20 November 2017

Liberia: Prices Continue Upward Amidst Runoff Delay

Photo: The Citizen
Commodities in a retail store.

The day after the Supreme Court ruled to put a stay on the November 7 runoff, businesses across the country began to hike prices of their goods. Many businesses are now treading with caution about importing new goods amidst the prevailing political uncertainty. Only few businesses, who have braved the storm are willing to import goods in smaller amounts and would no doubt maintain the hiking prices.

Transportation in the country has increased -- especially in Monrovia and its environs. In a taxi cab, from Barnersville Junction to Central Monrovia is L$100 as well as from Paynesville Red Light to Central Monrovia, though the approved price is L$70.

The fare of buses is not stable, fluctuating between L$40 to L$60.

A half bag of rice - 25kg is now been sold for L$1,970 in some areas, while in other areas, it is priced at L$2,050.

As of Friday, November 17, the price of gasoline was L$400, while the rate of a US dollars to a Liberian dollars is L$127.00 (1US$ to L$127.00).

An executive member of the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL) -- a coalition of business organizations told the Daily Observer that most of the traders are complaining that the uncertainty caused by the current impasse in the elections is making it much more difficult to do business. He said the increase in the prices of goods on the market is squarely because of the political stalemate in the country, which directly affects business due to the risk of importing new goods at this time. Thus, they prefer saving their money.

The PATEL official who asked to be quoted anonymously, said: " I myself am not sending for new goods. I will keep my money; I have added at least US$7.00 on each of my goods to prolong my sales.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the Runoff isn't held in December, for businesses to triple their price hiking," he said.

Petty traders have to pay for their goods in USD or a very high LRD equivalent in order to continue selling. They, too, have to set their profit margins in order to stay afloat.

Mohammed Ali, a businessman in Monrovia, said: "There is no business. Buying is very slow. We increased our prices because those who we bought from in bulk increased their prices too. It's really tough."

A drug store (pharmacy) owner, Teeklo Johnson, also revealed that tablets and syrup prices have increased.

For her part, Siah Saah said in kissi: "All our business partners are scared to bring goods in the country because of this whole election thing that has no head, no tail."

Mrs. Sarah Teah indicated also because of the suspension of the runoff, things are more complicated because the high demand in the US dollars. She said they often increases the price of her goods "because after we sell our goods, we have to go and buy the U.S. [dollars] from the money changers before we go to pay for our goods--sometimes if you are lucky, you will pay between L$128 and L$130 before you get the U.S. dollars."

"We cannot blame the [wholesalers] for asking we the business people to buy in U.S. dollar," the businesswoman said. "When they are sending for their goods too, they have to send U.S. dollars--but the whole problem here is this dual currency business. If we have one currency, things will not be hard like this."


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