Liberia: Speaker Sets Up Com’tee to Probe Rice Price Increment
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bhofal Chambers has constituted a special committee to probe the reported increase in prices of rice on the Liberian market.
The Speaker’s decision was triggered by a communication from Representative Yekeh Y. Kolubah (District #10, Montserrado County) craving plenary’s indulgence to invite Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh and the leadership of the Rice Importers Association to explain why there is US$0.50 increase on rice that is nontaxable.
Since his ascendancy to the presidency in 2018, President Weah dropped all tariffs on the importation of rice.
President Weah’s move was contained in Executive Order 98 issued at the beginning of this month.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the President’s action was part of exigent measures intended to achieve the desired objectives of easing economic burden on citizens and residents to enable them to access the nation’s staple at all times.
The release further stated that the order was necessitated by an assessment and evaluation conducted on the causes of the increase in the price of various strategic commodities, including rice, and serves as one of many measures meant to ameliorate the situation.
However, in his communication, Rep. Kolubah claimed the price of rice has increased and the government’s desire is not being met.
“We have observed with grave concern an increase in the price of rice by US$0.5 amidst the dropping of the tariff as above mentioned. It is expected that the drop of tariff on the importation of rice would trigger a significant reduction in the price of rice on the market, but unfortunately, this is not the case,” Rep. Kolubah stated in his communication.
Also, addressing his colleagues on the floor, he lauded President Weah for the move, but stressed it was not a measure that addresses the growing wave of economic challenges permanently.
“While the dropping of tariff on the importation of rice does not undercut the growing wave of economic challenges as its falls short of building a society that is self-sufficient, the measure is seen as a temporary fix that provides no guarantee for sustainability.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Kolubah was applauded by the majority of his colleagues for the intervention and a motion proffered by Rep. Matthew Zarzar (District #3, Sinoe County) calling for a special committee to probe the situation was endorsed by Plenary.
“We have observed with grave concern an increase in the price of rice by US$0.5 amidst the dropping of the tariff as above mentioned. It is expected that the drop of tariff on the importation of rice would trigger a significant reduction in the price of rice on the market, but unfortunately, this is not the case.”– Representative Yekeh Kolubah (District 10, Montserrado County)
Prior to the decision, plenary was split on the request to invite Minister Tarpeh and the rice importers.
Several lawmakers including Reps. Munah Pelham Youngblood (District #9, Montserrado County), Mariamu Fofana and Dixon Wlawlee Seibo called for the appearance of the officials, while Reps. Dorwohn Twain Gleekia (District #6, Nimba County) and Matthew Zarzar advised plenary to mandate the Committee on commerce to probe the situation.
Rep. Youngblood called for the Legislature to work with the Executive in the spirit of Coordination to ensure the price of rice is stabilized and the intent of the President is achieved.
Rep. Mariamu Fofana said in the wake of the gasoline shortage, there have been rumors that the next commodity that will run out of the market is rice, and as such there was a need to invite the Minister of Commerce to clearly state the reasons behind the increase of the price rice.
For Rep. Seibo, he warned the Legislature to allocate more funds to the Agriculture sector to enable Liberia to grow rice for consumption to reduce the burden of importation that continues to have crippling effects on the economy.
“If we are not careful with the issue of rice, it will spill over and become worse than the issue of gasoline. As a matter of fact, there is more consumption of rice than gasoline in this country, and statistics from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning show how that we import almost US$200 million worth of rice yearly. We, as a people must take some strategic decision,” Rep. Seboe cautioned.
“Our reliant on rice does not only suffer us as people in the event that rice is not available, but has a great impact on our balance of payment. If agriculture should be the way as the President has said, we need to put more resources to agriculture so that we begin to grow our own rice that will save us out of trouble tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, Plenary mandated its special committee headed by Rep. Matthew Zarzar to investigate to matter and report within one week.