Liberian-owned Businesses Make Minimal Impact -As LIBA boss Craves for Support to Liberian-Owned Business

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By: Stephen G. Fellajuah

The Liberia Business Association (LIBA) has expressed deep dismay over the low impact Liberian-owned business sector is making to the economy of Liberia.  LIBA Chief Executive, James Strother describes the impact of Liberian-owned businesses on the national economy as “very minimal”, saying that if Liberian businesses will transition from being ‘spectators to ‘players’, the government must make deliberate effort, through LIBA, to build the capacity of Liberian-owned businesses to enable them compete in the local marketplace.

He made the statement Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the 4th National Judicial Conference in which Day Four specifically focused on issues affecting the contentment of doing business in Liberia. The Conference was held at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Monrovia.

Mr. Strother noting LIBA’s commitment to the development of the economy of Liberia said, “We want to be the driver of the process to actualize the President’s policy statement made on his inauguration day.

It may be recalled President Weah said in his inauguration in January 2018: We will not permit Liberian- Owned businesses to be marginalized; we cannot remain spectators in our own economy; my Government will prioritize the interest of Liberian-owned businesses and offer programs to help them become more competitive and to offer services that international investors seek as partners.”

According to LIBA boss, the law sets aside 12 businesses exclusive to Liberian-owned businesses through the Investment Code of 2010. “This Law has not been implemented in full. He named Cement Block-making, Supply of sand, stone and granite, Operation of Gas Stations, Peddling, Ice cream manufacture, Commercial Printing, Travel Agencies, Advertising Agencies, Graphic and Commercial Acts, Distribution of locally manufactured products, Cinemas and Production of poultry and poultry products as some of the business set aside

Over the years, Mr. Strother recounted that LIBA activities were focused on four thematic areas, including advocacy, access to credit, training and capacity building and policy coordination,  but noted the institution as a result of series of constructive engagements with relevant Government Ministries and Agencies an MOU was signed with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to share, exchange information and hold discussion on policies that affect the domestic private sector before implementation.

LIBA boss further explained that MOU was also signed with Liberia Revenue Authority to share, exchange information and hold continuous dialog on changes in tax policies before implementation.

Mr. Strother expressed delight that LIBA can pride itself of being the voice and face of Liberian-owned businesses through effective advocacy structure, saying the Committee on Trade and Commerce and the Committee on Economic Affairs are working closely with relevant Ministries and agencies to monitor situations and engage where necessary.

The LIBA Chief Executive pointed out that through effective advocacy, an entire bidding process at the Ministry of Agriculture, the SAPEC project was cancelled by the Minister, Madam Jeanine Cooper, because standards set were deliberately high to marginalize and disqualify Liberian-owned businesses from participating in the bidding process. However he said LIBA continued to engage until the process was revised to create the level playing field for all business owners to participate.

“To enhance our performance and remain the apex body for all Liberian-owned businesses operating in the domestic private sector, LIBA institutional capacity needs to be built.

“It is for this reason, we feel strongly that, having been established by law through the Act of Legislature to work in cooperation with the Government of Liberia and not work against the Government, we now act as a catalyst for the development of the domestic private sector, which creates the highest employment in the economy;” he said asserting that LIBA should be supported by Government to succeed.

Highlighting some challenges, he said, LIBA’s only source of income is membership dues, and if membership to LIBA is optional and payment of dues is seen as not obligatory, how can the institution generate the needed capital to keep the association operational, he wondered, adding that despite the financial constraints faced, LIBA continues to make its voice heard in the corridors of the commerce of Liberia.

Mr. Strother stated “Our advocacy and petition to the Government since we assumed the leadership of LIBA in August 2018, has been to allocate annual funds to LIBA through the national budget to strengthen the capacity of LIBA headquarters and branches in the fifteen counties.”

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