NTOABOMA—Here is how the price of fuel at the pump in Ntoaboma usually works. The fuel is imported into Ghana by Bulk Dealership Companies (BDCs) and sold to Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs). These OMCs then sell the oil to gas stations across the country, including the only gas station in Ntoaboma. Or in many lavish cases elsewhere the OMC also owns the gas stations and delivers directly to them before considering supplying the only Ntoaboma station.
The price we pay in Ntoaboma is four Ghana Cedis per liter of petrol, 50 percent of which is tax. That is two whole Ghana Cedis collected by government for each liter of petrol. Fuel that is imported and sold this way obviously generates huge revenue for the central government of Ghana, which is conveniently housed in an uncompleted Indian hut called Flagstaff House, next to a colonial cemetery called 37 Military Hospital. The juxtaposition is a direct result of the state of mind of the central government, whose head is the paramount chief of a two party state. Noticeably, this government shares none of the tax revenue with the rest of the country.
How much is it? There are no concrete figures, but the National Petroleum Authority, the NPA, claims that consumers across Ghana purchase about 360 million liters of fuel per month (over 120 million in petrol, over 160 million liters in diesel and several million liters of other fuels). With a little bit of arithmetic approximation, the central government of Ghana collects close to 720 million Ghana Cedis per month from fuel taxes alone. That is over 170 million lizard dollars. Per month!
Exactly, you are wondering why the main road connecting your village to the next one has still not been paved since Kwame Nkrumah made a personal promise to your great grandmother several decades ago.
I shall explain why—after so much free money collections in taxes from the poor cocoa farmers of Ntoaboma—the main road in my village, right outside the only International Airport Residential Area, remains a dirt road, a muddy mix of sand and clay, with potholes larger than the swimming pools in the homes of the Federal Reserve Chief in the United Warring States of America.
Let us face the facts: first, understand where the money goes in order that we might yet grasp how this money is actually collected and who collects it.
This year, although to the ordinary farmer the fuel consumption in the country has not dipped below the 360 million estimate, official statistics show that the amount of fuel consumed in Ghana has actually dropped by almost 50 percentage points. That is, the official numbers show that the central government of Ghana only collects about 90 million lizard dollars-worth of taxes on all fuel consumed in the country per month—not the over 170 million that actual figures would dictate. Obviously, the official account cannot be true, for the cocoa farmer in Ntoaboma still purchases the same amount of petrol for his imported Honda Motorcycle every single month since four years ago. More, many cocoa farmers across the country, who are his colleagues, all claim to be buying more fuel than a year ago.
If this empirical evidence does not satisfy the highfalutin “statistical” awareness of the More Educated Than His Ancestors, the Metha, it must be that his education was in fact not completed in full. Let us ask, for the sake of argument, where the rest of the money that is not collected in taxes actually goes?
To understand which deep pockets gleefully fill with these unpaid taxes, one needs to become fully abreast with how fuel distribution in Ghana actually works, not how it is supposed to work.
Although there are several BDCs from which the OMCs buy fuel, there are several other entities on the high seas (let us call them Baddies), which are not necessarily registered BDCs with the NPA, but which are able—of course, only through political will—to import fuel into the country. Some of these Baddies are fake BDCs with a heavy left-handed mission, and rather than report all the fuel they sell to OMCs to the official bookies of the central government, choose rather to hoard significant portions of their imports for their off-the-books deals on the White Market!
Since the fuel sold and purchased by the Baddies are nowhere found on the books, taxes cannot possibly be collected. That is lost revenue to the state. That is one part of the game, and it goes to show why the potholes on the main road to your village in Accra continue to widen after every rainfall without the central government concern. For the money is not actually in the state coffers—it can be found rather in the deep pockets of parties of the central government—and so, the central government knows exactly why the economy shrinks, (but which really does not shrink), and they also know where the fuel tax money, for which cocoa farmers from Ntoaboma would hold them accountable, now finds its unaccountable haven.
More, not all fuel sold by BDCs is taxable. Since countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger etc., are landlocked countries, they have a contract with a country like Ghana to provide a route for their fuel imports. Fuel that is sold by BDCs to trans-national OMCs, to be transported to these countries cannot be taxed by the state of Ghana. Such fuels are chemically marked.
