Uganda: Price Hikes, Hoarding of Goods Is Shameful

The coronavirus disease (covid-19) pandemic is bringing out the best and worst in human beings.

The pandemic and the subsequent restriction of limited movement to control its spread have disrupted not only our lives but also the moral fabric of the society.

The good has been mainly exhibited by President Yoweri Museveni and the ministry of Health officials who have used social and mass media to educate and update people on how to avoid catching or spreading the virus.

The dark side has manifested in the inexplicable way travellers have wormed their way round immigration points at airports and escaped the mandatory quarantine. Who flagged them through?

But the worst has been exhibited by the unscrupulous traders (predators) who have taken advantage of desperate Ugandans in need of essential commodities such as sanitizers, foodstuffs and toilet paper, among others to hike prices.

We may not have laws which prohibit businesses from excessively raising prices during crises such as this one, but an ethical trader should be embarrassed to take undue advantage of a hungry and sick person.

Why should the price of a 60ml sanitizer, which hardly costs Shs 12,000, rise to Shs 40,000? Why should the price of sugar which ordinarily cost Shs 3,500 rise to Shs 5000? Why should the price of foodstuffs skyrocket? Have the gardens been hit by the virus too?

In some supermarkets, some unethical persons have made huge purchases and have been positioning themselves at the entrances of these stores issuing out business cards, urging people to contact them if they run out of supplies.

This is obscene hoarding and tantamounts to magendoism-(illicit trade). Those involved in illicit trade should be fished out and their merchandise confiscated, and later prosecuted.

Lawful traders who hoard goods and hike prices should have their licenses canceled. This is not the time to take advantage of a desperate situation. We are not in this crisis by choice or for pleasure.

This is the time to use good sense to help and think about the needy, and not satiate our greedy instincts. Profiteering from desperate situations not only offends trade ethos, but also may turn out to be illegal.

Price hikes, much like hoarding, hurt us all and should not be tolerated. In this time of crisis, we all need to look out for each other. The last thing we need now is to turn into a man-eat-man society.

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