Pension Scheme, but they are not making any headway in this.

The general secretary of the Ghana Medical Association says public sector workers will continue their indefinite strike action until their concerns are addressed.

The government said the ongoing strike is illegal, and has launched a legal challenge in court.

Public sector workers on strike include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, teachers and other civil servants. 

In a swift response to their mother unions’ directive, most members of these labour unions accordingly laid down their tools in protest of what they say is government’s refusal to allow them to manage their second-tier pension scheme.

The strike action has taken a negative toll on some institutions, especially public health institutions, schools and state agencies.

Hospitals and health centres across the country have been deserted due to the labour action.

The strike witnessed a drastic reduction in operations at the outpatients departments (OPDs) in public hospitals.

Basic and secondary schools have been closed nationwide while those opened were virtually empty as the strike entered its third day.

Even though some teachers reported to school, there was no teaching and learning, thus students and pupils were left on their own to play.

Ghana’s economy is also set to take another bad hit when the strike by labour takes full effect.

The economy is already saddled with a number of challenges and if some workers are not working, even though they will be paid, then certainly we expect that the economy will suffer at the end of the day.

It is the individual output, corporate entities and everything put together that add up to become the gross domestic product (GDP).

While politicians are fighting labour unions, it the ordinary Ghanaian who is at the receiving end. Parents have paid school fees from their meagre salaries yet their wards are being denied instruction. When all is over, the hours lost cannot be recovered and the students and pupils would be under pressure to cover their syllabus.

The hopes of the poor Ghanaian dependent on the National Health Insurance Scheme for healthcare have also been dashed during this period.

Patients without money would have to bear the pains, die needlessly or resort to quark herbal medicine practitioners.

The Finder is appealing to government and labour unions to consider the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian and resolve the differences as quickly as possible.

The decision by the government to go to court for interpretation would only worsen matters.








Govt must avoid costly strikes

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 13:49

Yesterday, teachers across the country declared a strike action over unpaid allowances. Three teacher unions – the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT), the Coalition of Concerned Teachers, and the National Association of Graduate Teachers (NAGRAT) – say they will withdraw service from today.

Dubbed ‘Strike Within Strike,’ the teacher unions in the Ghana Education Service (GES) say some of their colleagues have worked for several months but have only received salaries for three months.

They also raised issues with the payment of their incremental credit arrears as well as payment of transfer grants.

Teachers are further demanding payment of car maintenance allowance.

This strike is coming on the heels of an indefinite strike by 12 labour unions nationwide from Wednesday, October 22, 2014 over issues relating to their pension scheme.

The unionised bodies are rejecting government's imposition of the Pension Alliance Trust and are also calling on the government to allow the full operationalisation of the Public Sector Pension Scheme, but they are not making any headway in this.

The new pension law makes it mandatory for 5% of workers’ earnings to be deducted and invested towards pension, and the 12 unions say although the deductions have been going on, the money  has not been transferred to their fund managers.

The country is not new to strikes. Since the beginning of the implementation of the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP), almost every workers’ group has at one point or another gone on strike to fight for one or another item.

To The Finder, what is worrying is what seems to be a resurgence in strike actions by workers in the country.

With the troubles with the implementation of the SSPP almost over, it was our expectation that the nation would know some industrial peace as the country struggles to resolve the current economic malaise.

Issues of survival during retirement are very serious, since at that stage most people are unable to undertake any commercial/economic activity and rely on their pensions.

We urge the government and the National Pensions and Regulatory Authority (NPRA) to speedily resolve the issue of pensions by paying all the deductions to the trustee selected by the public sector workers. 

The government must also ensure that incremental credit arrears as well as payment of transfer grants are paid.

The country cannot afford to go back to the era of weekly strikes. 

One of the legitimate rights of workers in their fight for their rights is to go on strike.

 However, those strikes appear to have become the only means to drive home the demands of industry and every effort must be made to end this practice, since they can be disastrous. 




The crippling pention fight :The court –The best permanent

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 17:02

By Samson Lardy ANYENINI

Social Welfare Development to be named Social Development

Monday, 03 November 2014 12:50

By Emefa Abla Adjei