The Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), backed by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, has reduced once again the pump price of petroleum on the local market. This reduction means that motorists and owners of generators are paying 25 cents less for gasoline and diesel at the pump.
The wholesale price of gasoline is now US$3.63, or US$3.81 at the pump, while the wholesale price of diesel is US$3.68, and US$3.86.
Our Business Reporter David Yates reports that this is the third time within a month these two critical government institutions have agreed to a reduction in the prices of petroleum products. They did not have to do it because not too many people were complaining. So despite the decline in world prices of petroleum products, LPRC and Commerce could have continued to stack up greater profits, enhancing the financial viability of the petroleum company.
In keeping prices high, LPRC could have argued that it needs the money because of the many contributions it is making to the Ebola fight. It could have said, moreover, that additional revenues were needed to improve facilities at their Bushrod Island site and later to build their new headquarters.
But instead LPRC, with the backing of the Commerce Ministry, decided to go ahead and take action where it really matters now—reducing the price of petroleum to ease the severe pain afflicting the Liberian people and nation during this Ebola crisis, when business is down, the economy has drastically slowed, resulting in scarcity of commodities and, consequently, higher prices.
The only problem right now is that the public has not seen a corresponding reduction in the cost of transportation. The owners and operators of public transport—taxies, buses and motorcycles—have refused to reduce their prices but have, instead, increased their fares across the board.
An LD60 ride in Monrovia or Paynesville has been increased to LD80, sometimes LD100; while the round trip fare to Kakata is now LD250, up from LD150; and to Gbarnga LD900, an increase of LD300. The fare to Ganta is now LD1,300, up from LD1000; while it now costs LD2,700 to travel one way to Voinjama, whereas before Ebola it was LD1,700. The price of transportation to Buchanan, Grand Bassa County is now almost double, from LD300 to LD550, sometimes LD600.
The taxi drivers are arguing that before the Ebola outbreak, they could take as many as four persons in the back seat; but under the current Ebola prevention measures, only three persons are allowed, in order to avoid touching. The taxi drivers say they have to increase the price per passenger to “make up the loss of the fare for one seat.”
We believe the Ministries of Commerce and Transport should get together and deal with this problem of increased fares when the cost of petroleum products, thanks to LPRC Managing Director T. Nelson Williams and Commerce Minister Axel Addy, is going down. They need to do the math to determine whether the transport owners and operators’ price hike is justifiable, or what can be done to reduce the hardship on the commuting masses.