Citizens of Grand Bassa County decry serious economic hardship in the county characterized by unemployment and increase in food and basic commodity prices.Here in Monrovia, gasoline price has increased from 540 Liberian Dollars to 700 LRD, amid artificial shortage characterized by hike in transport fares. TOTAL, a leading petroleum importer and distributor in the region, is scaling down from the counties.
President George Manneh Weah has constituted a Business Climate Working Group to identify quick “low-hanging fruits” in the business climate and deliver them in the shortest possible time, accompanied by an action plan. The President mandates the group to report in three weeks.
But narrating their plight from the county live via OK FM on Tuesday, 23 October they lament that life is unbearable for the ordinary person in Grand Bassa as a result of the lack of jobs.
“Grand Bassa is very hard right now, our husbands are not working because no company here to prove jobs for them. I will come in the market early morning to sell but we don’t make money anyway, the U.S. [exchange] rate is very high here, so the goods prices are high too,” a marketer narrates.
Sandy Gray, a marketer in Buchanan City similarly decries that life has become so difficult to an extent that citizens cannot even afford the country’s stable food (rice) and are now living on Fufu pounded cassava, including farina daily.
“Grand Bassa is very harder than ever before, we are suffering here; we the students that are selling in the market can only fight to get our recess on a daily basis because when the people bring the goods from rural Bassa, they complain of paying lot of transportation fares due to the bad road condition. We buy these pepper from the people at a high rate and sell for 20 to 25 Liberian Dollars per pile,” Sandy Gray continues.
A local retail fish seller says a cartoon of fish (Herring) previously sold for 2,500 Liberian dollars now costs 4,000 Liberian Dollars, while other species of fish that were sold for 3,500 Liberian Dollars per cartoon now costs 8,500. A retail cup of rice is being sold for 50 Liberian Dollars, while Vita Cube previous sold for five 10 Liberian Dollars, is now three cubes for 25 Liberian Dollars, respectively.
Another marketer only identified as Rachel, says another means of livelihood in the county is to credit goods from local importers, sell and later repay, explaining they are unable to secure loads from commercial banks for fear of not being able to pay back.
“They are the same people making zogoes them getting plenty in the country than they say that pro poor government. I have to sell roasting pepper before I can pay my children’s school fees and feed my family. The U.S. rate is causing serious problem for us; we are calling on the President to do something about the exchange rate, we need to live,” Rachel emphasizes.
Grand Bassa County Superintendent Janjay Baikpeh concedes some of the comments made by the citizens are realistic, but others were unrealistic, pointing out that the CDC-led government has just gone nine months in power.
He calls on the people of Bassa to exercise patience, disclosing that government, through his office, has lots of things in stored for the country, but transformation does not happen overnight.
By Ben P. Wesee-Editing by Jonathan Browne