Grand Bassa County, particularly, Buchanan City may enjoy the best tarred road and boast of paying host to the country’s second largest seaport, the economy of the county is, nevertheless, moving at low ebb. Grand Bassa currently has a number of top concessions and the country’s lone functioning railroad, but local businesses in the county are still struggling to survive. Many small business owners have attributed the slow growth trend of their businesses to huge operating expenses attributed to the lack of electricity and pipe borne water. Most of them also lack capital and needed training to operate.
Top government officials from the county including Gender and Development Minister Madam Julia Duncan Cassel and Liberia’s Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) Managing Director Mr. T. Nelson Williams gave their individual perspectives of this critical issue affecting the county’s economy in separate interviews with our business desk in Buchanan City on Saturday, May 24. The two top Grand Bassa County citizens admitted to the slow pace at which small medium enterprises (SMEs) are taking root in the county, but they believe that the economy of the county is on course.
Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassel admitted that businesses are growing at low ebb, but said the business climate of the county is far better today than what it was when the county’s road was not tarred.
“Things were bad at that time, but there are improvements at the moment,” said the former Grand Bassa County Superintendent. Madam Duncan Cassel served as Superintendent of Grand Bassa for many years before she was appointed Minister of Gender and Development.
“The completion of the road to Grand Bassa County has helped to improve the economy of the county. We have several concessions in the county including ArcelorMittal and other companies,” she added.
Madam Cassel also boasted of the huge presence of banks in the county. She explained that the good thing about the economy of Bassa is that most of the businesses in the county including hotels and motels owned by Liberians, but pointed out that the lack of access to finance is undermining their prospects for growth.
“We want the banks to increase their loan portfolios to businesses in Bassa because a lot of the businesses in the county are now graduating from table market to the store. We are working to ensure that Liberian owned businesses in the county get the needed supports to grow,” she stressed.
Touching on reports of Bassoans selling their land to foreign businesses in the heart of Buchanan, Madam Cassel observed that Liberians like ‘quick fix.’
“Development does not come overnight…it is a process that comes gradually. So my advice to those who are selling their property in Buchanan is that we be careful with what we do,” she stated. The former Grand Bassa County Superintendent noted that she is of the strongest conviction that if banks give loans to businesses in Bassa County the issue of selling their land to foreigners will be curtailed.
For his part, LPRC Managing Director T. Nelson Williams observed that the low profitability of businesses is a major reason for the slow pace of growth for the county’s economy.
He also observed that most of the businesses don’t conduct feasibility studies before startup; a situation, he said undermines their profitability.
Mr. Nelson, who owns the Crown Hotel in Buchanan City, noted that the hotel sector is growing in the county because the county receives several visitors weekly.
“I built the Crown Hotel which currently employs 22 people all from Grand Bassa County,” he said. Mr. Williams opened his 15-bed room modern Crown Hotel in Buchanan City in February and announced plans to expand the facility.
He explained that though he conducted feasibility study before building his hotel in Buchanan, he built the hotel because he had always been interested in real estate.
The LPRC boss also admitted that the investment climate in Grand Bassa is improving, but admitted that businesses are growing stumpy. He called on all Bassa citizens to develop love for business and return home to invest since, he said, the county is enjoying good road infrastructure and huge foreign direct investment.