The STC public bus company continued its losing streak, canceling its service to Sunyani on Monday without notifying me. After arriving at the station at 5:30 in the morning and finding out there was no bus to Sunyani, I requested a refund for my ticket, and hiked over to the transport yard hoping I might find a bus going to Sunyani sometime that morning.
In the transport yard, buses typically leave whenever they are full. I was lucky, finding a bus that already had a good number of passengers, and the rest came along quickly.
I soon discovered that, besides the prompt departure, there was another difference between the transport yard bus and an STC bus. It started with an extra-long prayer upon the departure of the bus. Well, I thought, it's normal to pray at the beginning of a bus journey, and maybe transport yard buses are perceived to need a little more prayer in order to arrive safely. After readings from John and Genesis, receiving a booklet on "Exploring the Bible: Truth and Consequences", five hymns, and a sermon, I was forced to conclude that I was on the Bible Bus. I went to sleep and woke up several hours later, just in time to see service conclude with the pastor making fun of my glasses in Twi and an offer to buy pomade for 1 Ghana per tin.
I have no quantitative evidence to support this, but I get the impression that prices are stickier in Ghana than in the United States. My theory is that this is, ironically, because Ghana lacks sticker prices.
Most people buy things in the market, and they just "know" the price. If someone tries to charge them higher, they won't buy. My guess is that changing common knowledge of a price is actually a lot harder than just changing a sticker price.
Could somebody do a study on this please? I recommend an RCT in isolated markets where you select half of the markets to go to sticker prices, where you provide the stickers. Those markets operate with the stickers for a few months, where the control markets continue to operate without marked prices. Then you introduce a price shock for, say, tomatoes, send out mystery shoppers, and see where prices change more quickly. I would do it myself but I am busy.
I am now writing to you from beautiful Brong Ahafo, where the cars are strong, the chameleons are good looking, and all the roads are above average.
Sadly, though the cars are strong, there is a shortage of shared taxis here unlike any I have encountered anywhere in Ghana. (Shared taxis run routes, and pick up anyone who wants to go on that route. Most of the time, they are a convenient and inexpensive means of transport.) Getting a shared taxi in Sunyani involves standing at a corner and yelling where you want to go as taxis go by, and then when one stops, rushing to beat the hoards all going for that taxi. The first time I was there, I got a taxi because a driver felt sorry for the poor clueless white girl and made it a point to get me in his car. The next time, I got a taxi based on my rushing merit, which was infinitely more satisfying.
Why don't more people run taxis here? Why don't they raise the price of taxis? I later discovered that the taxi shortage was being caused by a diesel shortage. Many of the taxis converted to run on diesel were not running. Yet again, things that appear to make no sense to an American economist have a logical explanation. The diesel shortage was temporary; sticky prices and fixed capital costs prevented the market from clearing.
Given the shortage, what is the appropriate way to allocate taxis? Free marketers might suggest they be allocated to those willing to pay the most. However, if your concern is allocating them to those who have the most need for them, and you think the welfare created by this outweighs the extra supplier surplus that would go to the taxi drivers, there are other ways of allocating them, which might be more efficient in a context of high income inequality. One, the use of lines, would allocate taxis to the people most willing to spend their time waiting for the taxi. Another, the one actually in use, is to make people spend effort. Those most willing to run, fight, and look foolish must be the ones who value the taxi service the most.
I love my new apartment. I have a 270 degree view of Osu (sadly the 90 degrees I am missing is the ocean view.) The apartment came furnished, including a bed, couches, table and chairs, fridge and a washing machine(!).
Last night I came home to lights out. Lights were on in the neighborhood, but the caretaker explained I was on a different circuit. I shrugged, and decided it was a good excuse to go get a drink and some kebabs. The next morning my power was still off, and closer inspection of my circuit box revealed that the power company had disconnected my power.
I thought it was a bit unfair, since I had just moved in two weeks ago. I called my landlord, who promised to look into the problem. He learned uncovered the following story:
The power company had not meant to disconnect me at all. They actually meant to disconnect the power for the law firm in my building. The bills the power company had been delivering to the law firm had a typo in the meter number, and the law firm had been refusing to pay the bills based on that. Who knows, they may have technically been in the right, they are the law firm after all-- but the power company can still make plenty trouble when they come and disconnect you. Except they didn't disconnect the law firm's power, they disconnected mine.
I paid an electrician to come reconnect me, but I am worried for the contents of my refrigerator. If my $12 Dutch blue cheese is bad, I will be tempted to smear it on the law firm's power meter.