by Mahmud Tim Kargbo
12 September, 2021
Since independence, commodity trading in the country has primarily been in the hands of a cartel by which successive governments have failed to enact policies to disempower or eradicate this cartel. In countries with the absence of these exploitative cartels, prices are determined by demand and supply, but for Sierra Leone, this is not the case. The primary determinant of commodity prices in Sierra Leone is based on this cartel in which their fundamental interest is profit maximisation with no interest in sustaining or contributing towards the government agenda. Despite the general consensus of there being an increase in commodity prices in the global market, it doesn’t warrant the continuous general increase in prices in Sierra Leone. The reason being, government incentives in the importation of some of these commodities already neutralise the impact of the increase in the global commodity prices. Therefore the blame for this continuous increase in the commodity prices in Sierra Leone should be squarely cast on this well-established commodity importers cartel.
For instance, with the current government policies in which a 0.5% none ECOWAS tax and 5% withholding tax is paid on the price of imported rice per metric ton, this serves as an insignificant figure to the total cost of a bag of rice. However, importers that formed this well established exploitative cartel keep inflating commodity prices in Sierra Leone under the pretext of an increase in global commodity prices. Thereby creating unnecessary tensions between the line Ministries, Government and the general public.
In order to avert this persistent domineering by this well-established cartel, government policies should enhance the liberalisation of such commodity trading by creating patriotic indigenous Sierra Leoneans who will take the lead to help cushion commodity prices in order to achieve the government “bread and butter” objective. The negative impact of this cartel in undermining government policies to promote their selfish agenda shouldn’t be overlooked as they go beyond to destroy potential institutions and businesses that may want to stand their way.
The truth of the matter is members of this well exploitative cartel in Sierra Leone understand that a rise in commodity prices have a negative effect on all people regardless of their status. However, they are fully aware that the most affected are the poor and unemployed because they form the majority of the suffering population in the country and they are unable to afford the basic necessities. In addition, the rise in commodity prices makes it difficult for households with little or no income to mobilise savings. The essence of these commodities price increase by this well-established cartel is to target the poor people who form the bulk of the country’s population and are prone to blackmailing tactics for regime change
Members of the commodities importers exploitative cartel in Sierra Leone understand that price increase in rice, meat, bread, sugar, tea, oil, salt, flour and other staples, forces the poor to economise on the quantity and quality of their meals. With these foods increase in price in the country, poor households who are in the majority continue to suffer because most are net buyers of food and are easy to buy any blackmailing tactics for regime change. Increase food insecurity and malnutrition has resulted in tragic implications in the short and long terms, particularly among children, the aged and other vulnerable members of society. In this case, the most adversely affected are the chronically urban and rural poor and female-headed households.
These well exploitative commodity importers cartel recognise their negative actions to increase commodity prices continue to affect the ability of poor households to meet other important none food expenses, such as education and health care; and they are limited by current rising food prices in the country. The negative actions of the commodity importers cartel continue to make it extremely difficult for the current government to meet its social contract with the people, especially in the area of providing “bread and butter” for all nationals.