Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) Dr. John Kwaku Mawutor, has entreated government to subsidize fuel prices in order to make it possible for commercial transport owners to adhere to the COVID-19 protocols including social distancing in buses.
He said this after President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in his 23rd COVID-19 address to the nation, put a ban on social gatherings such as funerals, weddings, beaches and others on Sunday, January 31.
There have also been calls to the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU) to issue an order to its members to limit the number of passengers in their cars in order to ensure social distancing in the vehicles.
But speaking in an interview with Johnnie Hughes on TV3, Tuesday, February 2, Dr. Mawutor said the drivers will only be able to reduce the number of passengers if the government reduces fuel prices.
He said “how many of us use private vehicles? I can tell you that we do not have data, but I can tell you that it is an enclosed space (trotro), you have a number of people, and they can never ensure social distance. If we want to get the one meter requirement, the minimum should be two on a seat that is the reason why today we should be thinking about subsidizing fuel and ensuring that we protect human lives.
“The fuel prices which have a direct impact on the operations of these drivers, you’re telling them to reduce the numbers when in actual fact, you’re not subsidizing it, through the numerous stimulus packages, I’m wondering why they are not subsidizing it. We have gotten to a stage that the government must reconsider the need to subsidize fuel now, in order to direct the drivers to minimize the numbers that they take.”
For his part, Mr Kwame Okyere Darko, a business development expert, told Johnnie Hughes on the same programme that he does not agree with the assertion that the government must subsidize fuel prices for the GPRTU.
He said “government does not have to subsidize fuel if you look at the price buildup of our petroleum products, it is not the petrol per say that is been increased in price, our failure to develop other modules to have effective taxation on the citizens of the country have resulted as picking up the petroleum product as one of our most effective mediums of taxing. So if you go and look at the international pricing for oil right now, there hasn’t been any significant figure changes within this period that fuel prices have increased and increased.”
“What is happening is that we are using the petroleum platform to be able to take taxes of our people because we have failed to develop effective modules to bring, especially the unbanked or the informal sector to be able to contribute to our taxes. So it is not a matter of subsidizing the fuel, if they would take off some of these tax components that have built up onto the petroleum pricing, then the prices will come down” he pointed out.