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As cost of basic goods soar

As cost of basic goods soar

Sierra Leoneans urge Govt to buckle up

The people of Sierra Leone have urged the SLPP government to pay attention to the uncontrolled escalation of prices of basic commodities in the country.

Higher food prices are hurting the poor greatly. A visit made by this medium to the market at Masiaka, 47 miles from Freetown to check out the prices of some basic essential foodstuffs, reveals astonishing information. It was discovered that those living or depending on less than Le20,000 are the greatest victims of the escalation of prices on essential commodities.

A pint of vegetable oil was sold at Le 6,000 palm oil was sold at Le2,500. Fish was sold at anything between Le5,000 for 4 tiny ones and as much as Le10,000 for a quantity that would suffice for a meal a day for a small family. Quality rice was sold at Le2,000 per cup; whilst a cup of pepper was sold at Le4,000. If charcoal, Maggi, onions, and all the other condiments needed to put together a nutritious square meal for a family of five are added, people in Masiaka would need at least Le30,000 to have a decent meal a day. It means an additional Le10,000 would be needed, a situation that would be very difficult for Masiaka residents living on less than Le20,000 a day.

No one knows with certainty how to get the world out of its present economic muddle, centering on high unemployment, economic stagnation, and mounting debts for many of the world’s poorer lands. The unemployment rate in Sierra Leone is estimated at about 60 percent of the adult working population. This means there is a sizeable chunk of the population that continues to live hand to mouth.

The bread and butter problems of having food on the table, able to seek affordable medical care, able to send children to school, living in decent accommodation, have everything to do with being gainfully employed. Only by expanding the economy to create thousands of new jobs annually in the areas of agriculture, construction, industry and international trade, would solve the problem. The main problem that we have is that we import nearly everything that we consume. This naturally exacerbates the foreign exchange crisis leading to inflation and ever-rising prices of basic commodities. Disturbingly, even local food items we produce in Sierra Leone are not inexpensive.

In Western Europe the role of foreign trade is central. Twenty-five percent of the gross domestic product GDP of common market nations derives from foreign trade, ranging from 18 percent in France to 52 percent in Ireland. Even the United States is dependent on the flow of goods and services between Americans and peoples overseas. However, these advanced nations make sure basic food items are relatively cheap for their citizens in line with wages, unlike Sierra Leone.

In fact, the deepening deficit in Sierra Leone’s trade has been by far the biggest factor pushing the economy into recession. Weakness in international trade greatly hampers any economic build-up in the country. Borrowing to pay for imports, borrowing to buy oil, spare parts and food items, has caused the country to fall deeper into debt and paying high-interest rates to countries that they borrow from to cover recurrent budget deficits.

Back in the 1960s after independence, the Bank of Sierra Leone records shows that when Sierra Leone was a principal international trading nation (coffee, cocoa, piassava oil palm, palm kernels, gold, iron ore, bauxite, and so on), the currency was strong.

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