Having heard back in England that Dumsor (the frequent and lengthy power cuts Ghana experiences) is the work of the IMF and the USA, not a hydroelectric dam running low on water as many Ghanians have told me, I wanted to investigate further.
Where I stay Dumsor has been a sometimes predictable and sometimes erratic visitor – generally we’ve had 24 hours of electricity, followed by 12 hours blackout, with frequent pattern changes. It’s been fine for me as a novelty and being privileged enough to be staying in a house with access to a generator if we need it, but for Ghanians living here permanently; needing access to power and lights to run businesses, to cook and store food, to study and communicate – it’s frustrating – especially when there seems to be so little clarity about what’s actually going on. Promise after promise comes from the Government as to a date when the situation will be resolved, but it’s become a permanent fixture in Ghana, and people have had enough. There’s even a song about it (by one of the best Ghanaian musicians IMO)…
This week on citifmonline, a Ghanian radio website, I came across an article reposted from the website of Craig Murray (author, broadcaster, human rights activist and former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan), which confirmed my fears about IMF and US involvement in the power cuts.
Here is the article in full, originally posted on www.craigmurray.org.uk. I hope Craig won’t mind me reposting it (I’ve just emailed him…)
“Just ten years ago, Ghana had the most reliable electricity supply in all of Africa and the highest percentage of households connected to the grid in all of Africa – including South Africa.
The Volta River Authority, the power producer and distributor was, in my very considerable experience, the best run and most efficient public utility in all of Africa. Indeed it was truly world class, and Ghana was proud of it.
Obviously the sight of truly successful public owned and run enterprise was too much of a threat to the neo-liberal ideologues of the IMF and World Bank. When Ghana needed some temporary financial assistance (against a generally healthy background) the IMF insisted that VRA be broken up. Right wing neoliberal dogma was applied to the Ghanaian electricity market. Electricity was separated between production and distribution, and private sector Independent Power Producers introduced.
The result is disaster. There are more power cuts in Ghana than ever in its entire history as an independent state. Today Ghana is actually, at this moment, producing just 900 MW of electricity – half what it could produce ten years ago. This is not the fault of the NDC or the NPP. It is the fault of the IMF.
Those private sector Independent Power Producers actually provide less than 20% of electricity generation into the grid – yet scoop up over 60% of the revenues! The electricity bills of Ghana’s people go to provide profits to fat cat foreign corporations and of course the western banks who finance them.
Indeed in thirty years close experience the net result of all IMF activity in Africa is to channel economic resources to westerners – and not to ordinary western people, but to the wealthiest corporations and especially to western bankers.
Not content with the devastation they have already caused, the IMF and the USA are now insisting on the privatisation of ECG, the state utility body which provides electricity to the consumer and bills them. The rationale is that a privatised ECG will be more efficient and ruthless in collecting revenue from the poor and from hospitals, clinics, schools and other state institutions.
Doubtless it will be. It will of course be more efficient in channelling still more profits to very rich businessmen and bankers. I suspect that is the real point. That privatised utilities bring better service and cheaper prices to the consumer has been conclusively and forever disproven in the UK. What it does bring is huge profits to the rich and misery to the poor. To unleash this on Ghana is acutely morally reprehensible.
Ghana has a political culture in which the two main parties, NDC and NPP, heatedly blame each other for their country’s problems. But if they only can see it, in truth the electricity sector has been ruined by their common enemy – the IMF and World Bank. I pray that one day the country will escape the grip of these bloodsucking institutions.”
I’m going to do what I can to find out more while I’m here, but if anyone knows any more I’d be grateful if you’d get in touch. I’d also be interested to hear what you think of this.