My name is Autumn Buzzell and I live and work in Ghana, West Africa with City of Refuge Ministries. Here, I run our school, Faith Roots International Academy, and get to be a part in rescuing and the healing of children who have been trafficked into the fishing trade, orphaned, abandoned, and those who just need a little extra loving. What an amazing gift this life is!

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Inflation and Its Effects on the Poorest of the Poor

This year in Ghana, our inflation rate has soared.  In July, inflation rates ranged throughout the country at its lowest around 11% and in some areas closer to 20%.  In comparison, inflation rates in the States have held steady this year around 1.3%.

The price of fuel (gasoline/petrol) has raised 5 times this year (almost $7 per gallon). 

The price of propane has raised 100% this year (from 20GHC to 45GHC).  Since we cook with propane (and prepare almost 300 meals every school day), this has made cooking a much more expensive part of our budget.

These prices increase the price of everything else, especially food.  A bag of rice was about 100GHC ($50) just a few months ago, and now it is over 125GHC ($60+).  When we go through 6 bags of rice every other week or so (including the school feedings), this is an incredible amount of money flowing through our hands.

A couple of weeks ago, the government announced that they had approved an electricity and water price increase.  The water and electricity companies had asked for a 166% increase on tariffs, but that was denied.  Instead, they came to an agreement of a 70% raise in electricity and water tariffs.  70%.  Let me just give you an example of how that effects us here with 7 buildings (and more in progress) in which we have to provide daily electricity to.  On Sunday, we bought 200 GHC (that's $100USD) work of electricity credit for our volunteer house, Omorefe house, and guest house.  We use fans throughout the day, but no air conditioning, lights only in the evening, and we conserve as much as possible.  Our electricity went out today.  6 days.  $100USD worth of electricity (which used to last 2+ weeks) lasted only 6 days.  This has made us question whether the government approved 70% increase is actually closer to the proposed 166% increase. 

For us, it has, and will continue, to create some challenges.  BUT, we will make it work, because God has called us here and we know that He will provide for these children.

But, I think about our staff and the people of our village.  How does this effect them?

A common salary here in Ghana is anywhere from 70GHC a month to 200 GHC (This is $35USD-$100 per month).  This is for a person with a high-school level education.  University graduates can earn from 600GHC-1,200GHC ($300USD-$600USD) per month at entry level positions. 

In Doryumu, the families and children have regular access to electricity.  It is a little bit more developed than some of its neighboring communities.  Now, with these new tariffs and with the increases in gas and propane, I wonder if hard-working parents are going to have to choose between food for their family and electricity for their homes. 

In Shai Hills, the other community that we serve, there is very little access to electricity.  People have been fighting to bring light into their community, but knowing the work available to people and the education level of most in that community, even if electricity and running water were made available to homes, they probably wouldn't be able to afford it.

The richest of the rich are making decisions that are impacting the poorest of the poor in this country.  They desire development and have even made mention of working towards a "first-world country" by 2020, yet take the legs out from underneath the majority of the population.  They bring in roads and access to education and then make it impossible to afford.

It is frustrating and brings up a righteous anger inside of me.

I see families every day who struggle to make ends meet. They work from sunup to sundown and at the end of the day cannot afford the things that so many of us take advantage of.  And it is not for lack of trying, but because of government inflation.

I don't know what the answer is to a problem like this.

We can provide help to families when it comes to sponsoring the education of students who attend our school and have a need.  But, that doesn't solve the problem.

All I know is that before too long, Ghana's own people won't be able to live in their own country.  That is...wrong.

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