THE PUBLIC MUST have felt elated when it was first announced in Monrovia that President George Manneh Weah had empanelled a section of his Cabinet to study the Liberian business environment in the hope of identifying and resolving problems that both domestic and external traders face doing business in the country. That was mid-October. It was not until last weekend that the public got to know that the panel set up had retreated to the northern provincial city of Ganta to begin or continue forensic brainstorming on this vexing national issue. We are glad they did.
ONE REASON WHY many are inclined to be elated about the Ganta discussions on the Liberian business climate is not only because national issues of this nature deserve sober and deliberate rationalization and scientific thinking as to meet the demands of evolving contemporary dynamics but also because, indeed, the Liberian business climate in all respects is antithetical and debilitating to national transformation. The laws governing the business sector are outmoded, the tools and equipment monitoring trade activities are archaic and many have taken advantage of these anomalies at the expense of the nation and its development drives.
LAMENTATIONS ARE ALL over the place amongst business owners, exporters and importers, end-consumers and the general public due to the unfavorable business climate in Liberia. There have been lamentations for crude lending regimes; banks are charging huge interests on loans and even the loan process is tedious and paralyzing. There are lamentations about port charges; import and export duties are extremely high compared to other ports in the sub-region and getting papers through the process at the ports tedious and paralyzing. There are lamentations about the registration of companies; processing registration documents or seeking renewal of documents and paying business taxes is tedious and paralyzing. There are lamentations about the exchange rate between the United States Dollar and Liberian Dollar; getting foreign exchange carry out commercial activities is tedious and paralyzing.
AS A RESULT of these conditions, many potential investors have stayed away from the Liberian business terrain. Others who have managed to be here under the circumstances are folding. Yet, there are those who are profiteering with impunity because there is official empathy for them for enduring the difficulties of the terrain. Thus, the ordinary Liberians who are at the end of the Liberian trade climate are most affected, as goods and services remain high and unaffordable. Moreover, the jobs that the trade environment could have created remain scanty. Hardship continues unabated. The citizens are charged with frustration. National security is threatened, because where unemployable is high without solution in site and many helplessly ensure hardship there is bound to be security concerns.
A STUDY OF the Liberian business climate is therefore a critical imperative. It came at the right time—a time when public expectations are high and the economy has reached an all-time critical point under a government pretty young looking for its bearing.
WHILE WE HAVE no doubt that the Ganta brainstorming session featured the right diagnostic presentations, we are hopeful that the solutions found will be given rigorous enforcement attention. We say this because in Liberia, as it is often said, people are good at planning and at carving policies but implementation is poor and always elusive.
IT WOULD BE suicidal for this government to thread that path. Letting action points derived from the Ganta discussions on the business climate abandoned to dust on the shelf of the government would be suicidal because the current stagnated and bleak economy has got direct impact on the very health and life of the Government. The Liberian economy, principally the trade environment, of all other considerations has much power to determine the lifespan of this government determining on how it is handled. This is why we think the results or recommendations from the Ganta discussions must be handled with seriousness—seriousness demonstrated in the timely, uncompromising implementation of the actions and policies identified as the right solutions for a vibrant business climate in Liberia.