Liberians Observe ‘Harsh Christmas’

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Government’s silence perceived as indifference

Monday, December 25 will be celebrated throughout the country as Christmas Day, but many Liberians are describing it as a ‘harsh Christmas’ because of the bad economy.

Many said the usual festivities surrounding the birth of Jesus are significantly muted this year because of economic difficulties along with what seems to be a ‘wait-and-see-attitude’ by the business community and consumers due to ‘delays in the runoff presidential election.’

Many people interviewed in Monrovia said while they thank God for making it possible for them to see another Christmas and the end of the year, they are frustrated with the high cost of essential commodities and the severe shortage of cash in the economy which has  denied them access to salaries and remittances through the banks.

With barely two days of shopping left before Christmas, thousands find themselves stuck in long queues at various banks only to be told by tellers after the long wait that they could only withdraw a portion of what they requested or ‘go come tomorrow’.   They complained that they don’t know why local banks are unable to let them withdraw whatever they want from their own savings accounts and the Government is not saying anything about the situation.

A woman who said she has been finding it difficult to get money out of a local bank said she could not even get her remittance from abroad.

“The bank cannot give me my full remittance because an official said to me that the bank cannot pay me the money all at once,” said Doris Kromah, who said she received a remittance of U$600 from the United States.  She said that ‘it was very strange’ when the bank’s representative gave her the information.

Sam Williams, 54, who deals in general merchandise, noted that his business is not doing well because Liberians from the rural parts are not buying enough and his warehouse is filled with goods.

Making reference to the Dec. 26 runoff election, Williams said he prays for peace, sanity and stability, adding that who gets into the Executive Mansion is not his worry.

Frances Stewart, 45, a used clothes dealer, said this year, Christmas business sales are very low due to the harsh financial difficulties in the country.

“This is the worst Christmas sales I am having because there are more sellers than buyers on the street,” she lamented.

Caroline Smith, 48, frozen meat dealer, said the business climate this Christmas season has gone from bad to worse because people are ‘holding back.’

“The buying is very slow and we are too plenty selling the same goods; and so we are not making sales at all,” Smith said.

Commercial driver Mamadee Kromah, 40, regretted that this year, Christmas trips to Lofa County are not earning him as much as in the past.

Kromah explained that  during past Christmas and New Year celebrations, commercial drivers including trucks usually made several trips to Voinjama and other cities with volumes of goods, which is not the case this time around.

“I will vote in the runoff election although I am not happy about the date set by the National Elections Commission,” he volunteered.

Several commercial vehicles were yesterday seen at the various bus stations at the Red Light Market waiting on businessmen and women from the interior who had earlier come to Monrovia to buy goods.

The drivers expressed concern about the harsh economic conditions in the country and called on the Liberian government to act swiftly to bring some kind of sanity to the economy.

“We are facing difficulties because of the high cost of petroleum products from the dealers,” said driver David Kolleh.

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