Protests in Ghana over increasing cost of living

A man stands in his shop in Accra on February 11, 2014 (AFP Photo/Chris Stein) (AFP/File)

Tema (Ghana) (AFP) - Hundreds of workers took to the streets in Ghana on Thursday to protest against the increased cost of living as union leaders warned the country's economic woes were reaching a crisis point.

Protesters in the industrial city of Tema, 25 kilometres (16 miles) east of Accra, demonstrated over rising prices of goods and services which they said were not being matched by wage increases.

A yawning public sector deficit, a falling local currency and high inflation have heaped pressure on Ghana, which until recent years was seen as a promising emerging economy.

In February, the government in Accra turned to the International Monetary Fund for a $918 million loan package to stabilise the economy and ease debt pressure.

"The economic meltdown began way back three years ago. Gradually it's getting to a crescendo," Solomon Kotei, general secretary of the Industrial and Commercial Union of Ghana, told AFP.

Among the protestors complaints was the removal of subsidies on fuel and increased taxation, forcing belts to be tightened and complaints about poor service in return.

Lack of electricity has been a growing problem, with power cuts lasting sometimes up to a day at a time and hitting economic activity.

"Ghanaians are paying the full brunt of these things. However, our salaries are not actually getting commensurate with all these things, so pressure is coming on the meagre salaries," said Kotei.

Ghana has been seen as the rising star in West Africa, with a strong democratic record as well as solid exports in gold, cocoa and, since 2010, oil.

But President John Dramani Mahama has been accused of not doing enough to sustain economic growth and the cedi slumped against the US dollar in the last year.

Mahama has been urged to cut wasteful public spending, including "ghost workers" in the public sector, lower deficits and pay down debts.

On June 30, the IMF said the fund's financial and economic programme was largely "on track" and growth was expected to remain about 3.5 percent this year.

Increasing electricity production would be critical to improve growth in 2016, it added.

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