Liberian Businesses Decry Massive Loss amid Forceful Closure, As Frozen Food Sellers Want Reconsideration
MONROVIA – Dozens of store owners at the Red-Light Market have lamented that they have been closed by the government for over a week, thereby, they’re not only losing revenue, but their businesses are also being jeopardized.
The government has been facing difficulties in relocating street vendors from the Red-Light Market, which was once the biggest Market in the country, to the newly constructed Omega Market. The relocation will also pave way for the construction of the ELWA-Coca Cola Factory Road which is being undertaken by the government.
Most of the relocated marketers and street hawkers believe commercial activities are more viable in the Red-Light are compared to the Omega which is just a few miles away.
As a result, stores owners at the Red-Light Market are now bearing the consequence – being forcefully shutdown by the government.
“Government knows that we the store owners we pay huge money yearly and we’re just from paying tax – as soon as we open, LRA will be coming for tax, Paynesville City Corporation will be coming for tax. So, now, we have our stores closed, some of those stores are paying US$12,000-US$15,000 per year; some are paying up to US$70,000, if you divide that per day, you’ll realize that some are paying up to L$6,000-L$7,000 per day. So, if you lose a single day because your store is closed, you can imagine the amount of loss you’ll sustain,” James Kollie, a store owner in Red-Light said.
He added, “Just a few days ago, the government was running behind us for the 4% tax and now they’re closing our shops without notice, where are we going to get the 4% from.”
Another store owner who identified herself only as Nora questioned why the government must close stores only to get rid of street vendors from the area.
“We’re owing the banks, we’re only clubs. We have to pay taxes, and it is big setback for us. Some of us are selling perishable goods and the goods are spoiling, so the government has to see reason to come to our aid,” she said.
However, FrontPageAfrica gathered that upon several engagements by the store owners and the Liberia Marketing Association, the government has decided to allow the stores reopen, but will, however, keep cold storage facilities – sellers of frozen foods closed.
This is also not going down well with operators of cold storage facilities and sellers of frozen foods.
“We see this as a form of discrimination against us, Liberian operating dealing in frozen foods. We even feel like they are giving the Fula people advantage over us, because majority of the stores here are owned by the Fulanis,” a frozen foods dealer told FrontPageAfrica.
He added, “We’re running generators to keep the frozen foods preserved; many Liberians rely on frozen foods for their daily meal, so, not only is the government sabotaging our business, it is also depriving Liberians much-needed foods they need. Very soon, the few who are being allowed to sell at other places will inflate their prices.”
The aggrieved owner of the cold storage who asked for anonymity said, it is unfair for the government to blame them for the uncontrolled street vendors at Red-Light Market.
“We operate in stores, not on the streets. These vendors come to buy from us in the stores, after that they are supposed to take it to the designated market to sell. Now, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that they go their designated market to sell, but shutting us down is like taking us out of business,” he said.
We have been closed for over a week illegally. We are lawful business operators and taxpayers; many Liberians who depend on these businesses for their livelihoods and frozen foods are everyday foods for the Liberian people; saying that those cold storages should not open is an infringement on us and this can lead to collapse of businesses, loss of revenue for government and loss of jobs for the Liberians working with these businesses,” another frozen foods dealer said.
He appealed to the government to reconsider its decision to keep all cold storage facilities closed and allow them operate while they help the government find a lasting and amicable solution to the problem.
According to him, they are willing to work with the government to ensure that the relocation of the street vendors and marketers to the Omega Market becomes a success.
“We’re lawful and peaceful, we are willing to cooperate, but keeping our businesses closed is going to cause us more harm and breakdown our businesses. We pay loans to the banks almost every week, we have staff we have to pay and their families depend on it, so, this is really devastating,” he said.