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Gov’t intervention in price hiking is a must

The State of Emergency declared by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on August 6, 2014 in consonance with Article 86 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, is currently being enforced across the country. The members of the House of Representatives, in plenary, last Thursday, endorse the declaration, while the Senate late last week, concurred with the House, even though a few civil society organizations have criticized the decision by the government for the State of Emergency in as much most Liberians welcomed it as a way of placing a national focus on the fight against the deadly Ebola virus disease. Under the SOE, according to the Liberian Head of State, certain basic rights, including movements,  would be suspended to ensure serious concentration on Ebola epicenters of the country.

While the SOE is in effect, the Liberian economy has become very shaky- only for the bad reason. Unscrupulous business entities and traders have hiked the prices of basic commodities, while transportation fares in Monrovia and its environs continue to be astronomic at the will and pleasure of commercial drivers in the face of a serious warning from the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.

The price of a half bag of rice sold for L$1, 350.00 is now selling for L$1, 700.00, while transportation fare from the commercial district of Redlight in Paynesville or ELWA Junction to Central Monrovia previous between L$50.00 and L$70.00, is now between L$110.00 and L$80.00.  The prices of other commodities, including locally produced goods and services have also been increased by business houses and other traders under the guise of the State of Emergency, even though they had long imported or purchased those goods before the President’s announcement on August 6, 2014.

As the ‘will and pleasure’ of these unscrupulous business entities and traders, as well as commercial drivers continue to prevail un-noticed, the State of Emergency would be meaningless if the administration did not intervene in the most fearless and nationalistic manner in the interest of the population. As the state battles the deadly Ebola virus disease under this SOE, the Government of Liberia must not also allow/encourage  such wickedness by these business people to strangulate and lead its people/citizens of the great beyond as Ebola is doing.

Words from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry are just too inadequate to serve as deterrence; what Liberians need now are the practical actions against those who use the current health crisis and the State of Emergency to exploit them. These actions must include stern warnings, follow-ups or monitoring, arrest and detention under this State of Emergency.

While our nation is in a state of danger by virtue of the spread of the Ebola virus, the situation will be more overwhelming for Liberians if the administration allows criminal-minded business entities and traders to double prices and transportation fares. The government must now move in the right the wrong or else, the essence or the importance of the SOE would be considered otherwise, while those who criticize the decision by the government would the justification to do so.

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