We Are Cautiously Watching

We view with caution the recent pronouncement by the government of the setting up of a rice committee to ensure the stability of the country’s mainstay on the Liberian market.

The committee is charged with the responsibility, to among other things, formulate policy to ensure the constant and steady supply of rice in the country; develop strategies for accelerated local  production and import substitution, ensure Liberians participation in the importation of rice; formulate policy for the effective reactivation and management of the Rice Stabilization Fund and the creation of a data base of rice, including price comparison of major rice-producing countries and grades of rice.

The pronouncement followed bold steps taken by the Liberian government to suspend a planned hike in the price of the commodity to ensure its constant supply on the market at an affordable price.

Recently, this paper reported that the Ministry of Commerce announced that it had agreed to a request from rice importers in the country to increase the price of a specific brand of rice, something which sparked mixed reactions from Liberians.

Like we said earlier, we are cautiously watching to see whether the Rice Committee will achieve its objectives because we have seen many committees set up by successive governments to achieve specific goals in the best interest of the country but to no avail which lend credence to an adage that a committee is a group of the unable, set up by the unwilling to do the unnecessary.

We hasten to remind this government that the April 14, 1979 Rice Riot was prompted by a hike in the price of the commodity by the erstwhile Tolbert regime which led to a mass demonstration leading to scores of death and injuries. The government sensing the gravity of the situation set up several committees, including a rice committee, to find out the root cause of the problems in country and come out with recommendations on the best way forward in the supreme interest of the country, but nothing was achieved up to the time of the bloody 1980 Coup that overthrew the Tolbert regime.

In view of the above, we are calling on the rice committee and by extension the government to take cue from these past experiences by first addressing the root of root volatility by coming up with the right strategies that would ensure the affordability and availability of the commodity on the market.

In one of our previous editions we called on the government to invest in short and long-term programs that will ensure socio-economic stability in the country. Such programs should consider increasing local rice production that will in the long run stop rice importation and discourage dependency.

Additionally, more Liberians should be empowered to import rice into the country as part of short-term programs because most of the rice importers are foreigners who are only interested in making profits even at the detriment of the country and its people.

Having said that, we again are cautiously watching to   see how the rice committee will set out to achieve its goals and objectives to ensure rice stability in the country.  

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