Everyone is complaining about the cost of living in Sierra Leone. Radios and television broadcasts are leading the way in discussing the galloping prices 😈 of goods and services in Sierra Leone and what can be done about it.
This is happening everywhere across the globe, 😥 after all, food prices have contributed a great deal to the instability in the Middle East and led to the overthrow of 2 governments in Africa. In England, just yesterday, it was announced, inflation has hit 4%. Truly 4% is child’s play compared to the sort of figures experienced by ordinary day to day person living in Africa. All though, most governments will not admit it, I’m sure we are experiencing something like 20% or more. For instance a sliced loaf of bread was about Le 6000 less than a year ago. Today it’s Le10,000 ❗
Reasons Why Africa/Sierra Leone Is Worst Hit
Some of the reasons why, Africa and therefore Sierra Leone is worst hit is
We import most of our stuff. Thankfully with the encouragement from the government, agriculture is beginning to become more prevalent here. The war devastated agriculture in Sierra Leone and most of the people in provinces that engaged in small subsistence farming are now in Freetown. I know that tractors and other agricultural tools are being offered to farmers to help mechanize farming.
Just yesterday, I heard the government is banning export of locally made rice. Exports of fish is already banned but as to whether is being adhered to is a different matter. Most of the premium fish caught –such as barracuda – are exported ( at least previously) because apparently most people can’t afford it. So in the market you only find snappers and other inferior fish. Tip: You want to eat premium fish in Sierra Leone? Go to the beach to buy it not the market. That way you get it fresh and cheap 😆
The Leone has depreciated badly over the time we’ve been here. At the time of writing this, the pound sterling can now buy you Le7000 or thereabouts and the US Dollar can get you Le4,450. The slide of the Leone got much worse especially from summer 2009 and it’s not stopped going down. Meaning if you saved Le1000 just about 2 months ago, it’s worth only about Le 980 or thereabouts. Not good. We have to keep our money in dollars? That’s seems sensible to me. but that leaves our currency even more worth –LESS ❗
Now when I say greedy merchants, it’s an understatement. Business people especially retailers – and these day wholesalers too – take any opportunity to increase price. You can find something Le10,000 today, next week it will be 12 or even 15,000. Foodstuff should not be affected by GST yet the prices are up. When you question, some of the answers given are: GST, the Guinea borders are closed, petrol prices have gone up, the dollar is high, the pound is high, import tax and a myriad of others…
Lack Of Competition
This for me is one of the saddest scenarios played out in Sierra Leone. There are certain commonly used items that you’ll find only one person producing or more commonly importing and they have been doing it for years in a sense controlling that part of the economy. Today, if they want more money for some venture, they just increase their wholesale price etc and everyone else suffers. This is bad for any country.
It’s not for nothing that Europe & America has monopoly laws and the likes of Microsoft get fined too for breaching them. Monopoly is understandable when you are the actual manufacturer but its WORSE 😡 when you are just an importer ❗ If another business person have got the means they should be allowed, no even encouraged to import the same item if not better. That way the prices will be knocked down a bit.
Lack Of Regulation
I don’t know if there are any consumer bodies but even if there are their voice is weak or perhaps they may be dumb. Quite frankly, there’s no regulation in this area of pricing. All I hear is some lone minister somewhere chastising traders for increased prices once or twice a week and promise to send scouts into the market to monitor the situation. That’s too little, but still not late. Something more decisive should be done.
Perhaps the government should start by empowering consumers, introducing competition and seeing to the currency devaluation issues…