Soaring Petroleum Prices Anger Citizens -Blames Importers, Government for Looming Hardship

While the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war was bound to upset the world economy, mainly the oil sector as Russia is the major player, there are some analysts who think the Liberian government and petroleum importers were too quick, and less circumspect, in increasing the price of the commodity in Liberia. This makes others to think there could be a sinister motive, though the government has clarified that the step was necessary to ward off a more catastrophic backlash that could befall the rather “political commodity”. Meanwhile, a number of citizens have voiced their displeasure, stating the mood is anti-people, as The Analyst reports.   

Against the backdrop of the high cost of petroleum products on the Liberian market, a cross section of the citizens have sharply been reacting to what they called the scandalous scenario unfolding in the country where importers of the petroleum products, out of greed and desperation, are hoarding the commodities thereby plunging the country into untold hardship and have called on the government to step its responsibility to reverse the situation.

According to some of the citizens who spoke to The Analyst, there was no justification whatsoever for the sudden increase in the price of the petroleum products given the fact that there were enough products brought in the country by the importers far before the Russian invasion of Ukraine that sparked turbulence in the global price.

In this light, the citizens warned the government not to play into the blackmail and sinister plan of the importers to increase the price at this time when the economy is seriously being challenged.

Speaking to our reporter shortly after he got some fuel from a filling station downtown Monrovia, Duotimah Jerry, a social critic, told our reporter that it was sad that the importers will act in unison to rob the nation in such a difficult situation and think they are smarter than others.

He noted that granted there has been some upward shift in the price of the products, but it does not make sense for the marketers to start to adjust prices just few hours after the invasion when the impact of the invasion should not reflect on the commodities that were already in the country having been cleared from the port and are within the storage facilities of the importing companies.

Industry watchers are of the opinion that the importers succeeded into selling a dummy to the government to adjust the price of the products upward out of a scam that the war between Russia and Ukraine has affected the availability of the commodities on the market after the government through the Ministries of Information and Commerce had told the nation that there were enough of products in the country and had even warned those toying with increasing price or hoarding the items of action from the government

“The latest pronouncement from the government through the Ministry of Commerce setting the price per gallon of gasoline at $5.66 or LD875 and fuel oil at $6.00 or LD930 at the exchange rate of one United States Dollar to one hundred and fifty-five Liberian dollars was ill-informed and hasty,” a middle level manager at a commercial bank who does not want to be named in the press said.

“It should not have even happened at all if the importers had not succeeded in lying to the government and it is sad that it happened that way.”

Others are of the view that granted the lingering tussle between Russia and Ukraine has necessitated the increase, the government should have exercised extreme caution to take into consideration the plight of the people and not just give in to all the demands of the importers who have not attached the human face to their transaction.

Joseph Thom Watson II said also: “We know of the imminent consequences that will come out from the crisis but it was just wrong for the government to allow itself to be helpless with the demands of the importers to increase the price when they are not importing anything new. The commodities were in their storage facilities and they are demanding to increase the price. So what will happen when they are importing new ones? Will they also increase the price again when they bring in the new products?”

The submission of most of those spoken to are of the opinion that government should have taken into consideration the “political nature” of the product that it is very sensitivity that can make citizens turn against it especially given the fact that elections are just a year away and this could be a ploy of the importers to make her unpopular.

A radical lecturer of political science from one of the private higher institutions in the country said from information gathered from other countries in the Sub-region, there were upward adjustments in the price that Liberia is equally faced with, but the governments there step up to their game to make the changes bearing in mind the plight of the citizens and not the appetite of the importers.

“Further investigation and comparison of prices obtained from some other West African states revealed that Liberia has the highest price as it is $4.12 in Sierra Leone, $4.23 in Guinea while the product is sold in Ghana for $4.5 and in Cote d’Ivoire is $4.11,” he said, adding: “The information as was obtained from those countries has even made Liberians to wonder why should their own government keep the price so high while others are introducing measures to keep the price to the bearable minimum that will not inflict suffering on their citizens.”

The latest adjustment has not readily solved the problem associated with the scarcity of the products as most filling stations are still engulfed with long queues of motorists at almost all selling points. On the other hand, there has been an upsurge of black marketers who with links to major filling stations cornered the products to sell at higher prices for those in need. Some marketers are selling as high as LD1200 per gallon.

The Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, has said that the increment of the prices of gas and fuel oil were necessary to keep the commodities stable for on the market, as disruption was possible given the global world trends underpinned by the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

MICAT called on citizens to understand and appreciate the move which is temporary and will be reviewed and possible reversed depending on international market forces.

The Government warned against anyone intending to profiteer at the expense of the people.

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