About three weeks now Monrovia and other parts of the country have been experiencing shortage of petroleum products, mainly gasoline that more vehicles and other transport devices use.
The situation has been so frustrating that Liberians have had to remain in long queues for hours waiting to receive only a few gallons of gasoline, a situation which adversely affects transport fares that commuters have to pay at the end of the day.
This particular crisis is not the first of its kind to be experienced. It may be recalled that in the immediate past administration there was petroleum shortage due to action by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to regulate their price of petroleum products.
Petroleum products have not been been the only item of shortage in the past, but also another major political commodity, rice. There was a shortage of rice that all warehouses were emptied across the country, and those near bordering towns had to cross over to neighboring countries to purchase rice.
When the petroleum crisis hit the Liberian economy, the government at the time was clear to establish the root cause of the problem, despite the criticisms that politicians used to score points using the ignorant masses.
The current gasoline crisis, in contrast, is handled with false impression by the government. Earlier, Commerce and Industry Minister Professor Wilson Tarpeh held a press conference assuring the public that a huge consignment of gasoline was on the way to the country last weekend.
In fact, Minister Tarpeh during the press conference said the product was enough in the country and was warning that any seller caught escalating gas prices would face grave consequences. In addition to building such high expectations, the Minister disclosed that February has its own consignment to come, which could give anyone the sense that gasoline coming would be in such surplus that the inflated price would drop.
Following the conference, there was restoration in the crisis leading to vanishing of long queues once experienced, and vehicles were fueled to the convenience of drivers without the stressful encounter.
At the beginning of this very week, the public saw a repeat of the distress. On Monday most petroleum stations across Monrovia were short of gasoline and therefore had to shut down. Only a few of TOTAL’s fueling stations were operational, where vehicles and motorbikes spent the night in long queues, leaving the public disappointed after being assured that the week would bring relief to them.
The Managing Director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), Marie Urey-Coleman, is shifting the blame on the inability of large vessels to dock at the port because the port is not dredged to create the space. There is also another excuse from the MOCI that though there is sufficient gas in the country, the two biggest importers are experiencing economic problems.
What remains essential in this situation and any other situation is telling the TRUTH. In Public Relations, PR managers are under moral obligation to tell their audiences the truth about the works of an institution or individual to attract the public’s understanding, acceptance and cooperation.
There is nothing more convincing to the audience of an institution or individual than the truth. Holy Bible says: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
Regardless of what critics may say, there is no damnation in telling the public that there is a shortage of gasoline in the country and the government is strategizing to bring the situation to normalcy. Even if the problem rests with dredging of the Freeport, there would have been no problem informing the public that we will experience shortage of gasoline until the port is dredged to allow large vessels with petroleum products to dock.
At this point, it might be somewhat elementary for us to question whether or not the authorities of the Commerce Ministry and the LPRC have lost their scruples for truth-telling. The bigger question here is, what is there so much going on in LPRC storage facilities that neither the LPRC’s nor the Commerce Ministry’s statements seem to make sense, prompting the House of Representatives to set up 21 lawmakers to probe the veracity of said statements?
Lying to your public in Public Relations is totally disallowed because the danger of mistrust in your public for you is long lasting and stigmatizing. We at the Daily Observer urge the officials to come out with the truth and convince the public to believe in the government. By that, the fruits of trust, understanding, acceptance, and cooperation will come to the government followed by loyalty. Let us, therefore, treat crisis with truth and avoid false impression.