Thursday, July 27, 2006

[Liberia] Poverty Bites Rural Dwellers

from All Africa

The Analyst (Monrovia)

Mensiegar Karnga, Jr.

Liberians living in the rural parts of the country have anticipated a tremendous improvement in their living standards following the election of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as Liberia 23rd President and Africa First Female Head of State which by all indications enjoys the supports and blessing of the international community.

Despite the numerous supports and recognitions to the Sirleaf led Government by the International Community especially the country traditional friend, the United States of America, some Liberians living in the rural parts of the country according to reports are finding it increasingly difficult to carry on their economic activities due to poverty since the election of Madam Sirleaf some six months ago, the over all national economy remains fragile.

Some of the residents from eight of the country 15 sub-political divisions who have come to the Nation Capital to celebrate the Independence Day told The Analyst that rural Liberia is experiencing what is known as hyper-inflation because prices of much needed commodities, especially rice, are out of control.

Petroleum products and educational materials have become luxury for many rural Liberians who cannot see their way out of the mess despite their best efforts to cope with the crisis.

Some rural residents are beginning to believe that the Unity Party-led government has neglected them because they do not have easy access to President Sirleaf and her government. They therefore do not know when in fact any policy will be put into motion for alleviating their current situation.

Residents of Lofa, Grand Gedeh, Nimba, Maryland, Gbarpolu Counties see no evidence of government intervention in the steady rise in prices for much needed communities, especially rice, their staple food. Imported rice costs between L$1,800 - L$2,000 per one-hundred-pound bag, while gasoline is sold at about L$300.

One rural dweller added that on top of that the sanctions on Liberian diamonds was in name only because he believes that though the sanctions are hurting Liberia, Liberian diamonds continued to reach the world market illegally.

Some rural dwellers are wondering when the government security services will make their presence known in some of the rural counties where there is complete lack of any influence by the local law-enforcement authorities regarding the rule of law.

They named Gbarpolu, Lofa, Grand Kru, River Gee, and Rivercess Counties as some of the areas in which the government cannot claim that it has any control.

The rural dwellers criticized the government's first policy of right-sizing which has made many Liberians jobless. They said that unemployment and isolation create frustration which sometimes leads to criminal activities in the areas in which government never had much law-enforcing presence to begin with.

The rural residents said that some foreign businesspeople were setting their own prices in the hope of getting as much money as they could while they could because they fear that the situation can turn violent any moment.

Some of the examples given included the Lone Star Cell Communications Corporation which, according to some, is selling its US$5 scratch card in Voinjama for US$6 or US$7. They cannot see the justification for such increase in the price for a community that takes up almost no space in terms of moving it from place to place.

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