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In Bong County, Local businesses suffer COVID-19 shock

By: Trokon Wrepue [email protected]

Bong: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge on the global economy, Liberia already with a stagnant economy is face with a task to overcome its obstacle.

A new World Bank report in 2020 shows that the human cost of COVID-19 could be high. The Liberian population living below the national poverty line is expected to increase from 55.5 percent to 68.9 percent, which means that an additional 526,000 Liberians are at risk of falling into poverty.

At the Opening of the fourth session of the 54th Legislature on Capitol Hill in Monrovia House Speaker Bhofal Chambers called on his colleagues to resume work in 2021 with a “deep sense of patriotic consciousness to address the prevailing hardship grappling the country.

He warned, “If the threat of hoarding persists, be it currency hoarding or commodity hoarding, the cruel face of a ‘state within a state’ will creep in, inclusive of forces which could function or operate with manipulative impunity, thereby undermining our body politic.”

He added the punishment of people involved with hoarding will create sound conditions of action-oriented frameworks, knowing that hoarding, whether hoarding of commodities or hoarding of currency, can cause tragedies and spark up painful economic instability. It can create a cycle of speculation, inflation and self-fulfilling prophecies. He said.

“The Stage Media” has been asking few businesses in the central Liberian county of Bong:

Mr. Jallah F. Kerkulah of the J.F Kerkulah Business Center in Gbarnga said the tough challenge facing local businesses in the county is due to the fluctuation in the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the US dollars.

“Well the problem we face here, is with the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollars and the United States Dollars.

“We are dealing with two different currencies. When we exchange at a certain rate today, tomorrow it’s different. It is really giving customers high time here,” Businessman Kerkulah said.

“I don’t actually know the reason for the rate fluctuation. If we are using the Liberian dollars, let use it or if we are using the US Dollars, let use them. But we just want the rate to be stable.

“If the government decided that we all use one of the currencies, all commodities should be sold using that currency and that taxes and other fees be paid in that particular currency,” he said.

Kerkulah mentioned that with the presence of COVID-19 in Liberia and at the same time the economic climate, businesses in Bong County are finding it very difficult to maintain their previous pace as customers and other buyers were catching tough times in receiving the US and Liberian dollars to purchase commodities.

“The government needs to have control over the Liberian dollars. Where we have goods and commodities sold in USD and others in LD, to really balance the rate and get things moving forward. But as it is, to realty get the economy balance will give us high time,” Kerkulah mentioned.

Another businessman, J. Abraham Tokpah in Gbarnga said “The economic challenge as we all are aware is affecting the entire country and everyone.

“We the businesspeople are badly affected because the pandemic has affected us directly and indirectly. There is a lot of problem for the businesspeople, but we are still trying to make way so that we provide the need for our customers,” Topkah said.

“The influx rate of customers as compare to pre-COVID-19 is bad. The COVID-19 brought lots of suppression to citizens most especially the business community. We that are not selling essential goods are face with a lot of problems and up till now, we are still faced with those challenges. So, the COVID-19 crisis is doing a lot of harm to us actually,” he noted.

Mr. Tokpah acknowledged that there is a bit of improvement in the exchange rate due to its recent decline, but businesses are still been affected by the scourge of the noble coronavirus pandemic.

Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah in May 2020 speaking at a live stream panel discussion hosted by the US Institute for Peace (USIP) in partnership with the World Bank Group (WBG) predicted negative economic growth in Liberia in 2020, as a result of the presence of the Coronavirus in the country.

He mentioned that Liberia is experiencing economic losses because of the pandemic, which has ravaged the world, including the African continent.

The Minister attributed his prediction to a loss in revenue generation, based upon the sharp decline in business activities as a result of the pandemic.

December 2020, President George Weah issued Executive Order No. 103 aimed at stimulating economic growth in the Liberian economy.

In an effort to mitigate the effects of the global pandemic on local businesses and the challenge thereof, the government of Liberian through the Minister of Finance and Development Planning in December 2020 promised that at least 85,000 Petty Traders, including Market women, are expected to benefit from a COVID Cash Transfer Program in Liberia.

The program was launched by the Government of Liberia on December 19, 2020, in collaboration with USAID.

The COVID cash transfer of US$150 was to be disbursed to the most vulnerable in the Liberian society in three installments in an effort to cushion the effects of the global pandemic.

Nukanah Kollie contributed to the article

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