The never-ending arguments over fuel subsidy, the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, post-mortem of Ghana’s disastrous Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) campaign and a brief strike by doctors demanding higher salaries were some of the stories reported in the Ghanaian media this week.
The brouhaha over fuel subsidies was ignited once again this week when the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) urged the government to remove fuel subsidies to ease the enormous burden on the economy.
And, as usual, the raging debate has split the country into two with either side being passionate on the topic.
The pro-opposition Daily Guide wrote: “NPA proposes high petroleum prices” with the story saying the NPA has called on the government to scrap fuel subsidies so as to cut down on its debt stock.
Alex Mould, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of NPA, said the move was necessary since the cost of petroleum price subsidies from 2009 to 2012 had cost the state over 1.5 billion Ghana cedis (almost US$800 million) adding that about 2.4 billion Ghana cedis (about US$1.2 million) was being projected for this year.
“There are always delays by government to pay for subsidies because these are not budgeted for and even if they were, there is no (immediate) funding for them.”
“Remove subsidies now, Bank of Ghana advises government,” was the headline of the state-owned Graphic, which quoted the advice from the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Henry Kofi Wuampah.
He said it was crucial for the government to remove fuel subsidies in order to sustain the economic gains attained so far.
Dr Wuampah argued that the high subsidies on fuel were unsustainable and risky to the economy, cautioning that the pressure related to fuel subsidies, utilities and wage/salary settlements could act to offset the gains made in macroeconomic stability.
“…Public ask government to keep subsidies,” was the headline of the Graphic on the views of residents of the capital, Accra, who have expressed reservations about calls for the removal of fuel subsidies.
Various residents said such a move would rather compound the already harsh economic conditions facing Ghanaians.
Rather, they said, the government should “develop an innovative way” of solving the problem instead of always hiking fuel prices with the excuse that it will introduce social mitigation measures for the poor but which never materialise.
Daily Guide in another story with the headline “AFAG fights government over fuel subsidies”, said a pro-opposition pressure group, Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), had strongly kicked against 'the intentions' of government and the NPA to remove subsidies on fuel.
The leadership of AFAG said fuel prices should remain the same, as “the current household economy is precarious and Ghanaians cannot sustain the harsh argument of realistic pricing of fuel for now”.
“Doctors 'go slow' with work,” was the headline of the Graphic on the strike by doctors.
It said there were mixed responses to calls by the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) on its members to begin a partial withdrawal of their services on Monday to protest against delays by labour authorities to resolve issues on the migration of doctors onto the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS).
The National Labour Commission (NLC) directed the doctors to discontinue the action, but some doctors in some public hospitals withdrew part of their services, while others ignored the calls by the GMA to begin a partial withdrawal of their services.
The Graphic with the headline “Doctors suspend strike,” reported that the National Executive Council of the GMA on Tuesday agreed to suspend the withdrawal of services to the Out-Patients Departments till further notice.
“Pope Benedict to resign, Cardinal Turkson in line?” was the question posed by the state-owned Ghanaian Times.
It quoted an official statement issued by Apostolic Nunciature in Ghana and signed by the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Leon Kalenga, as saying the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict XVI, would resign on 28 February.
“Following the shock announcement of the resignation of the Pope, a conclave of the church's cardinals, including Ghana's Peter Cardinal Kwadwo Appiah Turkson will meet in March to elect a new pope to lead the Church.
“Cardinal Turkson, who is being touted as a possible successor to Pope Benedict, says he would rather people trusted in God to choose the best leader for the Roman Catholic Church.”
The headline of the Graphic read: “Cardinal Turkson to be Pope.”
It said His Eminence Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, appeared to be in line as a possible replacement for Pope Benedict XVI.
“Stars fail to pick bronze,” was the headline of the Daily Guide on the dismal performance of the Black Stars at the 2013 AFCON.
It said the dispirited Ghanaians finished fourth in a humiliating 1-3 loss to Mali whom they beat 1-0 at the Group stage.
The Graphic had the headline, “Stars coach to stay put – but shake-up in playing body.” The story said the Black Stars were set to undergo a shakeup in the aftermath of the team's disappointing performance at the AFCON, which gave Coach Kwasi Appiah and the Ghana Football Association (GFA) real concerns about the urgent need to make the team very competitive and capable of qualifying for next year's FIFA World Cup.
It said plans were underway to send coach Appiah to Europe to understudy one of the five star-rated coaches to upgrade his technical knowledge in order to save Ghana's World Cup qualifying campaign which resumes next month with a match against the Sudan.
“After Ghana's last two defeats to Burkina Faso and Mali, coach Appiah and bigwigs in the GFA have given the strongest hint of an imminent change in the team which will see the return of some experienced players while some 'tired legs' will be shown the door,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Graphic in another story with the headline “Stars apologise to nation”, said the Black Stars had apologised to Ghanaians for their disappointing campaign at the just-ended AFCON in South Africa.
The President of the Ghana Football Association (GFA), Kwesi Nyantakyi, on behalf of the team expressed remorse for their failure to accomplish their target of ending the nation’s 31-year AFCON trophy drought.
A Similar sentiment was expressed by coach Kwasi Appiah, who lauded his young team for staging a spirited performance, but believed they had learnt from their mistakes.