Every now and then, for laughs, I quickly browse the website of the Republic of Congo’s semi-official pro-government newspaper, les Depeches de Brazzaville. Its publisher, the french political consultant Jean-Paul Pigasse writes those hilarious editorials ranting about neo-colonialism and french arrogant involvement everytime there’s a negative mention of his boss in the french media.
So while looking for my funny irony fix, I stumbled upon something even weirder. This article (in french), beautifully titled “Minister Criticizes Cement Price”, discusses the speech Minister of Industrial Development and the Promotion of the Private Sector Emile Mabonzo gave at the official annual ceremony its ministry (and others) organizes to exchange new year wishes or something (i have a really hard time translating the concept, but yeah it’s stupid and wasteful and pointless and stupid). He apparently attacked cement traders and retailers for charging high prices in Brazzaville and in rural areas, particularly the enclaved North. Current prices apparently (loosely transpated quote) “don’t guarantee peace and social egality those populations are entitled too” and traders were encouraged to “provide cement to Brazzaville, be fair and equitable, ask the right price for cement, show solidarity with your countrymen“.
What’s really interesting is that in Congo-Brazzaville, cement production and importation is a (semi-private) monopoly and so is transport to Brazzaville. The northern rural areas are dependant on air transport from Brazzaville and some recent decisions didn’t really help reduce transport costs.
And guess what ? Our smart minister says “huge parts of the nation’s industry has suffered and keeps suffering from CFCO’s (the railroad) troubles. The slow delivery of cement to the cities helps a frightenning and shameful speculation on a basic product” and adds “our production has been limited to 40% of its capacity due to a lack of fluidity between input importation and production areas, cement production areas and cement sale areas.“.
Now let’s get it right. Because of “difficulties” in the government-owned and managed railroad, production of cement is low. Delivery to main cities is irregular for the same reason. On top of that, non-existence of roads and railways makes more expensive air transport the only choice in some parts of the country. But then air transport itself gets irregular because of recent policies. That’s without mentionning the fact that the option of importing cement through other sources is made impossible. And with all that, our dear minister blames traders and their shameful and terrifying speculation for rising prices ?
See, that’s why the talk about corruption and swiss bank accounts and missing oil money bores me to death. Incompetence and ignorance of basic economic concepts is a much, much better explanation.