There is Renewed Hope for the Business Community to Thrive Once Again
A Statement by Dweh S. Boley,
Executive Director, Liberia Business Network, Inc.
At the Liberia Forum, September 21, 2004
October 8, 2004
On behalf of Liberia Business Network, I would like to say thanks and appreciation to the Sullivan Foundation for the privilege to share our views on some of the critical issues affecting business, trade, and investment in Liberia.
The business community like every other sector in Liberia was dealt a serious blow during the civil war. But today, through the help of the United Nations, there is renewed hope for the business community to thrive once again. And, Liberia Business Network is leading the next frontier for economic democracy. We are a non-profit, non-partisan, and non-governmental organization. Our aim is to create and support favorable conditions for Liberians to have access to and control over the economic resources and opportunities of their country.
The premise of our belief is that no nation can achieve meaningful development unless the creative potential of individuals is allowed to flow freely. That calls for a political, social and economic environment that gives the individuals the knowledge, skills, and opportunity to exercise maximum initiative that would empower the individual to contribute to the development of the nation.
The Constitution of the Republic of Liberia in accordance with Chapter 2, Article 7, states: “The Republic shall, consistent with the principals of individual freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia.”
Unfortunately, we all know that previous administrations have defaulted on the promise of the Constitution. Therefore, I would like to take this moment of opportunity to appeal to the current Government of Liberia for a renewed focus and commitment to honor its sacred obligation and fulfill the promise of the Liberian Constitution in accordance with Chapter 2, Article 7.
And, as a follow-up, we have requested an audience with the Honorable Gyude Bryant, Chairman and Head of State of the Transitional Government of Liberia to address some of the pressing issues affecting Liberian-owned businesses. What do we want?
1. We want the Government of Liberia to enforce the Liberianization laws in order to protect and secure businesses set-a-side exclusively for Liberian citizens.
2. We want the Government to eliminate import duty for all certified Liberian-owned businesses for the period of two years.
3. We want all government contracts for capital purchases and professional
services to be awarded to Liberian-owned businesses.
Furthermore, we would like to appeal to the International Community to give direct financial assistance to entrepreneurial development in Liberia. You see, the pundits of Lebanese interest in Liberia have a misguided approach. They say “Liberians don’t want to get their hands dirty”. Well, I respectfully disagree and reject that argument in its entirety. I know of some Liberians who are able and willing to do business in Liberia as early as yesterday provided they had the resources to start today.
Ladies and gentlemen please allow me to introduce three distinguish Liberian businessmen here with us:
First, Mr. Samuel Doe is President of Bonjal Enterprise. Mr. Doe had a successful ice cream business from 1982 to 1996. His clients included the United States Embassy in Monrovia. He employed 35 Liberians full time. Mr. Doe lost his entire business and savings worth 3.5 Million Liberian Dollars during the war. He wants to go back to Liberia to make and sell ice cream again.
Second, Mr. Jacob S. Dogbeh is President of Putu Construction Company. He had a successful Building Construction Company from 1978 to 1990 with 96 fulltime employees. His company built over 15 primary school buildings in Liberia, and even to this day, the African Development Bank still owes his company Three Hundred Thousand United States Dollars.
Third, Mr. Charles Snetter is the first Liberian to own a private F M Radio Station. In 1992, Mr. Snetter secure a Fifty Thousand United States Dollars loan from the First Commercial Investment Bank of Liberia to start and managed Radio Monrovia. He had a staff of 15 working full time and was able to pay off his loan with in six months. Unfortunately, the radio station became a target after the 1997 elections. So, his family migrated to U.S. for safety.
Finally, I would like to say this to all Liberians in the United States. During the past 30 years, I have observed how the activities of Liberians in the United States have influenced the political, social and economic conditions in Liberia.
· In the late 70’s some Liberians in the United States supported the Progressive Alliance of Liberia and the Movement for Justice in Africa. Their activities led to the 1980 military coup.
· In 1985, some Liberian in the United States supported armed invasion from Sierra Leone to overthrow a democratic elected government in Liberia.
· In 1989, some Liberians in the United States supported the NPFL invasion from the Ivory Coast into Liberia, which was the beginning of the senseless civil war.
· In 1991, some Liberians in the United States supported another invasion from Sierra Leone that later on became ULIMO K, ULIMO J, LPC, and LDF.
· In 1999, some Liberians in the United States supported the LURD armed invasion from the Republic of Guinea into Liberia.
· And, in 2003, some Liberians in the United States supported another armed invasion by MODEL, from the Ivory Coast into Liberia.
I am not here to say who was right and who was wrong. However, I believe that if we - the Liberians in the United States invest our money in our country, we will not support anything to destroy it. My friends, it is time for a positive change. Let us convert all that energy of hatred and bitterness into productive business relationships to rebuilt our beloved country - Liberia. Thank you.