Liberia News: Rice ‘Ghost’ Hunts Boakai

-As His Administration Struggles To Control Rice Importers

Monrovia-May-23-TNR:President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and his government are currently having uneasy calm in finding suitable remedy to the state of affairs surrounding rice importers’ incessant determination to increase the already inflated price of rice on the market.

The issue of rice regarded as Liberia’s staple food is equated by many to ‘storm in the teacup’ situation, as governments after government largely struggled in vain to stitch a lasting solution.

And President Boakai appears to be having sleepless hours trying to figure out a perfect way out of this national imbroglio, which many believe largely runs extremely contrary to his agenda of redefining a country so beleaguered as a result of different social, political and economic mishaps.

Efforts by the former administrations

Many political analysts past and present believed that the nightmare that befell the country for fourteen years is backgrounded in the events of 1979 when Liberians violently went amok against the Tolbert government’s plan to increase the price of rice.

Since the 1979 violence, the Tolbert government did not see any sanity of semblance of peace, as it was eventually ousted a year later by 17-enlisted but bucolic men of the Armed Forces of Liberia, who accordingly blamed their action on ‘rampant corruption.’

Since the terrible event, the nation continues to wallop in terrible political turbulences, with little or no solution in sight. Rice Importers are noted for stirring tensions, many indicated, by hording rice to create artificial shortage of the commodity on the market or by trying to increase the price often citing political or economic global trends.

Before former Presidents George Weah and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s rice crises escalated beyond control and caused serious eruptions in the national body-politics over attempts by rice Importer to control the narratives against the governments’ agenda.

Former President George Manneh Weah, Liberia’s most popular politician ever, stood firm against all odds to keep the price of rice under control, and to make it affordable.

Under Weah, the nation engulfed in tension when importers caused artificial shortage in order to bring the government into submission to their demands of increasing the price of rice.

Unsuspected Liberians, for what many termed political reasons, bought into the situation and scolded the Weah government of lacking expertise to govern.

Then President Weah, in order to avert any untenable situation, took different but painstaking administrative actions aimed at ensuring that rice price does not become Liberia’s ‘wall of Jericho’.

Among actions taken by the former President included the subsidization of importation of rice (giving rice importers financial resources) to keep the price steady, and secondly by suspending tariffs on rice through Executive Orders.

President Weah, for example, in May of 2021 suspended import tariff on rice following concerns by rice importers of looming increase of export tax by rice producing countries as a consequence of the war between Russia and Ukraine as well as potential risk to shipping agencies.

Executive Order #105 followed the expiration of EO#98 which was intended to ensure that the price of rice was not increase to heighten the burdens faced by the Liberian people.

According to the former President, there was increasing need for what he called “exigent measures to realize the desired objectives of abating the economic hardship on the people of Liberia.”

President Boakai not different from Weah

The same situation faced by the Weah administration is beginning to gaze at President Boakai, who came to right the wrong, as Rice importers are digging in the heels to increase the already exorbitant price of rice.

Just as his predecessors, President Boakai has taken action to stamp his authority on the rice situation, evidenced by the issuance of Executive Order which suspended tariff on rice importation.

As if this state-saving does not go too far in ameliorating Liberia’s rice crises, Rice Importers have been globetrotting different trajectories, finding justifiable means to satisfy their desire of increasing the price of the commodity.

Commerce Minister Ami Modad who faced the Liberian Senate sometimes in February amid reports of looming increment of Rice Price, recently announced that the government had consented in principle to increase the price of rice from US$16.50 to US$18.50.

However, President Boakai aware of the burdens on the shoulders of Liberians, has denounced any attempts by Importers to increase price of rice.

The Liberian leader is quoted as telling rice importers dominated by Lebanese merchants during a meeting on Tuesday that his government would not belly an attempt to increase the price of rice.

The president’s stance comes against in the wake of importers’ increasing opting to up the price of the commodity from US$16.00 to US$20.00 for 25kg, a demand the Minister said the government had no option to accept.

Political analysts are of the conviction that President Boakai is facing same situation not different from what those he succeeded went through as to who controls the narratives when it comes the price of rice in Liberia.

“Past governments endured similar upheaval, and so President Boakai needs to understand that this is not a new development in Liberia,” a political expert who did not want to be named told this paper recently.

He said Liberia’s problems, from times past, the issue of rice has been the most dominant, adding “even President Boakai, the next administration will swim the same water.”

“The Rice Importers are the problem because they want to have their will, they want to maximize profit at the detriment of the nation. And this is a ghost that has for long hunted past leaders,” he stressed.

Here in Monrovia, rice is being sold at different prices, and many believe it is a trend that needs to be curtailed.

 

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