Liberians frustrated by crippling fuel shortage

Liberians frustrated by crippling fuel shortage
10/02 – 12:57
Liberia1024x538_1015565 (1)
Liberia’s government is struggling to keep the fuel flowing at petrol pumps, as sloppy bookkeeping and poor port infrastructure have caused long queues at petrol pumps for nearly two weeks.

Incorrect fuel-reserve figures in the impoverished West African country partly led to the shortage, which has dragged on since late January, an industry official said.

But an undredged port in the capital Monrovia has also prevented large fuel tankers from docking, according to port and government officials.

I don’t think this is an existential crisis, just a screw-up.

Liberia’s Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh told AFP the shortage has caused an “economic downtrend”, without giving precise figures.

Consumers are spending less on household items as fuel prices rise, he said, and businesses are operating under capacity.

Frustrated Liberians
Liberia suffers frequent fuel shortages, but the current one has lasted an unusually long time. Queues forming before dawn at petrol stations are now commonplace, and scarcity has forced taxis and buses to hike fares.

“I have been here since 5:00 am but until now I am yet to receive gasoline,” said Victor Gray, 45, at a Monrovia petrol station at 8:00 am this week.

“I think the kids will miss class today,” he added, exhausted after he and his children slept in the car.

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Compounding economic difficulties, fuel scarcity means it is harder to move goods around the country.

“My store is empty,” said Anthony Kai, who sells dried goods in the town of Zwedru, some 550 kilometres (350 miles) east of Monrovia.

“Very soon the population will lack the necessary things they need,” he added.

Civil servant Emmanuel Gaye said he would not be able to afford his fare to work if the fuel shortage lasts another week, since it has doubled.

“We can’t continue like this,” said Solomon Fayah, a driver, sitting in a fuel queue in Monrovia.

Causes of shortages
Fuel distributors which overstated their reserves are also partly to blame for the shortage, according to an official from the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Company (LPRC) who requested anonymity.

The LPRC is a state-owned company charged with ensuring a consistent oil supply.

The greater problem, officials say, is that large petrol tankers have been unable to dock in the port of Monrovia for weeks because of unusually shallow waters.

Silt and detritus have accumulated in the port since summer, when heavy rains prevented crews from dredging, said the managing director of the National Port Authority, Bill Tweahway.

Ships with a draft of more than 10 metres (33 feet) can no longer enter the port, Tweahway said, although smaller ones can still dock, which has averted a crisis.

Way forward
The shortage is another blow to President George Weah, who is under increasing pressure to improve living conditions in the country of some 4.8 million people.

He inherited an economy already devastated by back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003, and by the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak.

Inflation is now running at about 30 percent, according to the World Bank, which has incited anger and protests.

The government said it would start dredging, after which ships with a draft of over 13 metres would be able to dock.

Liberia is also expanding the port so that more than one vessel can dock at a time, Weah’s office told AFP, pointing to the port as the main cause of the fuel shortage.

An importer who declined to be named said that businesses are losing “a huge amount of money” chartering several smaller ships rather than one freighter.

But a foreign official in Monrovia, who declined to be named, said the smaller ships meant that some petrol was still arriving.

“I don’t think this is an existential crisis, just a screw-up,” he said.

SUGGESTED READING: Liberia to revive petroleum exploration efforts in April 2020
AFP

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Rigor, aptitude: Why 80% Liberian women failed military entry exams
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
6 hours ago
Liberia
The twin factors of rigor and aptitude worked against about 80% of female candidates who applied to join Liberia’s military, the BBC corespondent in the West African country has reported.

For a group, their physical fitness was where they failed. In spelling out some requirements for a would-be recruit, army chief of staff, Maj Gen Prince C Johnson, said he / she must: “meet certain [a] number of push-ups, sit-ups and to be able run like two miles.”

Army officials said whiles the predominantly urban group missed out because they were physically unfit, those in the rural areas who did well with the fitness part were disadvantaged with aptitude tests.

Women in rural places achieved high scores when it came to physical fitness, but when it comes to the aptitude tests they did not do as well as those in urban areas, the army chief added.

“I am not degrading any region, but this is what our survey has proven,” the general said. The minimum academic qualification for a recruit should be high school education.

The army had decided to do pre-recruitment training for women wanting to join the army. After the women had passed a medical they would undergo what sounds like a boot camp, the BBC report added.

The army chief of staff said: “We will take four weeks to prepare you.”

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