Chinese Merchants Undercutting Liberian Traders

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Mr. Konneh in conversation with small business owners down Water Street.jpg

The Government of Liberia, under Minister Konneh’s watch has infused about US$78m into the economy to spur economic activities.

Konneh justified the urgent need to pay vendors and civil servant salaries especially during the festive holiday seasons to give consumers more purchasing power, which is expected ensure revenue for government in return.

On Wednesday, the Treasury chief left his Broad Street office to mingle with local petty traders and small business entities on Water Street to first assess the impact of the stimulus and secondly to understand the constraints facing the nation's business people. He was accompanied by deputy Minister for Revenue, Dr. James Kollie. They strolled through the thick crowd of sellers and buyers, meeting and chatting with traders.

“We are struggling, Mr. Minister…” scores of petty traders and small business enterprises lamented when the Minister reached out. According to them, when they travel to China to buy their goods, the factory owners are in the constant habit of importing the same goods through other means and selling them on the local market at cheaper prices than Liberian marketeers can afford to offer, which is impeding economic growth for them.

Saah Kpenkpa, a small business owner, complained that the Chinese merchants are undermining their efforts. He explained that when they go to China to buy goods and come back home, the factories owners have their agents here selling the same goods at lower prices.

“So we want you as finance minister to intervene to stop this. We are losing in our businesses and some of us will soon go out of business if this trend continues.”

Also during his brief meeting with officials of Concerned Liberian International Businesses Organization (COLINBO), the same issue was raised. COLINBO’s president Mr. Fumba Trawally appealed to Minister Konneh to do everything possible to help Liberian businesses grow.

Troubled by what he was hearing for the first time, Minister Konneh vowed to work with the relevant government institutions to regulate the market so that ordinary Liberians and Liberian-owned entities are given the opportunity to do business in Liberia.

The Finance Minister hinted that government will be holding a two-day high-level retreat with the Liberian business community early next year to brainstorm on some of the constraints facing the business people and at the same time, craft solutions to those problems affecting the economy.

Konneh emphasized that the two day retreat will review the existing revenue codes and the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) Act so that government’s 25 percent fiscal rule can be enforced in which government’s expenditure on goods and services should be bought from ordinary Liberians.

 The retreat, according to Minister Konneh, will also review the legal constraints that the petty traders are encountering, which according to him, is impeding their success.

“There is a need that some of those laws such as the revenue codes of Liberia, the PPCC art among others be revisited so as to help improve the business climate of Liberia petty traders,” Konneh assured.

According to the Finance Minister, the business people are the engine of the Liberian economy, and “if the engine does not work there will be no creation of job and opportunity in the business sectors. I am impressed to see more Liberians engaging in trading activities which will rapidly help to revamp this emerging economy.”

As I walked through the streets, “I saw both buyers and sellers and this is very encouraging for our young economy. About US$78 million have been infused into the economy by the government to stimulate growth and I have seen the impact today.’’

Konneh noted that while it is true that there is an open door market policy in Liberia, he strongly suggested that government should make laws that will protect Liberians businesses. He encouraged the business community to attend the pending retreat so that together, government and the business people will find solutions that will create a more conducive environment.

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