Some of what is happening in the year 2017 looks like this: Baddies and some BDCs would sell fuel to companies that are eager to promise transportation to countries like Burkina Faso. This way the fuel is not taxed by the state of Ghana. Rogue gas stations, in cahoots with Baddies and some OMCs, find a lavish market here in Ghana, where the export fuel intended for Burkina Faso is sold to the consumer at market value, for four Ghana Cedis by the liter. So long as the monthly inspection by the NPA does not reveal their craft, the direct cost of being caught is worth the direct profit of not being caught. In some cases, the profits in a given month far outweigh the fine of being reprimanded.
In sum, the Ghanaian tax payer dishes out two Ghana Cedis for the real price of the fuel and another two Ghana Cedis in taxes per liter of the export product, and the bourgeoisie pockets both the profit from the real price and the supposed tax money, which he does not pay. The fuel is a chemically marked export product; hence paying taxes on it will be an admission of guilt. Surprisingly, the Metha is corrupt enough to understand this.
As if this was not bad enough, this Metha, who also now supplies both his own gas stations and others on the White Market with export fuel, has the balls to actually also reduce the price of his fuel well below market value, pricing his “White Market” petroleum product, at 3.50 Ghana Cedis for instance, luring all consumers—especially Trotro, Taxi and Uber drivers—in a given location like flies to a diet of peanut butter and jelly. Of course, the Metha can do this because he is essentially swimming in unpaid tax revenue. The Saintly gas stations, run by the uneducated traditionalist like the one we have in Ntoaboma, are unable to compete and some are pushed literally out of business.
Why is the central government limp on this pervasive and debilitating fuel galamsey? The fraud is simple until one begins to think outside the box to truly understand the political dimension and motivation. Here is one major way that the Two-Party System, run by the More Educated Than His Ancestors, the Metha, is able to fund its extravagant lifestyles and campaigns in a country that produces virtually nothing but raw materials for Washington’s warring business mongrels. Whether it is the NDC or the NPP, the lure to overlook the White Market is profound. Instead of collecting such tax revenue on the books, and accounting for it like gentlemen, or even like civilized men before a civilized citizenry, the Metha prefers rather to overlook the fuel galamsey, and to even aid and abet the White Market in order to draw shares enough to fund whole quadrennial presidential political campaigns.
The worrisome result is that, to the world outside, the Ghanaian economy seems to shrink, as official figures for fuel consumption falls, since more and more fuel is converted into the export product, earmarked for transportation to Burkina Faso, when in fact it does not end up there, but in the local Ghanaian market! The result is that the export fuel ends up in the gas stations across the country, where they are sold for below market value, evading taxes in the process, while putting sumptuous profits in the pockets of galamseyers, the bourgeoisie and the elite political class complicit in the making of this corruption.
The unnerving result is that the elite politician, who is the most notorious Metha, can now fund his campaign with what should have been state revenue, with what should have been the state tax money for ploughing the dirt road in your village! This is why the main road that Kwame Nkrumah personally promised your great grandmother that he would pave, remains muddy at best, worse than the footpath from George Bush’s family house to his personal deer and duck hunting forests, which is now most of Maine, U.S.A. The frightening result is that rather than the central government officials of Ghana plugging this tax hole, they would rather busy themselves, eagerly and gingerly, like chickens with their heads cut off, increasing taxes on the already over-taxed cocoa farmer to make up the difference.
The barbarism that results is even direr: the central government would borrow death-dealing loans from the IMF, from the World Bank and several such primitive banksters, using Ghanaian lands—pregnant with actual gold—as collateral, and in the process would sell the only birthright of the country to uncouth neocolonialist gold diggers—diggers who destroy the land and leave the Ghanaian farmer bereft with nothing but grief.
The sheer persistence of galamsey fuel in Ghana is directly exacerbated by the urge to run a two-party democracy that is not in any shape, way or form accountable to the people. In a country where one party evaporates and then re-appears by condensation in yet another form—that is reversibly converting from NDC to NPP under the guise of a regime-change—there is little the cocoa farmer can actually do as a sheep among wolves to better his lot. Since the Metha, who now neoliberally colonizes his land, and who promises to fix such leakage is himself heavily dependent on galamsey fuel for his parochial aspirations in a central government.