She had in the past three years ensured the availability of essential commodities, especially food and fuel, at “afforadable prices;” and developed a state of the art Standards Laboratory equipped to test the microbiology and chemistry of products. The metrology (weights and measures of products) will soon follow.
More significantly, she said, Liberia now has four new importers of our staple, rice, and five new importers of cement. “The monopoly on cement has been broken,” she declared. The sources of rice importation has been increased from one major source to seven. This has resulted in lower prices and reliable supply.
The 99 days it took to register a business has been has been reduced to 48 hours. She pledged to establish a branch of the Liberian Business Registry in each county, so that people do not have to come all the way to Monrovia to register a business.
Madam Beysolow pledged to ensure that the pre-inspection contract with BIVAC will adequately cover inspection of the quality of goods entering Liberia.
The Minister-Designate then outlined her vision of the future. She pledged first, to promote “Liberian business people and entrepreneurs, as well as small and medium sized businesses. These she described as “the lifeblood of many Liberian families and the livelihood of . . . our youth.”
Articulating her second vision, she said, “I will implement fully the first National Policy on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises that has been crafted under my leadership.”
Then came to the punch line of her vision. Said she, “I will enforce the Investment Code and the provision that restricts ownership of 16 listed business activities to Liberians.
We find it highly significant that the Commerce and Industry Minister-Designate has had the courage to reintroduce this particular policy, which so many of her predecessors, mostly men, have failed to do.
The idea of setting aside 16 businesses exclusively for Liberians was first advanced in the early 1970s by President William R. Tolbert. As the policy was about to be implemented, many Liberians began negotiating with foreign businessmen to buy those enterprises that fell among the 16. But soon it became apparent that President Tolbert and his government lacked the political will or seriousness to go ahead with this policy, and everyone forgot about it. The situation returned to the status quo ante. Liberians continued to remain effectively outside the business mainstream and to wallow in poverty. Did that lead to the tragic instability that followed? Maybe it helped.
But today, with more and more Liberians entering the business sector, the time is ripe for the implementation of this bold policy.
But we would caution that Minister Beysolow will have to cross over many hurdles in pursuit of this bold, timely and revolutionary objective. First, there will be some Liberians who, lacking the courage, the spine and the initiative, and would want to see things remain as they are. There will also be many politicians and even lawyers who would work hard to dissuade and deter her from that course.
There will also be those among our people who would be unpatriotic and dishonest enough to front for foreign business people.
Minister Beysolow must be fully prepared to guard against these types and forge ahead. This newspaper has repeatedly said editorially that the Commerce and Industry Ministry is one of several that have in their hands future of Liberia’s peace, stability and progress. There are also the Ministries of Justice, and its strategic arm, the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization; and the Ministries of Education; Agriculture; Public Works; Labour; and Youth and Sports. All of these Ministries have the capacity to help provide employment and training for our people, most especially our youth.
The challenge of Minister Beysolow and her colleagues at Commerce, and her Cabinet colleagues as a whole, is to strategize how the policy of the 16 businesses is to be implemented.
We strongly believe it will not be easy, BUT IT CAN AND MUST BE DONE!