As part of its regular reporting strategy on the economy, the Daily Observer’s Business Desk Thursday, June 12, visited the Waterside Market, where several Liberian-owned businesses complained of hardship which they blamed largely to the skyrocketing of the exchange rate between the United States and Liberian dollars.
The markers say they are selling at a loss and sometimes even as wholesalers and distributers continue to sell to them at higher price.
The US dollar is traded at L$89 for US$1, even as high as L$90, in some places. With the rising depreciation of the Liberian dollar to the US dollar, the marketers want some kind of action taken by the government to mitigate the situation.
The fact that these local businesses keep the wheel of the economy turning at the bottom level on a daily basis, they represent very crucial players because they buy and sell what the ordinary population eats and uses every day.
Therefore, every major thing that affects their businesses directly affects the households—-that is how important and critical these marketers and petty traders are to the economy.
Earlier this week, our business desk was at Rally Time Market where marketers expressed their frustration at President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, accusing her of poorly managing the economy.
They said they are angry with the President for doing little or nothing to arrest the rising exchange rate situation and punish businesses for unlawfully hiking prices.
The team later moved to Waterside Market Thursday where scores of small business owners, once again, raised similar complaint against the President including the rising exchange rate and inflation.
Mr. Joseph Fayia Korbengai, who trades in flowers at the Waterside Market, noted that the soaring foreign exchange rate in the country is causing problem for him and other smaller businesses, thereby dipping their profit levels.
Mr. Korbengai, who says that he buys the flowers by parts from wholesalers for L$250 or L$300, noted that he modifies the flowers and design them before selling.
He currently sells a well-designed flower bucket for US$10.00. “I used to sell the bucket for L$500.00 when the price was down,” he said. “But because of the sharp increment in the US rate, Korbengai explained “everything has gone up.”
This man emphasized that his profit has plunged as a result of the inflation. “My wife and I are sustained from this business, but with low profit, things are tough,” Korbengai said.
He suggested to the government through its requisite agency to help provide loan scheme for small Liberian businesses that would help empower them.
This Liberian entrepreneur observed that access to finance remains a major challenge for small businesses because small businesses are not strong enough to meet with the collateral requirements by banks and other financial institutions.
For her part, Madam Rebecca Sonpon, multipurpose shoes seller, added: “the market is very hard.” According to Madam Sonpon, the price of feet wear cartoon has climbed from US$80 few months ago, to US$125.
She noted that at times people buy her goods and sometimes business remains at standstill.
Madam Sonpon strongly complained against the foreign exchange market which, she said, is affecting her market greatly, including other small businesses owned by Liberians.
Also speaking with our business desk were scores of Yana-boys, who were busy selling used clothes. They also complained about the foreign exchange market as a major determinant for the increment in the prices of goods. George Baryogar, 20, warned that the people will continue to suffer if nothing is done about the foreign exchange challenge.
Baryogar and his friends sell T-shirts and blouses at Randall and Water Streets intersection. As George and his friends were busy arranging their goods in the wheelbarrows in the rain, the young guys didn’t forget to tell their government about the suffering being endured by the masses amidst the economic challenge. They called on the government to step in quickly and rescue its people.
“The prices of goods are soaring every day, and we are suffering in our own country, but every time the President says the economy is getting better, where?” George Baryogar wondered.