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Is Buea In The Throes Of Stagflation? 

By Mbua Kongnyu*

Give it to this first capital of Cameroon. It is opening practically by the hour. This can only be so, given its hospitable outreach and the disarming friendliness of its indigenes. But all this is at a cost to the practical side of the socio-economic modus Vivendi of the town that hosts one of Africa’s biggest touristic monuments…the Mount Fako, aka Mount Cameroon. 

One of the most noticeable things about what a one time Mayor of Buea, now a Senator of the Republic christened the town of the legendary hospitality, is the fact that as one gets into the town, one immediately starts experiencing a drastic reduction of finances due to expenditures which are supposed to be normal there.

With this, most people term it the most expensive town in Cameroon. As to how true it is, one doesn’t know, but one thing is for sure; there is an abnormality in the way money finishes from one’s purse or wallet in this town due to rising prices of goods and services.

The escalating prices of goods here have gradually rendered certain denominations of currency near valueless. FCFA 2,000 is as good as nothing in this part of the country. As such, many people worry that Buea might be running into inflation, or better still, is into some stagflation by any other name.

 Junior Angabua, a businessman, thinks that “the love for extraordinary profit by profiteering businessmen might well be the economic bane of the town. Most of us want to make a lot of profit; to even gain more than 100 percent, while some of us simply put high prices on our goods”.

With such a crave for money from businessmen, dwellers of this town of “Legendary Hospitality” which is now questioned go to neighbouring towns like Douala, Tiko, Kumba to do their shopping. “I go to Douala to buy my items since Buea is becoming something else” Claude Kwe told The Post.

Another striking issue is the problem of change. FCFA10, 000 and 5,000 banknotes have crowded the place such that, FCFA 500, 1,000, and 2,000 banknotes are almost in nonexistence. With such an issue, many people don’t sell to customers for the simple reason of not having change, and as such, business is halted at times.

The surprising thing is that even financial hubs like banks, money agencies keep clients waiting for hours because they don’t have banknotes like FCFA 2,000 or 1,000. Lesley Bongkem had this to say, “I waited for about two hours in Express Union before they could give me FCFA 12,000. The problem was with FCFA 2,000 which they didn’t have”

It will surprise one that in Buea, to break money into smaller units one may pay for it, something which is the opposite in other countries. FCFA 10,000 and 5,000 banknotes are the most circulated; something which, according to Merrick Nkongho, a teacher in the Yaounde Business School, is a sign of inflation. “In an economically balanced country, the highest bill should not be the most circulated.

In some countries like Nigeria, if you are to withdraw money from a bank and you demand that all the payment be made in one thousand bills which is the highest banknote, then the bank may ask a commission for that. I wonder why ten thousand should be the most common in this part of the world,” Nkongho added.

However since hunters shoot without missing, birds have learnt to fly without perching. Taxi men in this town know exactly what to do. Fabrice Lyonga, a taxi man, said “since there is no change, when passengers tell us their amount we tell them to hop in and after alighting, we give them the balance we have and simply say we didn’t hear what they said.” By this, they make profits, though detrimental to their salvation.

The issue of high prices of goods and services has had a strong negative impact in the Buea community as many students, especially those in higher institutions of learning, who can’t meet up with the needs of the day indulge in unholy practices such as scamming, prostitution and the selling of marks by lecturers.

Some men of God whose little stipends are not enough to enable them meet up with the high standards of living have decided to pay little or no attention to their duty of winning souls for the Kingdom of God but have rather dropped the Bible for the pursuit of earthly wealth which they urge Christians never to be interested in.

Nevertheless, hope is not lost as Price Control men can still mend the situation by regulating prices of commodities. If not the town of “legendary hospitality” will become the town of “legendary exploitation’’      

*(UB Journalism Student on Internship)