By Titus Barbu and Tina Mehnpaine (interns)
On his historic inauguration at the SKD in Paynesville, President Weah declared to the world that his compatriots, the Liberian people, will not be spectators in their own economy—a promise that would have ended a status quo that has existed since the founding of the Liberian state.
But with two years in President Weah’s six-year tenure, this promise that was received with a standing ovation and practically the loudest applause at that momentous event, seems bleak as Liberians appear more hopeless as it relates participating in the economy.
According to some, the President’s statement has taken a U-turn as some Liberian business owners have begun to express frustrations over the steep downward trend the country’s economy has taken. These businessmen and women are hopeless as they strive to keep their businesses afloat or strive to survive.
Sampling views solicited at the ELWA Junction on January 8 suggest that local business owners do not see how the economic nightmare could improve anytime soon, thereby urging the government to help improve the business climate in the country.
Some marketeers expressed frustration and disappointment in the way the economy is being handled by the current government led by President Weah. According to them, this year, 2020, appears to begin on a very bad footing.
One of the marketeers, speaking to the Daily Observer was Madam Jartu Sackie, a retailer in cosmetics and dry-goods. Firstly, she praised God for her status this year seeing her business at the level it is. According to her, she has to be grateful because ‘God took’ her from selling white soap to cosmetics on the table.
“I must firstly praise God for showering me with his blessings and his protection over my family and me, and for making my business grow at this level because even if I complain things will not change,” Said Jartu.
“There is not much buying these days as we come; we open our markets and sit by it for hours before we can see one or two customers to buy less than fifty Liberian dollars worth of goods. At times we even lie down and sleep and, at the end of the day, we pack our market and go home without anything in our hand,” Madam Sackie explained.
Also, Jackie Golafaly who sells DVDs, phone-chargers, ear-pieces, and charges phones, said she has been doing this business for two years, but stressed that the business is getting increasingly difficult.
“if I leave this business I don’t know how I will get money to feed my family and me, or where to go to survive in this hard economic system,” Madam Golafaly said.
Recently the National Legislature endorsed the printing and infusion of L$4 billion into the economy. Request by the President to print the money was meant to bring in additional Liberian dollars to supplement the scarce local currency on the market.
Before the festive season, the Liberian dollar became so scarce in commercial banks that customers could not withdraw money from their accounts and civil servants could not receive their salaries that were deposited in the banks. This situation caused frustration as many people could not afford to purchase for their families during the season. At the same time, the prices of basic commodities and needs have continued to climb to prohibitive levels for buyers, resulting in slow turnover of business for sellers. And where buyers are few, sellers of perishable goods lose along the way, while dry goods sellers take longer than expected to regain their capital, let alone make a profit.
Meanwhile, Madam Golafaly called on the Government of Liberia to do Liberians a favor by addressing the prices of commodities to enable the common people feel at home not to consider living elsewhere as an alternative.
“Business is looking different now; we can’t even get money to feed our families or to pay our children’s school fees to get a better education for tomorrow,” said Decontee Peters as she poured her red oil in plastic bottles for sale.
“I never went to school, I decided to sell to get money to send my children to school because they are the future for me when I get old. So I have been selling red oil for ten years, sending for oil from the bushes or sometimes buying it at the Red-Light Market. Selling it sometimes takes days to finish a gallon,” Madam Peters expressed.