One of the issues causing great stress to many Ghanaians is that of high rent costs. With housing being a basic human need coupled with the severe housing deficit, many in Ghana are forced to seek houses to rent.
Landlords seeing the high demand for their houses have also taken advantage by constantly increasing rent and this has created a great burden for tenants with very limited income.
I was moved to write this piece because of a Facebook comment I came across which stated that, “Rent control is the most useless institution in ghana. The youth cannot even rent room due two years advance”.
Now, here is important information every Ghanaian needs to know about why successive government have crippled the Rent Control Department and allowed for landlords to freely exploit tenants.
First, we must know that since 1983 when Ghana begun implementing the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program(SAP), our economy was re-structured to become a Capitalist FREE MARKET economy.
Now, what is a Free Market how is it related to Ghana Rent Issues?
The free market is an economic system based on supply and demand with little or no government control or regulation.
In a free market, the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government or other authority.
And so, in practise, governments are required to remove all price controls on rents, food and other essential goods. Also, subsidies on fuel, healthcare, food and all others must be removed in a ‘Free Market’.
The reason public subsidies existed was to cushion poor or struggling Ghanaians and to help them afford essential needs.
So, in order for Ghana to become a Free Market economy, this meant that government regulations on rent had to be removed. If the Rent Control Department is useless today, it is because our leaders have deliberately starved them of the resources they need to function.
And the effects of the Free Market does not end with just housing, it extends to worker rights. So, most Ghanaians find themselves in jobs where they work so hard and yet they are being paid poverty wages and also work in very poor conditions. In other words, most Ghanaian workers are being exploited greatly by their employers and again, the government refuses to act to demand that workers are paid a living wage.
Simply put, companies pay workers so little and exploit them because they are basically free do so in the Free Market system we have.
Remember public subsidies are unacceptable in a Free Market and indeed, the removal of fuel subsidies after pressure by the IMF is proof of the existence of a Free Market. With the removal of subsidies on fuel and electricity, cost of living has been constantly rising. Yet, workers are being paid poverty wages. This is how come you find people who have jobs and yet still they are struggling to survive.
Now, let me take your minds back at an issue that caused huge uproar during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
We all remember how market women increased food prices and also how shops inflated the price of hand sanitizers due to high demand.
Why were many people upset at the situation? It is because they were expecting sellers to be moral and empathetic due to the circumstances but the ‘Free Market’ is neither moral nor empathetic. It is rather cruel, immoral and unjust.
The same way landlords are free to charge whatever outrageous amount they want without a care for if it is fair is the same way the sellers of hand sanitizers also jacked up prices without any concern for public safety.
We saw how opportunistic some Ghanaians can be during the lockdown but the real problem is a system that allows for opportunists to take advantage of people. The government which should have intervened to ensure that only fair prices were charged completely refused to do so.
And that is the same way the government is refusing to even enforce existing laws regarding rents such as the law against charging 2-year advance.
The Free Market is only free for the rich minority who can afford to pay any cost for the best healthcare, housing and education. For the struggling majority, it means misery and pain due to inability to afford basic needs like healthcare, food and housing.
To end, it is important that Ghanaians understand how most of our struggles are as a result of an unjust economic system known as the FREE MARKET which our leaders have chosen to not even acknowledge or inform us about.