Grand Gedeh Women Undecided on Continuing Business Due to High US Rate, Others
Zwedru – Women doing petty trading at the Zwedru market have sadly disclosed that most of them are now undecided on continuing their businesses as a result of the high and unstable exchange rate between the Liberian and United States dollars.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
These women, who have been trading for four to 15 years, said the further devaluation in the Liberian dollar has resulted to low or no profit from sales of their goods.
Forty-four-year old Philipmena Solo sells retail medicines in the market. She complains of difficulty in realizing profits from her sales for the last several weeks, unlike few months ago when the exchange rate between both currencies was at a relatively appreciable level.
She has been in her retail trading for over four years. According to her, she expanded her business gradually throughout those past years.
“But right now, I na able to go up again. My hand just coming down. Ain’t no seh if I can continue selling because the rate too high,” Ms. Solo bellowed out as she pointed to the tablets spread on an sanitized wooden table before her.
She called on the George Manneh Weah-led government to control the rate.
Lydia Wolo, 34, does her petty trading in cool aid and iron soap selling. Iron soap is a locally produced detergent made from caustic soda (Sodium Hydroxide), water and oil mixed. The finished product can be very hard thereby earning its name.
Ms. Wolo, too, like Ms. Solo, has been complaining of the continued increase in the prices of all the very basic ingredients she puts together to produce the soap. Sugar is another ingredient she buys to mix with water and sweetened powder to produce the cool aid.
She told this newspaper it is unlikely she will continue this business she has been engaged in for many years.
She disclosed that she voted for George Weah to become President of Liberia in order to bring about the “good changes” he had promised to them when his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) campaigned for the nation’s highest office in 2017.
“He came here in Zwedru and told us that in 90 days we would start seeing good good things happening; we ain’t seeing nothing yet. More than six months gone now, nothing yet than I hear he said we must be patience? Things prices just going up high. I regretting why I voted for him. The caustic soda used to be L$3,500 when he was not President. He’s there now, it gone to L$6000, sugar was L$75 for the cup now it is L$110,” she whined.
According to her Liberia, especially Grand Gedeh has become tougher to live in now; also complaining about the very terrible road leading up to the county.
Lydia worries as she contemplates on trying another sort of business; she fears going out of business because of the economic conditions.
For 31-year-old Dorcas Tokpah, who sells vegetable oil, flour and farina (gari), the unstableness in the exchange rate confuses her.
Ms. Tokpah indicated that because of the unfixed rate, goods coming from La Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Monrovia are sold to them expensively before they have to go and retail those goods to the locals, who, too, are complaining that the costs of things are high.
Where she sells, Dorcas has an extension of wholesale but that portion of her once thriving enterprise is shutdown at the moment because of the lack of funds.
“One minute the rate is L$160 another minute it is L$155 or L$152. The rate is not stable; if you change at that rate imagine the buying rate,” she stated.
Not providing any specifics about what used to be her gains monthly, she disclosed that her profit margin has dropped so badly that she is unable to continually keep the wholesale side open.
This isn’t unique to her alone. All of the other women had similar cries. And this is a cry that now resonates across the country.
Because most of these women don’t have huge financial backings, they rely on few of their colleagues, who usually get on trucks, come to Monrovia or go to neighbouring La Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea to buy for them. But that, too, is also being hampered as a result of the very deplorable conditions of the roads and exponential hike in transportation costs because of the exchange rate.
Ms. Tokpah further told this newspaper that a five-gallon vegetable oil tin used to be transported on the trucks for L$200.
“My sister, right now the drivers are charging L$400 per tin; also a bag of farina was L$700 but now it gone to L$1,900. They need to do something about it; we are dying oh,” she said.
One can clearly see that the first one is a 100-percent increase and the second is a 150-percent increase.
Because the locals are the ones now, who bear the brunt at the end of the day, they aren’t really coming in to buy. The prices will be increased so as to meet the new demands from drivers and exchange rate.
Unlike her friends, Ms. Tokpah is not thinking of quitting but she can’t be far from reaching such decision.
“I am thinking on changing my market because I’m getting nothing from this business only a lot of expenses,” she stated.
As for Edith Seduway, another petty trader, she squarely put the blame of their hardship and economic woes on the man she voted as President in 2017 Presidential Election.
“What we say we like is now using us, so we will live with it. We thought when we vote for him things will change but the way things looking myself shame na,” she said looking on the ground, dejectedly.
According to her, they are not hearing anything positive from their government as it relates to fixing the rate to make it stable; adding: “Things prices going up, no better explanation, we crying on US, we crying on the road conditions.”
In her lay woman’s understanding of the economic implications, she thinks that a single currency will pull the Liberian economy out of the brink of collapse and set it upright.
“When we will use only the Liberian dollar, let use it. Or, when we will use the US dollar let use it. The use of the two monies giving us hard time,” she opined.
Kayatu Kromah, who sells deodorants and other cosmetics, buys her goods from neighbouring La Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea. But the present condition has forced her to decide staying at home now when the goods she already has with her are sold.
Ms. Kromah drilled our reporter through her record book, which shows that for the over US$150 goods she had on the table, she would have only realized US$15 in profit after all the expenses and other processes aimed at getting additional goods.
“When I go buy my market, I can start crying. The US business making us to suffer,” she added disclosing that the US currency is not as valuable in Guinea or La Cote d’Ivoire as it is in Liberia.
According to her, all of them market women were happy to vote for Weah to be President. She added, however, “But we have seen nothing yet; we are still hoping, if he helps us with the US rate it will be alright.”