Liberia: Sellers, Buyers Decry Continuous Hike in Prices of Basic Goods and Services
Paynesville – Marketers and buyers alike are decrying the continuous hike in the prices of basic commodities and are saddened that the government, especially the Ministry of Commerce is not doing much to regulate prices or stabilize the economy.
Over the past months, the country has experienced consistent increment in the prices of basic goods and services, including gasoline.
A buyer in Redlight market said he has observed hike in the prices of sugar, flour, rice, vegetable oil, onion, among others.
The price of gasoline also moved from L$500 suddenly to L$620, thereby, affecting the cost of transportation.
Mariam Selekpeh, a petit businesswoman in the Redlight Market, disclosed that a tin of vegetable oil is currently sold for L$ 5,000 – something that used to be L$3,500, according to her.
She complained that the price of onion has risen from US$10.00 to US$12.50; while a bag of sugar jumped to US$55.00 from its previous price of US$45.00.
Milton Dorplaneh who had also gone to the Redlight Market to purchase some food stuff, also blamed some business individuals for creating artificial hike in prices in order to gain more profits.
According to Dorplaneh, foreign merchants are allegedly engaging in bad business practice without fear that government could act against them.
In separate statements, Dorris Adolphus, Garpu Stephens and Toties Larma want the Ministry of Commerce to direct its focus to the real issues affecting the prices of goods and services.
According to them, they have heard the government making public demands for prices of commodities to be reduced, but the situation worsens without anyone ensuring that the mandate is adhered to.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry had pronounced the reduction of prices on the liberian market and transportation fare, but to no avail.
Some businesses appear to be ignoring the ministry’s mandate.
One of those who pointed fingers at government is Nyumah H. Taylor, who sells scratch cards, rice and gasoline.
According to Taylor who also operates a provision store in Paynesville, petroleum, rice and cement prices are regulated by the Ministry of Commerce. He believes that the Ministry is fully aware of what is obtaining on the market but has no interest in regulating it.
According to him, once government makes an increment in taxes, they can also make such adjustment in their price regulation document.
“They have added four percent increament in taxes. They cannot just come out and say we are adding this, but they can do that in the taxes,” Mr. Taylor said.
“No individual has the right to increase these prices,” he said.
For gasoline, he displayed a document from the Ministry of Commerce on its recent increment through taxes.
“For the gas, the document comes from the Ministry of Commerce. Before the President left for the county tour, there was an increment of two percent, but now it has increased to four percent.”
As a result of these high taxes sellers also sell at a higher price than the usual. He said customers are finding it difficult to purchase from them.
Taylor stressed: “We the dealers are finding it difficult to get profit, therefore, we are forced to do an increment for profit”.
He said in most instances, consumers will prefer going to purchase their products from sidewalk businesses, than legitimate tax-paying entities on grounds that those sidewalk sellers prices are low because most of them are not paying taxes.
On the other hand, another seller of dry fish, Edith Roberts, said most of the products brought to Liberia are substandard, because taxes on commodities are high.
Roberts believes the prices of original products will not meet consumers demand if taxes are paid on them, therefore importers will prefer going for ‘cheap products’ that will meet the purchasing power of consumers. “This is why you find most people getting sick as a result of eating expired food. Even the gas we are using in Liberia is not up to standard, therefore, you will find most vehicles damaging soon,” Mr. Roberts maintained.