The Committee on Finance and Trade and Industry on Tuesday 28th August, 2018 engaged the Ministry of Trade and Industry on the reduction of prices of basic commodities.
It follows trends in the capital Freetown and across the country as prices of basic commodities skyrocketed in the events of the past few month predicated by the dollar hike.
Traders have blamed the appreciation of the United States dollar currency over the Leones having so much impact on the health of the country’s economy. In trying to understand the forces behind the market cost rising, the Sierra Leonean parliament demanded to know from the minister Peter Bayuku Konteh and his team.
Chairperson of the Committee, Hon. Veronica K. Sesay said their engagement with the Trade and Industry Ministry is based on the desperation of the public to know the reasons behind the astronomical increase in the prices of basic commodities and the high foreign exchange rate against the local currency, Leone.
Mr. Konteh explained that the recent hike is caused by the depreciation of the Leone against foreign currencies like the United States Dollar. On that note, he said some business people are taking advantage of the current situation to increase prices of goods and services. The minister also mentioned the heavy rate of import factor more than the country’s exports, thus leading to poor international trade balance.
The Trade Minister emphasized that the vision of President Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio is to diversify the economy by prioritizing the development of diverse economic sectors like tourism, agriculture and the fisheries industry.
Mr. Konteh acknowledged the concerns of the committee members with regards the increase in the prices of basic commodities and outlined the various strides the Ministry has taken to salvage the situation, including the empowering of trade monitoring teams to monitor the prices of essential commodities like rice and other food stuffs on the market.
He disclosed that the Trade Ministry is also planning to diversify fuel storage in different parts of the country, including district headquarters.
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Rev. Abraham James Sesay-Jones confirmed to the committee that government has increased the demurrage period of imported goods from three to five working days, adding that the Ministry is effectively monitoring the reduction of prices of commodities like flour and beverages which taxes have been reduced under the ‘New Direction’ agenda.
Members of the two committees however advised the Trade Ministry to continue monitoring the reduction of prices of basic commodities which taxes have been reduced by the Bio administration. They also admonished the Ministry to discourage the black-marketing of the Dollar and encourage more investments into the economy.
The Chairman of the Finance Committee in Parliament, Hon. Francis Amara Kaisamba, advised the Ministry to double its efforts in tackling the problem of price increase and promised that the two committees would work with the Ministry to actualize the objectives of the ‘New Direction’ agenda.