Cog in the wheel  

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The author

By Elizabeth Ohene

It appears the recycling business is going through a low period. When things are slow, all sorts of things are affected, and that includes the amount of rubbish that is generated.

How was I to imagine that generating less rubbish would lead to job losses? I would have thought less rubbish was good for the environment, but it turns out, less rubbish leads to the distress of a company that is in the recycling business and the possible loss of jobs.

Or take my friend the photographer who for all these years has been making a reasonable living taking photos of people at events.

The word, events, covers a wide range of activities: parties, lunches, dinners, funerals, weddings, out-doorings, anniversaries and gatherings of all kinds.

Photographers also now come in all ranges, from those that accost you at events and demand to take your photo, which is then quickly printed and sold to you for GH¢10, to the ones, like my friend, whose photography and albums are works of art and for which they charge huge sums.

With COVID-19 and the ban on big gatherings, dancing pall bearers are out of show

Three months

For the past three months, there have been no weddings, or funerals or parties, not on the scale we are used to, or public gatherings of any kind, and that means photographers have been out of work. I wonder if they qualify for a stimulus package.

There are those who specialise in organising events; they plan the décor, they hire out the crockery, they have huge warehouses full of tables, chairs, fancy plates and cutlery and glasses and table linen; they employ carpenters, decorators.

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There have been no parties of any kind and that means they and all those they hire on casual basis have all been without work.

Nobody has needed the services of the caterers who provide the food at these events; some of them had freezers full with the things that are usually hard to find and suddenly, there were no phone calls trying to book their services.

What are the DJs and saxophonists and choral groups and soloists doing? Everybody had their own preferred music provider. I haven’t dared to find out how my favourites, the Winneba Youth Choir are doing; I last saw them perform at a funeral in Ho; they had become such a constant feature of my life, I did not know I would go through three months without seeing or hearing them.

There are the famous star singers and they have to sing and perform at events every once in a while to keep up with their followers. What on earth will happen to the rivalries between the stars when they can’t perform at events and can we have stars without events?

Those who sell cut flowers and vases say they are struggling. No events, no flower arrangements.

Fashion

The entire fashion industry depends on events to survive. How will we know who are the hottest dressmakers in town if no one is wearing their latest creations to events, and photographers recording the events for us?

Even outside the haute couture environment, nobody is calling up tailors to beg them to finish making clothes they had promised three weeks earlier. There are no events and we don’t need new clothes.

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I have a friend who has a haberdashery. There have been no customers in her shop for three months and she is in distress. Her usual customers, the dressmakers, are in distress.

Akosombo Textiles report they have had to shut down a production line and sent workers home because nobody is ordering the special funeral cloths I have railed against for so long.

Without the big funerals, the funeral industry is not thriving any more. It suddenly doesn’t seem worthwhile to buy expensive coffins or engage the services of dramatic pallbearers or put up huge billboards announcing the departure of our dearly beloved.

All is quiet on that front and I suspect there might well be applications for COVID-19 Alleviation funds from distressed undertakers, pallbearers and coffin makers.

How could I overlook the role of the people who hold and weave the events together, the MCs, who have now become such important and powerful personalities.

A few of them seem to do the MC thing as a day job, but most of them would usually be people who work in the electronic media, often as hosts of programmes on radio or television.

Many of them would earn far more money in their part time hosting of events than they do in their real jobs.

I know someone who took a mortgage on the basis of the part-time MC work. There are no events and there is, therefore, no need for MCs.

Universities

But then, this unofficial part time work, or galamsey, as I understand it is called, is not limited to media practitioners hosting events. Take the closure of the universities, for example; it is dramatic enough to close a university, but the consequences go way beyond students not being able to attend classes.

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This is the semester when campus love affairs get resolved; not when you are unexpectedly away from each other. Many students have complicated living arrangements outside university campuses.

Not many parents are also able to take in and accommodate growing young people at unscheduled periods; it causes havoc to the household budget.

Other budgets come under severe stress with the closure of universities. There are those who make a living providing goods and services to students on campus.

I once met a young man who claimed he made enough money to see himself through secondary school by doing the laundry for young women in Volta Hall in Legon! The fast food operators around the various universities must be in a tailspin.

Most lecturers are officially on the staff of one university, but are teaching part time in two or three other universities. Now that the universities are closed, such lecturers would not be earning any money from the part time places.

I suspect there might be some distressed lecturers in our universities because they had become accustomed to including the earnings from their galamsey activities in drawing up their budgets.

Now that Hertz, the 100-year-old, world famous car renting company has filed for bankruptcy protection, I wonder what has happened to the little car hire company that I sometimes use, and the drivers, and the car workshops and the mechanics.

If I don’t have to go to a funeral in Kumasi, I don’t hire a car, or take the plane, I don’t make a funeral cloth, we don’t hire any caterers. One thing stops, everything stops.

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