‘Grow the Economy by Opening for More hours’

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Rep. Dixon W. Seboe: "The trajectory indicates that the growth can even double in our first term if adequate economic and political variables are put in place.

-House’s Banking, Currency Chairman Suggests to Plenary

The exchange rate of the US dollars to the Liberian dollar, (L$162 to 1 US$), coupled with the soaring prices of goods, have caused many Liberians to believe that the economy would crash soon — probably this year or 2020.

But, in an effort to combat the expected drown economy, the chairman of the Committee of Banking and Currency in the House of Representatives (54th Legislature), Rep. Dixon W. Seboe, is suggesting that the economy must be shifted from an 8-hour to a 12 to 14-hour economy.

The House’s economy and investment chief said almost every commercial activity in the country opens at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. and shuts down at either 5 p.m. or 6 p.m., which limits the economy to eight hours per day.

He argued in a letter to the House’s Plenary that, “if the economy opens for more hours, it will grow.”

Rep. Seboe, a former Finance Ministry customs director, said the country can obtain a “modest growth’ despite inheriting a messy and broken economy.

“The trajectory indicates that the growth can even double in our first term if adequate economic and political variables are put in place,” Rep. Seboe stressed in his letter, dated January 23, 2019.

“I want to plead with you all my colleagues that we should invite the Ministers of Commerce, Finance and other relevant institutions to begin a frank discussion on how to achieve this in the soonest possible time,” he said.

Seboe, who represents Montserrado County District #16, drew his argument from a recent report by the African Development Bank, which speaks to the economic growth of the country in 2018.

“Real GDP grew to an estimated 3.7% from 2.5% in 2017 and it is estimated to grow to 4.7% this year. This growth is underpinned by the modest growth in the agricultural, fisheries and service sectors,” Rep. Seboe said.

Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives voted to send Rep. Seboe’s letter to the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and report in an unspecified time-frame.

The decision was made on Thursday, January 31, during the 7th day sitting, following a motion from Montserrado County District #7 Representative Solomon C. George.

Amid the bad economy, President George M. Weah during his annual address to the Legislature on Monday, January 28, predicted prospects while some Liberians have differed, arguing that the primary trigger of a full-blown crash would be a financial crisis, which is glaring.

A member of the House of Representatives, who requested to not be named, told the Daily Observer that most of the banks in the country are holding more capital relative to assets than before, arguing that the banks want to avoid stress if there will be a recession.

Another member of the House, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said: “Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time low. It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families.”

Full-time work in the country is currently defined as eight hours daily for five days a week, a total of 40 hours, at least for public offices. For commercial businesses workers put in around to 48 hours per week, which typically includes Saturdays.

19 COMMENTS

  1. It is doubtful that longer hours of work will grow the economy of Liberia. Very, very doubtful!

    First of all, it’s been reported that the Liberian lawmakers earn $120,000 US dollars per year in addition to a host of incentives. If the lawmakers’ yearly income is correct, they’re facilitators to a bad economy because Liberia is a poor country. If the country’s lawmakers could agree to a 40% pay cut, lots of money would be saved and of course, the economy would grow by a few inches.

    Longer hours? Will the Montserrado county lawmaker and his colleagues work longer hours if his suggestion became a reality? Also, would lawmakers earn an overtime pay? The proletariat class have suffered. The proletariat class needs a relief. An imposition of longer hours would be considered an undue hardship.

    Liberia has had no coins for a very long time. It cannot be understood why Liberia does not have coins. Will it be possible for Mr. Seboe to look into the issue of coins for Liberia?

    • Hney – I agree that given the size of Liberia’s economy a substantial cut in lawmakers’ salaries is need, but how is that going to grow the economy? I don’t believe that by merely cutting their salaries, including other high-paying government officials, will magically grow the economy. Perhaps, reallocating those cuts to other parts of the economy where they are needed will help to fuel it a bit such as increasing low-wage government employees in order to increase economy activities.

      One of the real problems I see is the nation’s insatiable appetite for consumption, and those demands are met by imports. While consumer economy is good but those must be met by internal production to make a positive impact. Most of what Liberians consume are produced in foreign countries and that needs to change, especially for consumables that the nation has comparative advantage in.

