Umm Muhammed Umar 11.02.20
Liberia is suffering a massive fuel shortage since late January, and the country’s government is feeling the pressure to keep fuel flowing at petrol pumps.
Careless bookkeeping and poor port infrastructure are being blamed for the long queues at petrol pumps for nearly two weeks now. However, according to an official from the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company, fuel distributors who overstated their reserves are also partly to blame for the shortage. Meanwhile, port and government officials say a port in the capital, Monrovia, has also prevented large fuel tankers from docking for weeks now, due to unusually shallow waters. The National Port Authority has attributed this to the silt and detritus which has accumulated in the port since summer, when heavy rains prevented crews from dredging.
Liberia’s Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh says the shortage has caused an “economic downtrend”, without giving precise figures. He says, “Consumers are spending less on household items as fuel prices rise, and businesses are operating under capacity.”
Liberia suffers recurrent fuel shortages, but the current one has lasted a bizarrely long time. Queues forming before dawn at petrol stations are now routine, and taxi and bus operators have increased their fares due to the scarcity of gasoline. Importers say businesses are losing a huge amount of money chartering several smaller ships, which can enter the port, rather than one freighter.
One resident of Monrovia, 45-year-old Victor Gray, said at 8:00 am at a petrol station, “I have been here since 5:00 am but until now I am yet to receive gasoline.” He added, “I think the kids will miss class today.”
Compounding economic difficulties, fuel shortages mean it’s more difficult to move goods around the country. Anthony Kai, who sells dried goods in the town of Zwedru, said, “My store is empty.”
He said, “Very soon the population will lack basic items.”
Civil servant Emmanuel Gaye said he would not be able to afford his fare to work, which has now doubled, if the fuel shortage lasted another week.
The petrol shortage, meanwhile, is yet another blow to President George Weah, who is under growing pressure to improve living conditions in the country of some 4.8 million people.