By Stephen G. Fellajuah
The Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL) says Liberian businesses are flagrantly marginalized and therefore subjected to low or no progress in spite of the Liberianization policy meant to give Liberians priority in doing business in their country, The group also blames the Liberian Legislature for the poor state of the Liberia trade and commerce sector.
PATEL’s National Chairman, Dominic Nimely, said the Liberian Legislature is reneging on its oversight responsibility in ensuring that the Liberianization Policy Law effectively increase Liberian participation in the trade and commerce of the country by giving 75 percent exclusive business right to Liberian Entrepreneurs.
Consequently, PATEL, a group of Liberian entrepreneurs, has threatened to stage a peaceful protest if their contention aimed at ensuring the government acts to allow them leverage the Liberianization law is not address in the period of one month.
“Our Government has marginalized us, this is an old age issue. [Those in authority in the trade and commerce sector give] 25 percent right to Liberians while foreigners enjoy the lavish of 75 percent. Even with the 25 percent, we still have foreign competitors,” the PATEL boss said.
He indicated that PATEL demands 75 percent business right and emphasized that “We blame the Legislators because they are neglecting their responsibility of oversight.”
He alleged that APM Terminal is one of the entity owned by foreigners that is undermining the progress of Liberian businesses while the Legislature does nothing about it. APM Terminal, Mr. Nimely indicated, demands the payment of taxes only in US dollars, and has drastically reduced the storage time at the Freeport of Monrovia to the disadvantage of Liberian entrepreneurs.
“APM Terminal has one quay crane. When that crane breaks down, we pay US$250 to Fouani Brothers because we don’t want our goods to spoil in Freeport”, he added.
He said before the regime of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, businesses were given 21 days to clear their containers from the port; but APM Terminal has reduced the days to 3 days, a situation that PATEL has on many occasions complained of to the Legislature, without any intervention by Lawmakers.
Mr. Nimely further observed that the high cost of taxes by AMP Terminal has been exhibited also by other entities, including Global Trucking Maritime Solution (CTMS), who charges far more fees than charged in other countries in the region, alleging that GTMS/CTM was chased from Sierra Leone for same reason of over charging fees.
According to Mr. Nimely, fees charged by GTMS/CTMS in Liberia is far more than what they charge in Ivory Coast and Guinea where businesses pay US$50 for 40ft container and US$ 30 for 20ft container, while in Liberia business owners or importers pay US$330 and US$290 respectively”.
The PATEL Chairman narrated that the Liberia Revenue Authority’s (LRA) astronomical increase in taxes charged businesses is highly unreasonable against the survival of Liberian businesses.
“Liberians are denied business loan from local banks because of kick backs, even if they have the requisite collateral to obtain the loan and the capacity to pay back in time,” PATEL boss emphasized.
Nimely who is also chairman on the Commerce and Trade Committee of the Liberia Business Association (LBA) Inc. reflected on President Manneh Weah’s inaugural address, when he told the people that Liberians will no longer be spectators in their own economy, and promised he would remove unnecessary constraints on Liberian-owned businesses in a country ranking so lowly on the table of conducive “place of doing business” despite the abundance of natural resources.
He pointed out that the Lebanese, Indians and Chinese continue to dominate retailing markets and are venturing into businesses exclusively set aside for Liberians under the Liberianization policy.
Nimely however calls for the intervention of President Weah into the high cost in fees levied against Liberian businesses by Global Trucking Maritime Solution GTMS, adding that the situation has caused some Liberians to seek alternative by involving into cross border trade.
“The Liberianization Policy mandates that qualified Liberians be employed at all levels, including the levels of upper management bracket of foreign-owned companies, but the PATEL boss said the policy has not been enforced, as Liberians are denied managerial jobs while those jobs are given to foreigners, something Nimely termed as undermining Liberians’ progress in the economy of their own economy.