Wilson Tarpeh’s Challenges as New Commerce Minister

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Mr. Wilson Tarpeh has been appointed by the President, George Weah, as the new Commerce Minister of Liberia.

He comes into this position at a time when the Liberian economy has never been in greater control by foreigners. This reality caused our new President, Mr. Weah, to proclaim in his Inaugural Address last Monday that Liberian business people will no longer “be marginalized.”

That remark by President Weah was wholeheartedly welcomed by the Liberian business community, many of whose members have been finding it extremely difficult to compete with their foreign competitors who for the past 12 years have been overwhelmingly favored by the past administration. These foreign enterprises have historically enjoyed another serious advantage—they are well financed, not only by local banks but also by tons of money flowing from the oil-rich Middle East.

Realistically, we do not expect these two highly favorable scenarios—persistent government favor and being heavily financed—to change overnight. The Weah Administration is already faced with many very serious challenges, including the many that were terribly neglected by the past administration, such as education, health and sanitation, agriculture and the very economy itself, which President Weah has probably already realized is broke.

But these difficulties, compelling as they are, give the new Commerce Minister, Mr. Tarpeh, no excuses. Beginning today, technically his first day in office pending confirmation, he must refresh his mind about the realities he already knows too well, being himself a Liberian businessman who has lived in the country throughout the war and has seen how one sector after another of the nation’s economy has been gobbled up by foreign business people.

And guess what? Liberians have done it to themselves by engaging in that senseless and totally unnecessary 14-year civil war, which reduced us (Liberians) to penury (abject poverty, pennilessness), while foreigners capitalized on our fratricide (brother killing brother) and became even more entrenched in their ownership of almost everything in the country, including their leasing, for 40-60 years, of sizeable tracks of urban land.

Commerce Minister Tarpeh, in his new job beginning today, will soon realize that even the importation of our staple food, rice, is controlled by a Lebanese monopoly, and foreign business people also control most of the wholesale and retail businesses.

Part of this problem is Liberians’ lack of entrepreneurial capacity and skill. Mr. Tarpeh will immediately have to tackle this problem, too, if he, his boss, President Weah and the rest of us must arrest the ‘marginalization’ of Liberian business people.

How shall we do this? The Commerce Ministry should institute a program to introduce entrepreneurial training in our schools, colleges and universities and find the financial resources to empower those who successfully go through these programs to go immediately into business. Mr. Tarpeh knows what we are talking about because he has served in many important economic and financial portfolios in the country, including president of the Agricultural and Cooperative Development Bank (ACDB) and Finance Minister.

Another important part of the new Commerce Minister’s responsibilities—along with those of the Finance and Justice Ministers, the Central Bank of Liberia and the commercial banks—is to find a way to teach and encourage Liberians to PAY THEIR DEBTS TO THE BANKS! How shall these institutions do this? By organizing seminars and workshops for Liberian business people to impart the importance of developing honesty and a high sense of responsibility in business.

Needless to say, the new Commerce Minister must set the example for all his staff in the Ministry by living above the fog and maintaining the highest standard of integrity, and insisting that ALL those working under him follow suit, in the supreme interest of Mama Liberia.

Authors

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hahaha, you guys (Daily Observer) want the government to “TEACH and encourage ” grown ASS men and women to pay their debts?? Even my 5 year old nephew know that when you borrow money from the bank or anyone, you MUST to pay it back!!!

    And how did he know that? Because his parents, not the government, taught him that when you BORROW something from someone, you must return it (plus interest, if money)!

    So, instead of asking the government to “teach and encourage” Liberians, you should ask Liberian parents to TEACH their children what most PARENTS teach their kids: a) You must clean up after yourself, b) you must pay back money that you BORROW from others, and c) you must not take things that don’t belong to you!

  2. Domestic production needs to be encouraged and increased, especially agricultural production. We have to eat what we produce, and reduce the importation of foods. The SOIL IS A BANK. INVEST IN IT. The legislators have agricultural break, how many of them have farms? We can feed ourselves!

  3. Hey Daily Observer, you lament that “the Liberian economy has never been in greater control by foreigners” than now. But look: The ONLY was foreigners can control your economy is, if Liberian consumers keep buying their goods. If Liberian consumers STOP buying from foreigners, they will go bankrupt, and leave your country!

