The Freeport of Monrovia turns into a Brick Wall for Young Liberian Entrepreneurs and Businesses

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In my article, I will be providing some facts about the strangulation of young Liberian Entrepreneurs and Businesses by the Freeport of Monrovia. James Markhan said “Don’t let taxes scare away future investors”. Is the Freeport of Monrovia scaring young Liberians who want to break out of poverty and lead a generation to prosperity? Read this paper and give me an answer.

In every country Government levy taxes on products imported into their country. The levying of tariffs on imported products is prudent by national governments; this measure helps governments to protect infant companies, industries, consumers and finance government’s operations.

The seaport taxes or tariffs on imported products in any country is likely to determine seventy percent of its sale cost because the tariffs on product in most cases constitute a huge amount for cost of sales. In our country consumers complain many times that entrepreneur’s profit motive drives up product acquisition costs; ignoring the fact that these people are business people and their two primary objectives is to survive and make profit. Entrepreneur’s will never want to bear a cost therefore every high tariff impose on them by the Freeport of Monrovia will be paid by the final consumers.  

Entrepreneurs are individuals who are always looking for ways to break barriers, open a new market, redefine something and create income. These individuals are willing to take on the risk, borne the pain and harvest the fruits of their ideas later. 

Entrepreneurs are considered to be innovators, inspiration to a new generation, an employer and founders for new beginnings. Entrepreneurs play a pivotal role in a country’s economy, the better ones are considered an asset to the country and sometimes given preferential treatments. In our world today entrepreneurs have change the way we cook, communicate, travel, sell products, bath, learn new things etc.

The reason why we have aircrafts today is because someone got tired of the mode of traveling; riding trains or buses and thought on another way that becomes faster and easier and today we have all kinds of aircrafts. 

The first airplane that flew on December 17, 1903 was a barrier breaker and a foundation for new innovations of air crafts. Someone got tired driving slow today we have supercars (fast cars). Today we enjoy using several social media platforms for different reasons and the only reason why trillions of us are enjoying these things because an entrepreneur saw something a trillion other persons couldn’t see. Today these social media platforms have provided information for millions, increase government revenue, boost self-confidence and have created a new way for one to gain access to the whole world.

Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, change makers and a major reason many people love to live in certain places of the world, but the question is how do they get the money to fund these ideas? Is it that every entrepreneur has the money for their idea? Can an entrepreneur only be a rich person?

Entrepreneurs have the ideas, the plans, the talents and technical skills, but most times don’t have the money to fund their ideas. Even if they do; a good entrepreneur will never want to use his own money to start a business or fund an experiment. Entrepreneurs depend on commercial banks or other financial institutions for loans to fund their endeavors. Therefore, if they are in a country like ours who is building a brick wall at the port of entry, the country’s major sea port, “Freeport of Monrovia” which many young Liberian entrepreneurs depend on to do business and make ends meet Liberia will continue to experience high unemployment rate, poverty and nonperforming loans because we live in a country whose economy is hugely driven by imports which is not good for our balance of trade. However, let’s keep our unfavorable balance trade for another day discussion. 

The government may think that they are generating revenue for the state to be used to finance government operations, improve citizen’s livelihood not knowing their revenue generation is malicious to young Liberian entrepreneurs who wants to change the narrative and rewrite our history.

Today in Liberia the Freeport of Monrovia is collecting revenue at the detriment of many young Liberian entrepreneurs.

 The revenues generated at Freeport has harmed a good chunk of small Liberian businesses, thereby making them not to be credit worthy, increasing unemployment and creating a barrier for many young Liberian entrepreneurs to get out of poverty.

I asked entrepreneurs in Liberia this question: Don’t we have leaders we elect to seek our interest and understand the plights of the people? Their responses were almost ninety percent the same. “They said my brother these people only pretend that they understand our pain during elections but they really don’t care. Why should they when their containers are duty free at the Freeport of Monrovia and many of them front for other businesses in clearing their containers. Our people don’t like us as long as they and their family are not affected by this malicious tax regime. They just don’t care.”

In April of 2018 the Acting Chairman of the Patriotic Entrepreneurs of Liberia (PATEL) in an interview with a local newspapers called the Freeport of Monrovia “a Slaughter Zone for local businesses”. The Freeport of Monrovia has been imposing high tariffs on young Liberian entrepreneurs for the past eight to nine years but many government officials don’t see  it as a problem because they buy into this notion that reducing the tariffs at the Freeport of Monrovia could have a negative impact on their pay checks  and other benefits. 

Factors that are harming young Liberian Entrepreneurs: 

Freeport of Monrovia charges are always fluctuating. Today you will bring a product and pay $20,000 USD to free your container, tomorrow that same worth of product and the port will be asking you to pay $25,000 USD or $30,000 USD on grounds that they just added a new fee that they didn’t even had the courtesy to communicate with customers to have them informed of these changes through social media, local radio stations or their website. 

In April of 2016 Dr. Alex Otti, former managing Director of Diamond Cmpany told the governors of South East Nigeria to refrain from using contractors in their revenue drive because these contractors will want to make more profit when collecting revenue at the expense of the common citizens that elected the governors to seek their interest. His statement is very debatable because most times government may not have the ability and technical skills to do certain work making them to outsource a service. 

Liberia contracted its revenue drive of the Freeport of Monrovia under former President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in a controversial concession agreement signed with APM Terminals in 2011. This agreement has caused many young Liberian Entrepreneurs and businesses to be listed bad creditors by banks and other Financial institutions. The agreement gives APM terminals more right and even permitting them to increase tariffs on products per their discretion when necessary. In October of 2014 a representative from Bong County Hon. George Mulbah wrote a communication to plenary about the deplorable condition of the Freeport of Monrovia under the APM terminal stewardship. During that hearing of this complain by the Joint special committee on concessions, investments, state enterprise and public accounts the Managing Director of the Freeport of Monrovia at the time, Madam Matilda Parker told the committee that she has had several heated arguments with APM Terminal management on the increment of tax levied on containers but admitted that her hands were tied due to the terms and conditions of the Concession agreement.

Then I ask myself where were the members of the national legislature when the concession was signed? Where were the people that each District and County elected to seek their interest? Where were the people that are given the rights by the constitution to perform the duty of oversight during the signing of these kinds of concessions? Where they doing their jobs or selling out their birth rights? 

Many young Liberians abroad and home want to contribute to the growth and development of Liberia, but how can this happen when it seems like concessions agreements like the APM terminals concession are signed to harm the citizens instead of benefiting them. The Freeport of Monrovia has turn into “A Brick Wall” for many young Liberian Entrepreneurs and Businesses. This brick wall that I think is taller and stronger than the wall of Jericho and I don’t know if God can still give us some trumpets to bring it down. 

Until these barriers at the Freeport of Liberia are removed, Liberia’s economy will continue to struggle, while other countries in the region economy is appreciating. Let’s take a moment to ponder why other investors would prefer shipping their cars and other goods through the Guineans Port of entry and then get them, travel by road to come into Liberia and sell their commodities rather than through Liberia’s Freeport? Think about this. 

“If you do not take interest in the affairs of your government you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.”

PLATO

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