President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has over the years enjoyed strong support among market women in Liberia. But the President’s morale, once boasted of among these women, has begun to dwindle, largely because the women feel that the President they once loved has lost complete control of the country’s economy.
They are blaming the President for not taking those drastic measures required to protect the economy as it was done by her predecessor, Charles Taylor. “We are disappointed in President Sirleaf and we don’t want to have any dealing with her because she has lost control over the economy particularly, the prices of goods,” the market women said.
Former President Taylor is on record for issuing ‘direct warnings’ to businesses not to increase prices above the stipulated approved price by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. But the story today is different, where the Ministry of Commerce has resigned to doing little or nothing to arrest and push businesses for hiking prices including transport fares.
Scores of frustrated market women at the Rally Time Market are particularly angry at President Sirleaf’s recent address on the state of the economy in which she declared that the government does not have control over prices.
They told our Business and Economy Desk about their suspended plan to hold a protest rally at President Sirleaf’s Fish Market residence to register their frustration.
That “the government does not control prices,” as stated by the Liberian leader in her address, may have been based on the economic principle that supply and demand determine price in a free enterprise or market economy such as Liberia. Analysts here believed that this theory, as correctly stated, could be the factor responsible for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to resign to watching the interplay of the market forces of supply and demand determining price.
But the market women believe that the President’s remarks only put fire to jet fuel because they consider it as a direct mandate given to importers and local distributers as well as bigger businesses to price and sell their goods at will.
“She brought the hardship because she openly told the importers and local distributers of imported and locally produced goods to sell to us at any price they (importers and distributers) choose,” the market women said in separate interviews with our Business Desk, which moved into in Rally Time on Monday.
As part of its regular reporting strategy, the Daily Observer visited the Rally Time Market on Monday, June 9, to get the real story on the ground at the bottom of the economy.
The fact that these market women keep the economy propelling from the bottom level on daily basis makes them very crucial because they buy and sell what the population eats every day. This means that every major thing that affects their businesses directly affects the households—-that is how important and critical these market women are to the economy.
Although some of them [market women] refused to talk to our reporters, a few of them volunteered to say what is affecting their businesses, beginning with the retail fish sellers.
Rising Fish Price, Fish Monopoly
Retail fish sellers in Rally Time Market have complained that wholesale dealers of the commodity have increased the price beyond expectation. They blamed the increase to the government and President Sirleaf’s failure to tackle the exchange rate problem and her recent comments suggesting that the government does not control prices.
A group of female fish sellers, who preferred anonymity, at the market told our business desk that the situation is worsening day by day as importers are bent on increasing the prices of fish at will. The importers, who are mainly Fresh Frozen Food (FFF) in Rally Time Market and Caroline, have attributed the increment in fish price to the upward movement in the exchange rate
“We sell in Liberian dollar, but we have to buy US dollar in order for us to import the fish,” said an official of FFF Rally Time Market Branch. The long cartoon of snapper fish that was sold for L$2,000 few months ago, is now sold for about L$6,000.
But the fish sellers have argued that despite the exchange rate challenge, the company is exploiting them because they are the only two companies importing fish into the country. “There is a monopoly that needs to be challenged,” the women said. The women believe that the price of fish would drop if there were more companies importing. They have, meanwhile, insisted that they will soon call a rally at the residence of President Sirleaf to seek redress, after the funeral of one of their leaders who recently passed away.