Over a year ago Finance Minister Amara Konneh made a heartwarming declaration that lifted the spirits of Liberian furniture makers around the country. He said the government, as a matter of priority, would make it a policy to equip all GOL offices with locally produced furniture.
In a recent editorial we stated that the government, which is the biggest employer in most countries, is the one institution that lifts all boats.
Just imagine what terrific impact Minister Konneh’s declaration would have had, had it been implemented forthwith. It would have energized the nation’s carpenters and cabinet makers and got them busy planning, organizing, designing and producing every imaginable furniture piece needed in government offices around the country. The vocational schools, including the Booker Washington Institute (BWI) and the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC), too, would have gotten into the act, and busied their students in both training and production to meet the ever growing demands.
We are reminded of Minister Konneh’s declaration by our Senior Reporter C.Y. Kwanue’s article on the Gompa United Wood Association (GUWA), published in our Friday, January 3 edition. During his tour of the association’s facilities, he was impressed with their creativity and resourcefulness. The US$35,000 loan for which they applied through the Central Bank of Liberia’s loan empowerment program for Liberian businesses is shortly to be disbursed. However, the association’s leaders have gone ahead and installed an improvised wood processing facility using fuel oil to help process the wood. Wood processing is important so that whatever furniture is produced will be long-lasting.
We commend the Gompa United Wood Association for their vision and initiative and we pray that they will remain UNITED and conscientiously pursue their objectives so that their customers and the whole nation, including local customers, the banks and the Liberian government, will take them seriously.
GUPA’s success will inspire other carpenters and woodworkers around the country to unite and work together to effectively implement the broad vision of turning Liberia into world-class furniture producer.
Alas! We observe that GOL agencies are still advertizing bids for imported furniture. This is why we ask, how serious has the Finance Minister taken his declaration?
The naysayers will quickly dismiss the goal of locally produced furniture as another empty dream; but we say this dream is based on something concrete that we have seen, something that is being done that has promise. Being undertaken in faraway Ganta, we feel it is important for the GOL, especially Finance Minister Konneh and his co-workers and other stakeholders, to move quickly and give encouragement to GUWA.
At the policy level, the GOL should seriously consider imposing, at some appropriate point, a moratorium (halt) on imported furniture. This could be a tangible way of encouraging local production.
In addition, GOL should, as a matter of deliberate policy, work through the Ministry of Education and the Booker Washington Institute to recruit cabinet making experts from the sub-region and abroad to boost the staff BWI’s Wood Work Department. When this is done, Liberians from all over the country could come and improve their skills on furniture manufacture.
Should this proposal be agreeable to Minister Konneh, money could be found to beef up the Department’s shop equipment, so as to enable the trainees to leapfrog into efficient furniture manufacture.
Liberia has the wood. All we need is the training and soon, there would be no need to import furniture into Liberia.