GPRTU cautions against fare increments amidst hike in petroleum products

The Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) has instructed its members to abstain from raising transport fares until a meeting is convened to evaluate the appropriate level of increase.

The union cites the significant surge in fuel prices without a corresponding fare adjustment, which could lead drivers to exploit the situation by increasing fares.

Alhaji Imoro Inusah Abass, the Director of Industrial Relations at GPRTU, stated in an interview with JoyNews that while they are not rushing to implement the increment, a meeting to determine the percentage increase will be held next week.

“Whatever decision we arrive at, the transport ministry is also there to defend. We most often sit with them and argue on whatever decision we have taken. You know we do not run with only fuel, even though fuel plays the most important role, we have documentation of insurance premiums, we have lubricant spare parts also playing its role, so we have to visit all these issues and put it in one basket.”

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“God willing, I strongly believe we will come out with a sound percentage of which our members will embrace and the passengers should not blame anybody as such. For now, nobody should increase the fares,” Mr Abass stated.

He noted that prematurely increasing prices while discussions are ongoing can cause confusion and create enmity between passengers and drivers.

“So we plead with our membership or the entire professional drivers’ society to exercise patience so that we will look at the other side of the coin and come up with something better which will benefit all of us,” he added.

On March 28, the National Petroleum Authority (NPA) announced the suspension of the Price Stabilization and Recovery Levy (PSRL) on petroleum products’ price build-up, effective from April 1 to June 30, 2024. However, in early April 2024, the NPA reversed this suspension.

In a letter, the NPA directed all Oil Marketing Companies and other players to apply a levy of 16 pesewas per liter on Petrol, 14 pesewas per liter on Diesel, and 14 Pesewas per Kilogram of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) from April 4, 2024.

The reasons behind the NPA’s decision to reverse the suspension of the Price Stabilization and Recovery Levy remain unclear.

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Some drivers expressed their dissatisfaction to JoyNews, stating that they were already feeling the financial strain of these increments and accused the NPA of being indifferent to their plight.

“Now considering dual fuel pricing is to say that look, in times when prices are favourable, we could have the full stream of taxes, but in times when prices are so bad that if we allowed the pumps to just adjust, everybody will have to pay so much, cost of living baselines will go up.”

He underscored the pivotal role of the government as the largest consumer in the economy.

With any increase in fuel prices, those reliant on government-supplied fuel for their daily activities will inevitably bear the burden of higher costs. Consequently, this will exert pressure on government expenditure, Mr Amoah said.

“The government will have to find money……once that happens, government’s expenditure will simply be thrown overboard, and so we are thinking that the earlier they consider a dual pricing formula where when international market prices are so bullish, we ease down the taxes a bit.”

“When we can accommodate the taxes then you can introduce and even add on so that the prices will be a bit balanced and stable, but as it stands we are not looking for that,” he added.

Meanwhile, Duncan Amoah, the Executive Director of the Chamber of Petroleum Consumers, urged the government to initiate reforms in the petroleum pricing formula. He suggested considering a dual pricing formula, stating that it would allow for adjustments in taxes based on market conditions.

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Addressing the issue, Professor Godfred Bopkin, a Finance Professor at the University of Ghana Business School, cautioned against government subsidies for petroleum products, citing potential adverse effects on the economy. He noted that with the conclusion of the IMF program, economic realities are becoming more apparent, and significant improvements are yet to be seen in various economic indicators. Prof. Bopkin emphasized the need for careful consideration and strategic planning regarding fuel pricing policies.

“We should also bear in mind that the honeymoon of the IMF programme is over and therefore the reality is coming to bear, and if you look at the data from the Bank of Ghana, even from the composite index of economic activity, from business confidence index, consumer confidence index and all of that, you realised that you have seen any significant improvement,” he said.

Commenting on whether there could be a way out of fuel pricing, Prof Bokpin stated, “You don’t need to be an economist or objectives to see what is going on.”

“This is an election year, and yet we have all this ‘dumsor’ and all of that going on, if there is really anything that the government will want to do, perhaps then time is not on their side but I think that we should just brace ourselves for more challenges ahead, of course we know that the worst phase scenario we have crossed that but we are not out of the race, they are challenges ahead,” he said.

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