The Analyst (Monrovia)

14 August 2014

Liberia: Commerce Ministry Warns Against High Prices of Goods - Deploys 120 Inspectors With Drastic Mandate

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has warned business houses in the country against unnecessary profiteering. The Ministry has further warned against arbitrary increase of the prices of essential goods and services. The Deputy Commerce Minister and Industry for Administration, Mr. Cyril Allen II warned, “These are drastic time and we must take drastic actions” cautioning all businesses engaged with the unwholesome practices to desist from such habits. The Deputy Commerce Minister spoke at the Ministry of Information’s regular press briefing Thursday when he particularized commodities essential to enhance the fight against Ebola.

The Ministry’s warning came in the wake of the sharp increase the prices of basic goods and services following regulations introduced by government to support the State of Emergency recently announced by the government to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola Viral Disease. In the face of the anti-Ebola campaign, prices of other basic commodities including wash-hand materials such as hand sanitizers, sanitary liquid, plastic buckets, detergent soap, Dettol, insecticide and soap prices have gone up thereby creating more hardship for the impoverish average Liberians.

He also named rubber gloves, chlorine and masks, saying that escalating the prices of basic goods and services, especially those that are essential in the anti-ebola campaign is sad and does not auger well in the campaign towards eradicating the Ebola disaster that has engulf Liberia Besides, business houses have increased the prices of consumable commodities while fare of commercial vehicles have been sky rocketed by more than 50 percent, a situation which has made the standard of living unbearable for the people.
On the first day emergency, the cost of transportation to various destinations diametrically increased and has been climbing since, while a 25kg bag of rice in Monrovia which was sold at L$1200 is now L$1500 or more while reports from the countryside puts the cost at about L$2000.

Many of the business people have always said there was already no price control mechanism, needless should that be conceived during the situation of the state of emergency.
This outright exploitation of the masses, using prevailing situation as an alibi, has grasped the attention of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Accordingly, Mr. Allen noted that his ministry has deployed 120 inspectors who have been mandated to go to the field, look at the prices of these goods; and directed to seize any of goods that are seen on the market that prices hiked or any of them that have been hoarded.

Mr. Allen averred that the ministry’s inspectors are out there on the field with a specific mandate to monitor the prices and sales of these materials and to seize goods that are sold at hiked prices on the market. He said reiterated that the ministry will publish recommended prices for essential goods on the Liberian market; “we are going to publish what the actual prices on goods are going to be in keeping with their invoices.

These measures, he noted, are the start of rigorous check on these businesses and even the small scale dealers; saying that the ministry in this public manner is advising all businesses in the country, who are engaged in this unscrupulous business activities to revert back to normal business practices and sell at normal prices.
But the Ministry said it was instituting the inspection as a measure to reprimand those who are trying to taint the government in the face of the prevailing ebola crisis that has plagued the country.

Deputy Minister Allen further said his ministry has already cautioned business houses in the country against such a bad practice of exploitation at the time the government has started to fight against the deadly Ebola viral disease from Liberia According to Deputy Minister Allen, the exploitation of the Liberian people by the business people in the wake of the anti-ebola campaign must stop. He said the ministry’s his attention has been drawn to some unscrupulous business houses in the country that are bent on hiking the prices of essential materials useable to enhance the fight against Ebola.

He indicated that because the Ministry wants to address this problem step by step and meticulously, the warning in the media followed a two day ago engagement of the business community at which time the issue was discussed. However, the deputy minister of commerce said the business community has assured the ministry that they were going back to revert to reducing the prices to lower cost of these materials that would be affordable for all to buy.

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