By Reuben Sei Waylaun
When former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said in 2016 that there would be tough time after her departure, many people didn’t believe it. But now, the reality is showing with the current trend in the country.
That to maintain macroeconomic stability and stimulate growth as well as the government waive penalty and interest on overdue taxes through a plan that provides incentives for settlement. Not only that, but also government waive storage charges for containers aged over 90 days through procedures to be established by the National Port Authority and create a platform that will eliminate as a first step, the International Permit Declaration (IPD) on rice.
She also recommended the extension of a 100 percent duty free privilege for industrial saw mills with eligibility tied to time framed local processing; defer payment of Social Development Funds for Concessions within Mining Sector under an agreement that ensures additional incentives for a strategy that prevents closure, protects employment and encourages value addition; provide a guarantee of US$15 million to commercial banks for loans to finance operations in the rubber sector under Sector Restructuring Plan that ensures debt settlement and value addition for farms of not less than 100 acres; and provide guarantee of US$2 million to commercial banks for loans small Liberian Businesses that require no more the US$50thousand for commercial activities.
The Issues of Today:
Despite all of these recommendations from the former Liberian Leader, the situation continues to deteriorate as the economy under the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) headed by George Manneh Weah continues to experience numerous challenges.
The cost of living continues to be a serious challenge as prices of basic commodities continue to be high on a daily basis. The price of Liberia’s staple food (rice) continues to be as high as LRD2,250.00 or US$15.00 for 25kg bags of rice, a gallon of gasoline is now sold for LRD600.00 or US$4.00, one scratch card is now sold for LRD170.00 or US$1.333.00, while transportation fares across the country continue to increase on a daily basis since January 2018 with no tangible alleviation plan from the government.
Besides, petroleum shortage has reportedly hit the capital as major top petroleum dealers shut down operations; leaving commuters stranded.
Although the former Liberian leader predicted difficult times, but recommended the way forward in curtailing such difficulties if the country must regain its status.
However, reliable sources have informed this paper that high tariffs levied on petroleum products and other basic goods by the Liberian Government remain one of the factors affecting the country.
Since the ascendancy of President George Weah, the nation continues to experience reported hardships as government workers are said to be murmuring over the delay in their salaries, the economy continues to be under stress.
It is also alleged that many foreign businesses in the country are contemplating on leaving the country due to the difficulties they are experiencing without realizing profit. Besides, other development partners are reportedly thinking on pulling out of the country.
With all of the compounding situations in the country, the mysterious disappearance of LRD16 billion banknotes has further created more fear for businesses in the country.
Forbes Index Report 2018
It can be recalled in 2017 Liberia’s economy was showing signs of recovery with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of an estimated 2.5% compared to a deceleration of 1.6% in 2016 and zero percent growth in 2015, according to the World Bank.
It was recorded that the mining sector grew by 29% in the first quarter of 2017, while non-mining sector grew by 0.2%. But, the agriculture and service sectors showed sluggish performance as inflation averaged at 12.5% in 2017 compared to 8.5% in 2016 mainly because of the depreciating Liberia dollar.
Recently, the American business magazine Forbes, which conducts studies of countries business climate ranked Liberia as the first on the list of the top 10 worst destinations for doing business.
This means the magazine is cautioning foreign investors not to venture into pouring their moneys into the country.
Liberia Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2 billion is beneath DR Congo, Mauritania, Togo, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Guinea, Libya, Gambia, and Chad on the index respectively.
Weah Constitutes Business Climate Working Group
After reportedly been advised by some of the best brains in the country, President George Manneh Weah recently constituted a Business Climate Working Group with the mandate to explore evolving challenges and prospects of the Liberian business environment and work out helpful plans and strategies towards improvement.
According to the Executive mansion, the Liberian leader has also directed the Working Group to identify quick ‘low-hanging fruits’ in the business climate and deliver them in the shortest possible time.
President Weah has also requested the Working Group to submit a “Plan of Action” to his Office to enable him take appropriate actions that will address challenges within a reasonable period.
The release said “the biting decline in Liberia’s business environment over the last four years has come to the attention of the President and he finds it an exigent imperative to act as swiftly as possible to ameliorate the situation.”
What Politicians and Ordinary Liberians Say?
Political pundits who spoke on anonymity said the dwindling of the economy and investors’ fear is also the government lack of lobbying power.
Some even told this paper that it was based on this that the former Liberian Leader was predicting the difficulty that lies ahead when she spoke on January 25, 2016.
According to them, some of the Ministers, Assistant Ministers, Directors were appointed into government before travelling outside of the country and don’t even know how to lobby in the international community for investors to come to the country.