A Liberian businessman residing in Kakata, Margibi County, said foreigners have taken over the economy, even to the point of operating Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) such as shops and other small businesses.
Mr. Jacob Ketteh, proprietor of Uncle J. Foreign Reclining Spot, an auto spare parts business, alleged that foreign businesses operate in Liberia with almost a 100 percent foreign workforce despite the local content policy in place by government.
Ketteh said, however, that the business arena in Kakata is taking a positive turn, with most Liberians competing with foreigners in the city and around Margibi county.
He said government’s policy on local content works only on paper and not in practice because government is not pursuing it to ensure compliance, “like what we see in other countries.”
It may be recalled recently that government launched the local content policy, which is intended to address the marketability of Liberian products and services, reputed as the missing piece in the country’s national policy for domestic businesses.
The policy is also expected to facilitate the creation of new links and deepening and expanding existing programs between foreign and domestic enterprises in the country, thus making SMEs more sustainable to oil and gas, mining, agriculture, forestry and infrastructure related enterprises.
Ketteh added that Liberia has made significant strides in building an environment suitable for the business sector to flourish, “which is an indication that with determination, a business can grow.”
“Why do most Liberians prefer foreign products even when made-in-Liberia goods are of superior quality?” he asked, adding that the mentality of some individuals is that imported goods are better, even when such products are inferior to those manufactured locally.
“Liberian-owned businesses need to right now campaign for patronage of made-in-Liberia products.”
Looking at the economy, he said, there are many challenges but, as a country with numerous potentials of becoming a wealthy nation, government should ensure that these policies are implemented.
Sadly though, he added, “That has not happened because our resources are not prudently managed. Also the rulers are not living up to expectation in doing the right thing and leading by example. For example, government is only interested in revenue generation from local industries and not in their growth.
We do not have good industrial policies to ensure that foreign firms coming into Liberia partner with local companies to enhance the sector.”
Mr. Ketteh said foreign investors are wooed with generous incentives including duty-free and bank loans among many others, while local investors are denied these generous conditions, even in their own country.
When asked what are the economic implications of government giving foreign investors many incentives to the detriment of local business people, Ketteh replied: “That is why our economy is suffering and so many of our youths are jobless. Once they settle, the foreign investors begin to look for monopoly and so begin to plot how to kill any local competitor that may have been in the market before their arrival. They will employ all manner of antitrust tactics and even use the regulatory agencies to raise the bar to scheme out local entrepreneurs.”
The Liberian businessman said the country still has potentials in oil, iron ore and rubber, and can still change the economy enough to realize Vision 2030.
“The government is the biggest earner of money and also the biggest spender. It therefore has an ultimate role to play in making patronage of made-in-Liberia goods a reality. For instance, the country requires a cultural reorientation which will enable Liberians think and act in a way that will bring high regards for made-in-Liberia goods, and other sectors of the Liberian economy,” he added.
“For example, government should lead by example by ensuring that our military and other uniforms are made with fabrics of Liberian origin.”