      Agriculture is one areas the nation has comparative advantage…take rice, the nation’s stable food. Liberians consumes hundreds of thousands of metric tons of rice each year, and yet rice is imported to meet this demand. The irony is the nation’s climate is conducive in rice production. The government should not and must not try to grow the economy overnight by over stretching its meager resources in every direction of the economy, but must take a methodical approach to growing the economy. One that is logical, direct and a sustained approach…

  2. John
    We have an agreement. By making such a cut as I proposed, at least something will happen, even if not on a grand scale. But there are many reasons why our economy is going south. You’ve mentioned one or two of those areas where our concentration focus should be centered.

    In defense of my theory, let’s do the math….
    Assuming that there are 60 elected men and women in both Houses of the country’s legislature………..
    $120,000 × 60 = $7,200,000 per month for all of them.

    So, $7,200 000 × 12 months equals
    $86,400,000.00 per year. If half of that big amount is paid yearly to our legislators, there will be some money left to do some creative things that could boost the nation’s economy. You’ve mentioned some of the smart sensible ways. We certainly have an agreement.

    There’s no explanation by our lawmakers as to why we don’t have coins.

    John, the latest crop of lawmakers we have today are better educated than their predecessors of the last four decades. As such, we expect them to come up with sound innovative ideas. The idea of working
    nine to 10 hours per day is not creative. I promise I won’t say it is dumb. I wasn’t brought up to talk like that.

    • Hey Hney – is the figure $120,000.00 per month accurate, or was that in error? It seems awfully high to me…what I have heard is between $10,000 to $20,000 monthly salary for each of the lawmakers…

      Anyways, I agreed it would make a dent but one that would be negligible if that saving is not reintroduced into the economy to create more economic activities. Even at that very little impact will be noticeable…but it’s better than nothing!

      I personally think the huge salaries these officials make should be incentivized…it should be based on how well they grow the economy. I think only 20% of the national budget should go towards government salary…the more you grow the revenue base the more you get in salary. Such trend will incentivize government officials to be innovative in growing the economy. I have no problem with paying these lawmakers $120,000/year salary as long as it is within the confine of the 20% of the national budget, which means that in order to make those huge salaries the government will have to grow the revenue base of the economy.

  3. OH MINE!
    Long hours at work won’t help the ”Leaking Bucket” Next suggestion please, this time from the sing and worship leaders. Inviting a Finance Minister,who put 25 million us dollars in a backbag, and took it to New Kru Town, is a waste of time. Absolutely no remedy! We heading for a big bang! The day will come.

  4. The more hours idea has some juice provided if we can get industries booming at night. Say as an example, if factories run at night we can cut down the congestion by having less people on the streets which will lead to better commute (less congestion saves time and money and boost productivity). Simple example.

    “One of the real problems I see is the nation’s insatiable appetite for consumption, and those demands are met by imports” (John). I agree. We need government to invest in a producing economy. Government should buy stakes in large Liberian investments and have private companies run them. Then get out as soon as investment is recovered. Those companies will them help boost the economy.

    An example for this would be – The Fantis and or fishermen know how to make their fishing boats. Promote an industry that will organize these talents and harvest them. You might soon find out that Liberians have talents waiting to be tapped.

    • Factories working at night is based on shift work. 24 hours a day…..so that would be an 8 hours each which is 3 shifts a day. Liberia is not fully electrified to do that. back in the days, that was done at most of the concession companies.

  5. Mr. F.S. Hney & Mr. John

    My opinion converges with those of Mr. Hney’s and Mr. John’s for several reasons: the economy of Liberia has shrunk due to certain accompanying factors. To begin with, the UN ended its peace keeping mission and with the departure of its NGO’s, that portion which became a vital part of the government’s revenue generating flow is no longer there; next, the royalties that were being paid to the government for the exploration of hydro carbon products on Liberia’s continental shelves have stopped pouring in. Why? There exists for the moment an oil glut on the world market and even oil exporting giants from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Russia and so forth are not generating the kind of revenues that they need as returns for the extraction and sales of their oil. And since their oil commodities are of high grade and are sold cheap globally, oil consuming countries prefer buying from them.

    To put things in a much wider perspective, the world’s economy has been lacking vitality for a while, and the spillover effects have hinder adequate profits coming from even the sales of Liberia’s traditional products which include iron ore, gold, diamond, coffee, lumber, rubber, and so forth.

