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|DANGER HANGS OVER LIBERIA AGAIN!!-Rice Importers, Others Alarm |
|Published on August 31, 2006||Email To Friend Print Version
By: D. K. Sengbeh
Panelists and participants at the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) organized one-day public interactive rice forum have condemned government’s new policy on the importation of rice in the country.
The panelists said unless the Liberian government open the rice market and promote competition in the business, there would be “serious problem” in the country. They said the Commerce Ministry’s new policy of restricting and introducing bidding into the rice importation business was not in the interest of the country’s post war economy as it is a direct replica of the past.
Making a presentation at the forum yesterday, former Foreign Minister and long time political activist, G. Baccus Matthews said he was shock over the government’s new policy.
Mr. Matthew an architect of the 1979 rice demonstration, known as the “Rice Riot or April 14” said thought he had done an investigation on several manipulations in the rice business in the country leading to losses on the part of government, nothing has been done to remedy the situation.
Mr. Matthews alleged that he did a communication to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about his findings, but no heed was given, despite assurance from the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Nathaniel Innis.
The renowned political activist indicated that he was shock to note that the only importer his investigation proved to be free from manipulation, Bridgeway Corporation owned by George Haddad, is the one that has been targeted.
He said government’s new order on the importation of rice must not target certain individuals, making reference to George Haddad, noting that though he was not a spokesman for Bridgeway, he sees no justification to exclude the corporation from the importation of rice.
Also speaking, the Administrative Manager of the K & K Corporation, one of the prime importers of rice in the country, denounced any form of monopoly or negative restriction on rice importation in the country.
Mr. V. Banna said it was necessary for the rice market to remain open and warned that monopolizing the market would create a serious problem for the consuming public, the importers, dealers and the government.
Mr. Banna indicated that monopolizing the rice market would certainly hike the price of rice and makes the commodity unaffordable for the Liberian people. He said the Commerce Ministry needed to explain its new policy something he said was unfair and would discourage importers and investors.
Meanwhile, K & K has disclosed that it never participated in any bidding process and was shock to hear from the Commerce Ministry that the company has won a bidding process.
The Commerce Ministry recently said K & K and a foriegn OLAM have won bids to import rice in the country and halted Bridgeway from doing same.
The Secretary General of the Rice Dealers Association (RIDA) Moittlay Fofana said monopoly or oligopoly in the past caused serious problems for Liberians and reintroducing such is dangerous.
He said RIDA opposes the Commerce Ministry’s alleged bidding exercise which may have been done in secret thereby violating the process of transparency. He said the best way forward was for government to set a minimum price for anyone who has the capability to import rice.
The forum was boycotted by all invited government officials from the Legislature and the Commerce Ministry to the disgust of participants.