Transportation fares have again been hiked in Monrovia, its environs and Rural Liberia. Clashes between passengers and commercial drivers are most often the result of the surprised increase in transport fares. But commercial drivers are attributing the abrupt increase, which also affects basic commodities on the Liberian market, to the rise in the price of petroleum products on the market.
For weeks now, a gallon of gasoline is sold for L$350.00, while a gallon of diesel fuel is also sold for L$365.00 in Monrovia and environs. In Rural Liberia, prices are determined by dealers at will. After being conspicuously silent for the weeks this unfavorable has persisted, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry says there is no increment in the price of gasoline and fuel oil on the Liberian market as is being reported. According to the Ministry, the retail price of gasoline remains at USD4.52 or LD335.00 per gallon, while the retail price for fuel oil also remains at USD4.61 or LD 340.00 per gallon.
The Commerce and Industry Ministry has at the same time announced that there is no increase in transportation fares across the Country, warning that commercial drivers caught charging passengers outside of the Government’s approved fares will be prosecuted. Petroleum dealers also share similar warning.
For the ministry to present a picture to suggest that it has not been knowledgeable about the increments for the past four weeks is something that drives away the trust of the public. While the current move by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry may be understandable, reliance on its ability to ensure compliance may just be a bid too far from possible.
The protracted and unbearable hike in the prices of basic commodities in the country and the inability of the Ministry of Commerce to regulate and monitor such commodities and prices leave the consuming public with the impression that the ministry is not executing its statutory responsibilities. In practical terms, the Ministry of Commerce has for the past years been very inefficient in controlling prices, goods and services. This may just be the reason why the Liberian market continues to experiencing unfair pricing and substandard goods.
For example, it is no secret in Monrovia that petroleum products brought into the country and sold at USD4.52 or LD335.00 per gallon (gas), or USD4.61 or LD 340.00 per gallon (fuel) are of the lowest grade. The noise about the prices of the products in Liberia is the lowest may just be an attempt to mislead us or cover up. Liberians who have lived in neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea or the Ivory Coast or even Ghana and Nigeria could bear witness to the fact the grades of petroleum products in these countries are higher than ours.
While we do not mean to discredit the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, it is painful, especially amidst abject poverty, for Liberians to become victims of unscrupulous business practices. As we encourage the Commerce Ministry to be more exertive and consumer-focused in discharging its statutory responsibilities, it is hoped that it will also be effective and efficient in monitoring and evaluating all of the mechanisms to ensure that the business community discontinue its unfair practices against the consuming public.