— Cummings cautions Liberians
The Standard Bearer of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Mr. Alexander Cummings says the October 10 elections must be about bringing real change in the economic life of the Liberian people and not about a second chance for another six years of hardship.
“The current hardship and suffering should not be allowed to continue, as if God has assigned poverty to us. Not at all, God has blessed us with so much natural resources and wealth. It is up to all of us to make it work for ourselves and our children’s children, by not doing the same old thing and expecting a different result,” Cummings said.
The CPP Standard Bearer made the assertion during an interactive forum with a cross-section of business women at the YMCA in Monrovia, on Wednesday, April 12. Cummings said the CPP views women entrepreneurship and business development as very critical if we as people are to accelerate national development.
He said, when elected as President, the CPP will prioritize women in business as a central pillar for the transformation and revitalization of the country's struggling economy.
“As a business person and former corporate executive, I know firsthand the significant impact women entrepreneurship can have on the social, economic, political and cultural development of any country,” Cummings said.
He said through their business and entrepreneurial activities, women will bring in more family income to increase the welfare of the household, and make it easier for “papa to come home” with a smiling face.
The CPP Standard Bearer said besides job creation, women entrepreneurship will lead to women empowerment and increased self-confidence and self-worthiness of women in decision making that affects them, the family, and the nation.
He vowed that the CPP will work assiduously to ensure women succeed in their various businesses and entrepreneurial endeavors, noting that, “this is our area, we know how best to do it and we will do it,” Cummings said.
He said it is sad that despite the important role of women in economic growth, job creation, and social empowerment, little has been done in a sustainable and practical way to help women grow and prosper in business. “Our business women, young and old, are crying for help. For too long, women have remained spectators in the country's economy,” Cummings said.
He spoke of the lack of access to finances for small businesses to grow. He added that business growth is also affected due to limited skills and technical capacity, as well as limited access to market opportunities.
He empathized with businesses on the high cost of borrowing money from commercial banks which is put at 13.5% on a dollar, in addition to a 2% one-time payment for bank service charge.
Cummings said, added to high rate, is the 30 days grace period to begin loan repayment.
He said the difficulty in accessing finance does not only put strain on the growth of businesses, but also increases the likelihood of default payments of loans.
He said commercial banks are also reluctant to extend credit facilities to small businesses, due to perceived high risk caused by weak and unmarketable business plan, low cash flow of smaller businesses, inadequate collateral, and nonpayment of loans.
Cummings said, while these are genuine concerns, they are not sufficient basis to keep Liberian businesses generally, and women businesses in particular, perpetually down, noting that it is the responsibility of a sensitive and responsible government to intervene.
He said the CPP administration under his leadership will address these challenges to help grow Liberian businesses.
Upon assuming the Presidency, he confirmed that within the first one hundred days, CPP will invest directly in lending institutions to provide financing and loan guarantees for small businesses, including the provision of US$10 million line of credit.
He said a CPP Government will also set up special guarantee schemes for MSMEs to reduce the risk portfolio for financial lending institutions through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the National Investment Commission.
“We will invest in and or support Business Development Programs to build capacities of small businesses, particularly those owned by women, to build capacities, access finance and manage business,” Cummings said.
He said a CPP Government will negotiate with Commercial banks, through the Central Bank of Liberia, for concessionary interest rates for businesses, particularly those owned by women entrepreneurs.
Cummings said in a few weeks, the CPP will unveil its overall strategic plan for Private Sector Development and for Economic Development.
During the forum, women spoke on issues ranging from growing insecurity, gender based violence against women, poor health care delivery service, increasing drugs abuse especially amongst youths, unfair and shady business deals and practices emanating from government institutions that directly affect women.