Saturday, 28 January 2012

Money, money, money

For a while before Christmas and since I returned from England I haven’t used any fan in the house. Although warm I’m fending off the day when we need to resort to room fans. Indeed, in the early hours of the morning I’m reaching for a blanket! I can remember being issued with my blanket, almost a year ago, and being incredulous over the possibility of ever needing it. By the time I leave the house just before 8am it is warm enough to be out in a thin cotton blouse. Numbers for Morning Devotion at the office have been thin on the ground this term and the popular reason for this seems to be……”It is too cold for people to get out of bed, so early!” One officer added.....especially if you don't have a wife to warm the water for your bath! (Bath = bucket shower, in almost all cases). Can you believe that?  Needless to say, teachers, headteachers and pupils have been in school at least an hour by then! No warm baths for them.

I thought I’d try to explain a little about the money system in Ghana. I may regret this as it is so complicated and my Grade “C” O’Level may not be sufficient to cope.
There are at least 6 notes of different denominations of Ghana Cedis and a few Peshwa coins which represent cents of a Cedi. There are about 2.5 Cedis to the British pound. This has been the arrangement of cash since 2007. During that year re-denomination took place and 4 noughts were removed from the value……or if you are a mathematician the values were shifted 4 decimal places to the right! Hence, what was 2000 is now 20 Peshwas. Got it? “Simples”.
Well, it’s not quite that simple. Most people don’t use it and some have no idea what to ask you for and are clearly extremely muddled. Alarmingly, the youth of Ghana are no better and some of them should know only the new system. Last Wednesday I went to buy milk powder and 2 toilet rolls at a small shop I frequent regularly. The lady in there got out a calculator, punched in a few numbers and asked me for “One Oh Four”. It took a moment for me to work out that 1Cedi 4 Peshwas wasn’t going to cover it. Meanwhile she is looking at me as though I’m daft. Finally I guessed 10Cedis 40 Peshwas and she seemed happy with that.

 You can imagine our confusion when we first arrived being asked for thousands to buy a few onions. Nobody in the market uses Cedis at all, whether they are old women or small girls. Often one will call another over to explain to us they want 1500 for a pile of tomatoes. They use English digit names so it doesn’t need any translation. You just need your wits about you to work it out. 

We spent 90000 in Wa market on a length a gingham cloth today to curtain off some kitchen shelves!
By the way my allowance works out at 12 million 960 thousand a quarter. I wish that £520 felt so much!

Oh, and another thing…..apparently, the Minister for Education resigned this week.

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