The Inquirer (Monrovia)

30 July 2014

Liberia: Profiteering Over Ebola Materials

A survey conducted by the INQUIRER has revealed that some businesses are profiteering over the sale of some disinfectants that are being used as anti-Ebola materials. The prices of alcohol, soap, buckets, disinfectants such as chlorine, face mask latex glove among others have skyrocketed in recent time since it was announced that they play a greater role in combating the spread of Ebola.

Some unscrupulous business houses are also selling detergent soaps and other materials that are capable of combating the spread of the deadly Ebola virus are sold at higher prices sometimes twice the amount they were originally sold for prior to the outbreak of the Ebola virus.

From supermarket to another, prices of these commodities have been increased on ground that more people are buying them in a bid to stop the spread of Ebola.

A housewife told the INQUIRER that since it was made public that those disinfectants and other consumable household goods are helpful in combating the Ebola virus, the sellers continue to increase prices sometime at the rate of 100 percent to the detriment of the already poor and fatigued consumers.

"Government must act to stop this ugly situation because it is leading to more hardship on the people and sometimes bigger traders use the petty traders to increase the price," a consumer said.

Some of the petty traders who spoke to this paper yesterday said they have no control over the increase in prices because it is those importers who are increasing the prices of these materials on ground that there is no price control.

Latex Gloves were seen being sold at every street corner of Monrovia for the third day running and a consumer noted that the price of gloves continue to increase by the days.

In an apparent reaction to the situation yesterday, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said it has been informed of some unscrupulous business houses engaged in price hiking and supply manipulation of chlorine, latex gloves, face masks and other materials used to combat spread of Ebola in Liberia.

The Ministry in a release said it considers this act with grave concern and intends to penalize any business house involved in such practice.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry release which was signed by Mr. Mitchell Jones, Director of Communications and approved by Mr. Cyril Allen II, Deputy Minister and Officer In Charge, informed the general public that several actions have been taken to help curtail the profiteering act.

The Ministry named some of these actions as the random inspection of business houses including price verification of import invoices and the random inspection of warehouses including verification of warehouse inventories.

To help with this process, the public has been encouraged to report such behaviors by calling the Ministry of Commerce Hotline at Libtelco: 020721 5043/02072155058 LoneStar: 0886559224/0886516171.

The Ministry noted that those found in violation of the business law will face serious penalties including fines not to exceed US$25,000, revocation of business license, seizure and auctioning of goods, etc. and in some instances, may be referred to the Ministry of Justice for charges of criminal offense under the penal code of Liberia.

"The Ministry takes this offense very seriously and will deal with it to the full extent of the law. We are in a crisis and the Ministry expects and demands responsible behavior from all stakeholders. The private sector support and cooperation are absolutely essential in the fight against the spread of Ebola. Join the fight," the release concluded.

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