Illegal Exports : Tackle The Economic Destroyer Head-on!

Startling revelations that some of the products in which government spends so much of tax-payers money to subsidise their incessant imports are re-exported upon arrival in the country by unscrupulous individuals are, to say the least, quite upsetting. How subsidised high-consumer goods shipped into the country to help the population stand the test of time take the direction of neighbouring countries where they reportedly sell higher remains unimaginable. In effect, recent difficulties in the supply of diesel oil product in the country has unveiled a practice which has certainly been quietly going on for long, draining huge but scarce liquidity from the State coffers into the private wallets of perpetrators.  So sad that a country that exports mostly raw materials and imports finished goods at near cut-throat rates would see some of the subsidised imports trafficked into neighbouring countries for personal gain. A shocking practice that greatly undermines government’s efforts to improve the standards of living of the population and a considerable ruin to the national economy!
Going by a release of the Minister of Water Resources and Energy following dysfunctions in the supply chain of the local market with diesel oil,  the international situation; marked by soaring prices and the scarcity of petroleum products are to blame. But beyond the seemingly complex global situation that is affecting even the least person in Cameroon, like in most countries that depend largely on imports, lies shady businesses.  A note sent to Regional Governors by Water Resources and Energy Minister in which he specifies the conditions for exporting petroleum products raises eyebrows. “Petroleum products intended for consumption on the domestic market are resold in cans and other non-regulatory containers for destinations outside the national territory," partly reads the Minister’s note.
It is even reported that on April 22, 2022, elements of the Cameroonian customs intercepted a tanker carrying 36,000 litres of contraband fuel in Limbe, bound for a border country. This shows that several of such tankers have been crossing with impunity and will continue if strong measures are not taken and applied to curb the practice. If information that the State currently subsidises fuel to the tune of 35 billion to stabilise prices at the filling stations in Cameroon is founded, then one can imagine the amount of money lost to private pockets in the crooked but sadly flourishing business. The case of fuel is just one among many. Visibly, almost all of Cameroon’s import produce are involved. Rice, cement, flour, cooking oil, fish and others have been taking contrary directions than the local market. This is evident of an economic theft that has held the national market hostage. 
In all economies across the globe, subsidies are basically provided by the government to specific industries with the aim of keeping the prices of products and services low for people to be able to afford them and also to encourage production and consumption. The ongoing happenings in Cameroon defeat the purpose of the huge sacrifice which deprives the State coffers of huge sums of money given the quantity of imports.
Regrettably, this is happening at a time the country’s trade balance remains perpetually negative. Data from the National Institute of Statistics shows that in the first quarter of 2021, Cameroon recorded a FCFA 744 billion trade deficit, up by 7.5 per cent compared to the previous years. In detail, the country spent FCFA 1,824 billion to import 5.07 million tons of goods, which represents an increase of 15.4 per cent in value and 17.8 per cent in quantity compared to the first half of 2020. Even the 21.5 per cent increase in export earnings was not sufficient to compensate for the deficit given that during the said period, Cameroon earned FCFA 1, 080 billion of export revenues by exporting 3.8 million tons of goods. Clearly, this is the picture of Cameroon’s trade balance; meaning the difference between imports and exports. It has more or less been so for long. The pitiable state of local production and processing leaves government with no option than imports to keep the national economy going. Unfortunately, sustaining illegal exporters of the imports in the ugly, though juicy, business.   
Concretely, the country gains very little foreign earnings from her exports vis-à-vis imports and it is devastating that the paltry export earnings are further rubbished by crooked business people who clandestinely export subsidised import produce to neighbouring countries to make returns for themselves and members of their clique while the local market bleeds. It is even reported...



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