2023 promises to be a tough year for many Cameroonians, as the possibility of rise in petroleum-related products becomes more inevitable by the day.
The petroleum shortage and resulting price hikes that struck major cities in the country in mid-2022 were but a foretaste of what is yet to come.
“Ensuring a steady supply of petroleum products and cooking gas to the domestic market warranted increasing the volume of public subsidies, through substantial budgetary efforts. In 2022 for instance, the Treasury subsidised fuel and cooking gas to the tune of nearly 700 billion and 75 billion FCFA francs respectively,” President Paul Biya explained in his end of year address, December 31, 2022.
In July 2022, Water and Energy Minister, Gaston Eloundou Essomba said fuel subsidies for the first half of 2022 had hit a mark of 317 billion FCFA. The president, he furthered, approved the mobilisation of financial resources to continue the subsidisation process.
This led to the unloading of large quantities of petroleum-related products to ease the situation and provide relief to many.
“Considering the intensity of the exogenous shocks and their impact on our economy, I instructed the government to consider all options to stabilize prices at their current level, and to maintain the purchasing power of consumer,” the Head of State confirmed in his end of year address.
But even this move, cannot keep reality away for ever, President Biya admitted. “… It is becoming increasingly clear that Cameroon, like many other countries in Africa and elsewhere,” he stated, “will not be able to indefinitely avert a petroleum products price adjustment if we must preserve our fiscal balances and successfully continue implementing our development policy”.
He went on to enumerate a series of projects realised in the energy sector, and more planned for the year ahead. Efforts to scale up energy supply quality and quantity, he promised, “will be intensified through the construction of new energy infrastructure and solar energy development…”
The shortage of petroleum-related products is not a new phenomenon in Cameroon. It was recorded since April 2020 in Yaoundé, and then spread to other towns as government deployed efforts to cushion the shocks. It blamed the challenge as well as shortage of other products such as wheat, on the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
In 2022, government used the same conflict as well as the Covid-19 pandemic to justify product shortages which in turn drove up prices of consumer goods, sparking widespread discontent.
In June, Trade Minister, Luc Magloire Mbarga Antangana issued two decrees urging producers, importers and wholesalers of certain items to declare their prices at the Ministry before sale. He also reminded stakeholders that price increases for some items can only be agreed upon after interactions with public authorities and traders.
Yet, the reality in the markets remains harsh, and even multiple field visits by the Trade Minister and his team to the markets have hardly been able to change much. Products such as cooking gas, vegetable oil, fuel, eggs, seasoning cubes, kerosene, and even granulated cassava locally referred to as garri, are often sold at prices distant from their official figures.
Poise News Desk