    It does not take a world class economist to determine that given these circumstances, our economy can no longer sustain the kind of revenue and expenditure pattern that existed before the Pre-Ebola crisis.
    Notwithstanding, it is mind boggling and many observers are asking this question, “How can a country like Liberia, which is on the list of every negative and global economic index, afford to pay its senators with salaries higher than those of U.S. law makers? How much will be left to contribute to developments – developments that will make substantial impacts on the society?

    John, you also made a very good point concerning the flight of the nation’s hard earned currencies due to the importation of rice and other basic commodities that could be home grown. I sometimes wonder about where the fear exists, or what is the source of the inhibition that is causing the men and women who are in charge of Liberia’s policy prescription not to pursue other alternative solutions?

    I thank you gentlemen for such an insightful discussion.

  6. Mr. Right To Be Anonymous,
    First and foremost, I am very beatific because of how you and Dortu-Seboe Doe closed the ugly chapter of name-calling last week. Now, both of you are on my team. That’s the A team, which is and has been the winning team. John has been tracking me since last year. We’ve always discussed ideas respectfully.

    All of us can discuss ideas without having to get personal. It’s sometimes good to disagree, but there’s no reason to shout profanities at one another.

    Comrade Right To Be Anonymous, you’ ve nailed it on the right spot. Your lecture was detailed. Let’s keep it up.

  7. A wise person once said, “Colleges don’t teach economics properly. Unfortunately, we learn little from the experience of the past. An economist must know, besides his subject, ethics, logic, philosophy, the humanities and sociology: in fact, everything that is part of how we live and react to one another.”

    Liberia economy is a mess! We should learn from our past failure. No amount of extended working hours as suggested by Rep. Dixon W. Seboe will solve Liberia’s economic problems unless Liberians sincerely evaluate what is really wrong with Liberia. That is, Liberians should take into consideration the totality of what led Liberia to its downward spiral.

    Yes indeed, we need to develop our economy! However, a knee-jerk solution by ‘extending working hours” as purported by Rep. Dixon Seboe is not sustainable. Liberia’s economic development cannot be done successfully and sustainably without developing the “ethics, logic, philosophy, humanities, sociology, and everything that is part of how Liberians live and react to one another.”

    Liberia’s problem is more than economics. Liberia’s failure is more systemic: the ethical standard of our government officials has eroded to the extent that many Liberians have become impassive to what is right or wrong conduct in government.

    It is very difficult to develop a country like Liberia, or establish any business entity in Liberia where ethical standard is at a minimum. Corruption, disregard for the rule of laws, high crime rate, lack of respect for each other, lack of empathy, lack of transparency, nepotism, tribalism, last but not all, political chauvinism (blind party devotion) are ingrained in the fabric of everything in Liberia. These negative vices are making economic development very difficult in Liberia.

    Mr. Representative, the ethical standard of Liberian government officials and many workers in Liberia is very low on the totem pole. Therefore, long working hours will not increase productivity in Liberia. Economic growth is highly influence by investing in physical capital (roads, infrastructure, electricity/water, factories, etc.); human capital, natural resources, agriculture, and entrepreneurship.

    However, when leaders in Liberia look at the totality of what caused Liberia to be classified as a “failed state”, the 4th poorest nation in the world, then we should work diligently from that strategic angle towards economic development. By applying this method, hopefully Liberia will decrease the poverty rate; decrease the infant mortality rate; decrease the illiteracy rate, and finally improve how Liberians live and react to one another.

    Indeed, economic productivity in Liberia is more than just hastily increasing the working hours. Representative Seboe, we should Look at the totality of the systematic failure of Liberia’s economy.

  8. John,
    Thanks for the correction. To all readers, I apologize for the miscalculation.

    The amount of $7,200.000 is what the legislators earn per year, assuming that there are a total of 60 men and women.

    What happened is that I was estimating the legislators’ perks; cars, gas, free telephone air time, and salary. I did not show the figures for the legislators’ government-supplied cars, free gas, etc.. I apologize! I am not proud to say I blundered!

    Today, February 4, 2019, the giant automaker GM, terminated 4,000 employees.

    Question:
    Why did so many faithful employees had to be terminated?

    GM had to let go some of its employees in order to save money. According to GM’s forecast, at least 2.5 billion dollars will be saved in a few years.

