Liberians across the country are poised to enjoy more of the Nation’s staple, rice following President George Manneh Weah’s recent suspension of import tariff on the product dubbed here as a political commodity.
Liberians had historically suffered violent protest as a result of increase in the retail price of a bag of rice not forgetting the infamous “April 14, 1979 Rice Riot” which decimated the capital, Monrovia under the administration of slain President William R. Tolbert.
That riot preceded the April 12, 1980 military coup which toppled the Tolbert regime and forever changed the tiny West African nation’s enviable record as a beacon of peace and stability.
President Weah on Monday issued Executive Order #105, suspending tariff on rice importation. The Executive Mansion in Monrovia says the President’s decision is in pursuance of government’s overall desire to continue to bring relief to the Liberian people.
The suspension of import tariff on rice is classified under tariff numbers 1006.30.00, in packing of more than 5kg or in the bulk; 1006.30.00, in packing of at least 5kg and 1006.40.00 (broken rice) under the Revenue Code of Liberia Act of 2000, which takes immediate effect.
The Executive Order followed expiration of Executive Order #98. According to the Executive Mansion, it underscores government’s commitment to ensuring that prices of certain commodities on the market, including rice, remain affordable as not to impose unnecessary burden on the people.
President Weah, who is making rounds of nationwide tour in preparation to seek a second term in 2023, does not want anything that would rock the boat and trouble the peace, not even something sensitive like the nation’s political commodity, rice.
The President’s Executive Order says government has conducted an assessment and evaluation on the causes of increases in the price of various strategic commodities, including rice, and that his administration intends to initiate measures to ameliorate the situation.
“There is a need for exigent measures to achieve the desired objectives of easing the economic burden on the citizens and residents to enable access to rice, the staple food,” he says.
The government maintains the continuous suspension of tariff hinges on the need to curb concurrent increase in the price of rice and to make it more affordable. President Weah stresses that such measures can’t await long legislative processes.
The retail price of 25kg bag of rice has rose from US$13 or $13.50 to US$15.00 in a country with huge unemployment and grinding poverty. Story by Jonathan Browne