The proprietor of the Sharks Entertainment Incorporated, Mrs. Eyvonne Bright-Harding, wants the Liberian government to deliver on its promise to restrict at least 16 businesses to Liberian entrepreneurs and penalize foreign business owners who circumvent the law.
One of those businesses is the production and sale of ice cream products that she is involved in, and certain Lebanese and Indians are also involved, although the law excludes them from this business.
Many Lebanese and Indians businesses who run Liberia’s economy import Ben & Jerry ice cream and other foreign brands, but they cannot manufacture ice cream.
Recently, following a complaint filed by Mrs. Bright-Harding the Ministry of Commerce carried out an investigation and in the end ordered Nice Ice Cream, located on 9th Street at the SP Gas Station on Tubman Boulevard shut down.
According to Daily Observer’s investigations, Nice Ice Cream is the second entity that tried to venture into a business that the law prohibits a foreign business from doing.
“Eyvonne has been fighting the Lebanese and Indians for the control of the ice cream business since the war time and now in peace time,” said a Liberian who has followed the development. Investigations further revealed that the order to shut Nice Ice Cream by the Magisterial Court has been overturned by the Civil Law Court, and the company is back in business.
A source at Sharks Entertainment Incorporated told the Daily Observer that while the management is appreciative of the Ministry of Commerce’s decision to uphold what it stands for, there are other elements or individuals who don’t think that Liberian businesses deserve support to flourish.
“The Ministry of Commerce stood up for Mrs. Bright-Harding when she called their attention to the production of ice cream at ERA Supermarket,” a source familiar with the case said. Under the law, any business that wants to manufacture ice cream has to obtain the Import Permit Document (IPD) before they can import ice cream equipment.
“It’s no secret that bribes change hands in Liberia. There must have been someone at the ministry who approved the IPD, giving ERA the greenlight to import ice cream equipment to Liberia,” another Liberian business owner said.
As if people didn’t learn their lesson, someone at the ministry approved an IPD for the Nice Ice Cream owners. Under the law, foreigners who want to produce ice cream in Liberia, can partner with a Liberian, but they have to provide evidence that the Liberian is bringing in $300,000 of external capital.
“You have to show wire transfers, returned checks and other evidence. Did anyone at the ministry do the due diligence before approving the IPD for Nice Ice Cream? If a foreigner wants to be the sole manufacturer of ice cream, they have to invest $500,000” according to information received.
In both cases, ERA and Nice have reported having Liberian partners, but they allegedly could not provide the proper documentation to justify their claim. “This borders on Liberians who front for these people and received little or nothing from them,” according to a source familiar with the case.
It would seem that there are certain individuals at the Ministry of Commerce who are not prepared to ensure that government’s policies are upheld, due to personal benefits.
In a telephone interview last night Mrs. Bright-Harding said it would appear there are some high-profile Liberians who are determined to ensure that foreigners are permitted to engage in businesses restricted to Liberians which is against the law.
“Do we expect government entities to function when every time somebody does their job right, people who have the president’s ear, run to her? If the president had the answer for everything, why would she need ministers? The ministry has made its decision, let it stand.”
Meanwhile, it was learned that the SP Gas Station at Vamoma House is allegedly opening another Ice Cream center, reportedly owned and operated by a foreign business owner against the laws of Liberia.