When the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Axel M. Addy got to the helm of authority at the ministry immediately after serving as Deputy Minister for Commerce and Industry, his primary commitment was to ensure an effective and efficient price regulation across Liberia. No doubt, such commitment was initially greeted with the highest degree of enthusiasm by the population in the wake of the bad and unfavorable business practices in the country.
But the months have far gone by since his appointment yet still the price system continues to remain unregulated, while sub-standard and expired goods continue to flood the Liberian market to the detriment of consumers. Interestingly, these pitfalls of the economy are so visible that even the kids and unlettered are in the know, while those responsible to execute regulations pretend not to know what’s really happening to the economy.
It is no secret that every business man or woman-Lebanese, Indian, Nigerian, as well as Ghanaian and Fula, determines his or her prices of goods and services (whether standard, sub-standard or expired) whatever way he or she likes to the conspicuous silence of the regulatory agency- the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. More irritating, is the economic gangsterism characterizing the country’s trade and commerce, wherein a group of traders would gang up and decide to hike prices of essential commodities and services.
Foreign traders-especially Lebanese and Nigerians, most often, engage customers in a very hostile approach during transactions to the extent of issuing challenges/vows that no matter what, “nothing can be done to them”- even should customers complain to the authorities. Adding on to the increasing frustration of ordinary Liberians (the half-not) are the arrogance and unruly behavior of commercial drivers in their transactions with commuters/passenger, especially in Monrovia and its environs. Transportation fares, once determined by the government, are now left to the ‘will and pleasure’ of commercial drivers, who charge and even demand fares under the guise of increment in the prices petroleum products and vehicle spare parts on the Liberian market. For example, from the ELWA Junction to Central Monrovia, some drivers demand between L$70.00 to L$100.00, while others charge L$60.00; and on and on it goes across the city and its environs.
One may again wonder as to why would these foreign traders continue to do business at their own “will and pleasure” in transacting business with Liberians in such arrogant, reckless and exploitative manner when there are laws to which they must subscribed? Why would the official regulator- the Ministry of Commerce and Industry choose to remain conspicuously silent on such uncontrollable and negative transactions against the national interest? Why would they even be allowed to run the price system? These are a few of the many questions to which the Liberian authorities seem not to have any intention of responding- for reasons best know to them.
With the situation becoming unacceptable and intolerable day-by-day, the immediate attention of the Presidency must make its way into tackling the matter or else, it may reach a point wherein it may also be difficult to control when “things fall apart.” Like Past leaders of Liberia, the Presidency must go beyond all of the sentiments and relationships to apply/implement the laws to the latter and even execute the radical and solvable measures against such unscrupulous, unwholesome and exploitative trade and commerce in the interest of our national interest.
These undesirable foreign traders, with whom some public officials allegedly connive to retard the socio-economic well-being of Liberians, must by all means, be made to adhere to the laws of Liberia. Again, our fear is that the continuation of these unfair business practices by our so-called partners-in-progress may result to a crisis that may further deepen our economic woes, without the intervention of the Presidency.