    John, if the yearly pay of Liberia’s legislators is scaled back by half, the Treasury will have a little bit more money to pay university professors, medical doctors, teachers, etc. Also, if there’s more money saved as a consequence of scaling back the incomes of the lawmakers, there could be training programs made available for Liberians. If we have a skilled workforce, more jobs will be created. That will be another way in which the economy could be helped. If GM could terminate 4000 employees in order to help itself, the government of Liberia can help itself by doing precisely as GM has done.

    I am not picking on the legislators! I have no gripe against them. The idea of a pay cut, (if it were to happen) would include all cabinet ministers and their deputies. If a pay cut is done across the board, more money will be saved. If the government has a little more than before, investments can be made. That’s precisely what GM is doing.

    There isn’t one specific way in which the nation’s economy could be helped. Mr. Right To Be Anonymous give a splendid explanation. You came up some good ideas.

    We can all agree that a whole lot has to be done in order to save a sagging economy. However. Mr. Seboe’s idea is not one of those ideas that could revive the Liberian economy.

  9. It’s not about working more hours a day. It’s about how much the person is being paid. If I work for 8 hours a day as a skilled worker, and get paid $50 an hour, a janitor could work for $14 an hour as an unskilled worker for 12 hours a days and would still be paid less money. It’s the quality of the work, and not the quantity of hours worked.

    Ask the Tappers at Firestone who make $10 a day by working 12 hours a day. If you increase their work hours by another 6 hours a day which would be 16 hours a day, would the difference in pay matter? Besides, if a Tapper works 16 hours a day, he would be so tired to go back to work the next day.

    We have Senators and Representatives in Liberia making from $10-15,000 a month in salary, plus benefits in a poor country like Liberia. Meanwhile in Ghana, a rich country, pay their Members of Parliament (MPs) $3,500 a month. My suggestion would be, pay the bums (Representatives $1,500 a month, and Senators $2,500 a month with no housing, car, gas slips and cell phone).

    Some of our Legislators who are half educated only go to work once or twice a week and do not attend sessions. Also pay Ministers across the board $1,500 a month, Deputy Ministers $1,300 and Assistant Ministers $1,000 a month with no car of gas slips. Trust me, a lot of the above mentioned people would find work in the private sector than government. And whoever is caught stealing persecuted, and if found guilty made shame publicly or banned from working in the public sector for life. Also, there should be one Deputy Minister at each Ministry and at least three Assistant Ministers at a Ministry.

    Then use the above savings for capital and social investments in education, health, agriculture and social services. Give power to the counties and cities to collect their own tax, and be empowered to use those tax to hire their own county staffs. Let the central government take care of defence, foreign affairs, immigration and International trade, in collaboration with the counties. Empower counties and cities to elect their Superintendents and Mayors.

    Let concession companies pay 40% of their taxes and royalties to the counties and 60% to the central government. Get rid of some non performing ministries and agencies of government….namely the Ministry of Information. Every Ministry can have their own PRO who liaises with the Press secretary of the Executive mansion. Get rid of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. Create a ministry of Tourism and Culture to stand on it’s own. Create a Ministry of Community and Social Services and combine that ministry with the Ministry of Gender and Protection. Get rid of the GSA and replace it with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Create a Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship and get rid of the Liberian Immigration Authority.

    The above are just my suggestion.

  10. Very good suggestions, comrade Luke.
    Frankly, I don’t understand why $10,000 is being paid to the legislators of Liberia. I guess no one understands that except the legislators themselves.

    While they earn $10,000 per month, schools in the nation’s capital do not have computers and some students do not have their full set of textbooks. Sadly., it’s a complete disaster in the counties. Some students (as I heard) do not have desks in the boondocks of our country.

    While they earn $10,000 per month, the salaries of the nation’s competent university professors and medical doctors don’t come close to earning that much money per month. I came up with a proposal that could change the payment of $10,000.00 per month.

    Proposal:
    A new crop of 60 educated young men and women are needed to challenge the current lawmakers in the upcoming legislative elections. One of the main campaign themes of the new challengers or candidates should go like this in the counties……..

    “I would like to be your next Representative or Senator. Please vote for me. If I become fortunate to serve as your next Representative or Senator, I will take a 50% pay cut. So instead of being paid $10,000.00 per month, I will earn $5,000.00 per month or much less. Let’s change Liberia. I cannot do this all by myself. But you and I can do it simultaneously. Our country is too poor to pay its lawmakers $10,000.00 per month.”

    Although not well written because I am rushing to listen to Trump’s speech, something like the above will work.

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