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Editorial: ‘Toothless’ Commerce Ministry or? (Pt. I)

Even though it is statutorily established that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is charged with the responsibility of regulating all businesses, as well as prices in the Republic, it may just be a toothless bull-dog in executing such mandate. As if there doesn’t exist a government regulatory institution called the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, foreign and Liberian importers of goods determine how such goods are priced and even distributed.

The simple truth may just be that most business transactions across the country are characterized by unfairness and exploitation. The conspicuous silence and weakness on the part of the ministry could be major factors responsible for the determination of the escalating prices of goods and services (including transportation) by actors of the private business sector in the country.

It is no secret (and officials of the Commerce Ministry must be aware) that most goods brought into the country are either substandard or expired. The Luke-warm approach to engaging this business may also be responsible for the importation of substandard goods, including ‘rotten rice’ into the country. While there may be no malice or whatsoever against the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Liberians may just blame authorities of that institution for frustration in which they find themselves as a result of the inflated and uncontrollable prices of goods and services, including transportation throughout the country.

From the posture of the ministry and its authorities for the past six years since  Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf incumbency as President of Liberia, there might have been and continue to be difficulties in regulating trade and commerce in country, probably, due to “competing personal interests”. The recent ‘rotten rice” sale by some foreign business entities and the role of the Inspector general at the ministry broadcast by a number of radio stations can be cited as a simple example of bigger things.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must challenge the authorities at the Commerce and Industry Ministry to “move or be removed” should there be any legacy she would want to leave behind after 2017. In ensuring such legacy, the President must ensure that individuals with the ‘will-power’ to help her through perform their duties in consonance with the statute of the ministry devoid of all personal interests.

It is an open fact the rude manners of approach or defiant postures of foreign business men and women in our country in their interactions with government workers or customers are due to their personal and economic relationships with higher-ups in the ministry. Such relationships with Lebanese, Indian, Nigerian and other foreign merchants may be responsible for the conspicuous silence and perpetual weakness of the ministry on the importation of substandard goods, as well as inflated and uncontrollable prices of goods and services across the country.

And should the President actually succeed in her endeavours, as they related to the economy and its actors, measures must be instituted to effectively monitor those at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry charged with the responsibilities of ensuring the execution of the mandate of the ministry.

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