There is no doubt that wherever there is an economic boom, it will attract more migrants. This is evidently seen today as Africans troop in large numbers to cross the Mediterranean for greener pastures in Europe. This is similar to what is happening in the urban areas of Liberia including Monrovia, Ganta and Buchanan, where people have migrated to basically for economic reasons. Specifically for Monrovia, many people came to live in here as a result of our past wars, while others joined after the war.
Although the wars ceased more than ten years ago, the call by government for people to go back to their original settlements has largely been ignored. Why are these people not willing to go back? The answer is because the socio-economic activities of the country are heavily concentrated in Monrovia.
It is against this backdrop that the president of the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), Charles Ananaba, called on government during his induction ceremony to provide incentives for businesses through tax returns. Mr. Ananaba argued among other things that in addition to building infrastructure, government needs to provide incentives to business entrepreneurs to invest and expand businesses outside of Monrovia to reduce poverty and create jobs. The LCC president also emphasized the need for government to pay debts it owes businesses in a timely manner in order to allow them to provide fair market value for goods and services.
This request needs to be heeded in word and deed for its impacts to be felt on the economy, in the lives of the people and the country. When the economy grows, more jobs will be created and citizens will be empowered to develop their surroundings. At the same occasion where the LCC president spoke, United States Ambassador to Liberia Christine Elder also added that there is a need for government to prioritize the private sector in its development drive. The US Ambassador’s statement pointed out that the private sector is a provider of most of the jobs in a country. The Automatic Digital Processing (ADP) and Moody’s Analytics of the United States indicated that in 2016 the private sector alone created 216,000 jobs for US citizens. Even though most Liberian businesses making up the private sector are informal, they are believed to be responsible for not less than 45% of the jobs in the country despite the numerous constraints they face.
Currently government is the largest employer in the country. In order to reverse this trend, government needs to relieve itself of the stress by instituting measures that will enhance private sector investment. Businesses, though under obligation to pay taxes as required by the law, and entrepreneurs will be more motivated to pay when they feel the impact of the taxes they pay, including tax returns, better infrastructure and security. Government must also learn to pay debts to the private sector. There is no way that a business can smoothly run to pay salaries to employees and taxes to government if its income is in debt. Let us also be quick to point out that government needs to be practical to enforce policies governing businesses in Liberia to reduce unethical practices. We thought to bring up this aspect because in any society where laws are weak and people act in accordance with their discretion, businesses will operate in fragility, and investors will fear operating in such an environment. We are of the conviction that prioritizing the private sector will promote a decentralized economy which will subsequently reduce the huge population concentrated in Monrovia. Vivid evidence of how businesses improve people’s living condition can be seen in Ganta, Nimba County. Being a business friendly environment, Ganta has attracted a lot of investments from private citizens and foreign nationals. Their investment in infrastructure is gradually changing the face of the city. This change is also being complemented by the newly constructed road from Monrovia to that city and the electricity project brought in by the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP). As we appreciate the level at which government and partners have intervened in the economic development of the country, it is our hope that attention will be paid to requests of incentives for businesses to motivate entrepreneurs as they help government in its development agenda.