    So, how about asking Liberians to boycott ALL foreign owned businesses?? Or better yet, how about kicking out all the foreigners (businesses) out of the country (like how Zimbabwe kicked out white farmers)?? Why? Because there will be NO foreigners (business) to blame for “marginalization” of Liberians.

    By the way, we all know what happened to the Zimbabwean economy when Mugabe blamed white farmers for “marginalization”, and kicked them out of his country!. Zimbabwe became an economic basket case!! Is Liberia next?? Time will tell.

  4. Great editorial, thoughtful and insightful comments – suggestive of change of attitude towards hot-button issues in the national conversation. Thank you, Daily Observer, thank you, guys!

  5. Education may be be important. However, in business, commitment matters most. If you check the educational background of many successful business people, including foreigners in Liberia, you did be surprised. Many are not formally highly educated. Liberia’s Problem: We’ve always overlooked over most commited business peoples; our market women and street vendors- the YARNA(here now) as we call them in Liberia. Many big BUSINESSES started from Grassroots-Street Levels. Let’s develop our Market Women and Yarna street vendors. They are highly “COMMITTED BUSINESS PEOPLE”. Liberia should seriously consider upgrading the “SUSU SYSTEM” to “WELL ORGANIZED CREDITS UNIONS”. With a Credit Union, you borrow MONEY by using your(own)DEPOSITS as collateral. In the SUSU SYSTEM, you deposit your money; for a given period, then collect it-all at some point, with no interest. How Smart!

    • Thanks Henry, this time, I have to agree with you on domestic BUSINESS assistance as you stated. I would like to add to your ARTICLE about Taxing local BUSINESSES. As you know about 90% of Liberian owned Markets or Businesses are not taxed to support Government Revenues because they are not given the necessary LOANS to improve their BUSINESSES for taxing. Their local BUSINESSES are only used for daily living. It will be great to give Liberian owned local Businesses decent FACILITIES ( Places for Business) and Equiptments for better OPERATIONS. With these upgrades, Liberian Revenue Authority can tax all local Businesses. This is called give and take. The NATION needs Revenues.

  6. Great Article. I firstly want to congratulate the new Minister of Commerce, Hon. Wilson Tarpeh on his preferment by President Weah and for making himself available to serve the Liberian people in this capacity as he has successfully done in past roles in leadership with an impeccable record. As a Masters Degree graduate in Applied Social Research and Social Policy from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), and as a young entrepreneur who has established two businesses (1 in Liberia and 1 in Ireland), my experience has lead me to believe that greater emphasis needs to be placed on social entrepreneurship and business development. Liberians, are conditioned and are willing, generally speaking, to engage in various business ventures, however, there exists a skill gap in terms of growing and access to markets and finance. This was the feedback I received from other young and well learned entrepreneurs and this was one of my challenges at the time as well. I, personally believe that the policies, although I have only examined some, need some augmentation that will create broader (international) marketability for Liberian private economic sectors.
    Microfinance institutions, banks, lending agencies, are indeed playing their part, however, niche markets, such as the one I was in as an international development consultant, need further encouragement using tailor fitted financing and growth strategies.
    We remain encouraged by Hon. Tarpeh’s dedication and we are available to participate in the development process if needed. God Bless Liberia.

  7. Great Article. Very insightful I firstly want to congratulate the new Minister of Commerce, Hon. Wilson Tarpeh on his preferment by President Weah and for making himself available to serve the Liberian people in this capacity as he has successfully done in past roles in leadership with an impeccable record. As a Masters Degree graduate in Applied Social Research and Social Policy from Trinity College Dublin (TCD), and as a young entrepreneur who has established two businesses (1 in Liberia and 1 in Ireland), my experience has lead me to believe that greater emphasis needs to be placed on social entrepreneurship and business development. Liberians, are conditioned and are willing, generally speaking, to engage in various business ventures, however, there exists a skill gap in terms of growing and access to markets and finance. This was the feedback I received from other young and well learned entrepreneurs and this was one of my challenges at the time as well. I, personally believe that the policies, although I have only examined some, need some augmentation that will create broader (international) marketability for Liberian private economic sectors.
    Microfinance institutions, banks, lending agencies, are indeed playing their part, however, niche markets, such as the one I was in as an international development consultant, need further encouragement using tailor fitted financing and growth strategies.
    We remain encouraged by Hon. Tarpeh’s dedication and we are available to participate in the development process if needed. God Bless Liberia.

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