Where are the price monitors?
Recently, the government of Sierra Leone, through the Ministry of Information and Communication announced that in the face of the astronomical increase in prices of essential commodities, some reduction in tariffs has been made at the port of entry, specifically at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay, otherwise known as Deep Water quay.
The rationale for the reduction in levies was to effect a corresponding reduction in the prices of basic goods and services which were going beyond the reach of ordinary consumers.
We were further informed that a monitoring team has been put in place to monitor market prices of essential items, especially those on foodstuffs.
What was not made clear, however, was the actual mandate of the monitors.
Some years back there were Trade Inspectors in the Ministry of Trade. They were deployed in every district of Sierra Leone. They were employed to ensure that traders did not engage in profiteering or hoarding of much needed goods as that would affect prices of these commodities.
Today, none of these inspectors exist in the trade ministry. If they do exist they are only there in name.
That is why many Sierra Leoneans welcome the initiative when the Ministry of Information announced the setting up of a commission to ensure that prices are not unnecessarily increased to disadvantaged the poor.
It is close to a month since the information minister made the disclosure. However, we are yet to see any tangible progress in the monitoring exercise.
Instead what obtains at present is the skyrocketing of essential commodities on daily basis. This is especially the case with certain imported goods such as rice and other locally produced food items such as palm oil.
Why the erratic increase in prices? This is the one million dollar question confronting ordinary consumers.
It is difficult to understand why prices of these items change by the day, giving the fact that government has put some measures in place to reduce tariffs on certain imported goods.
The price of imported rice, for instance, which is this country’s staple diet, continues to jump from one price tag to another. The same is said of our local food stuffs. And nobody seems to care.
The manner in which prices escalate has confounded even the most enduring consumer.
Where is the commission set up to monitor these prices? Has the commission been set up in the first place? These are questions the trade ministry should provide answers to.
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