Monrovia- Ma Lorpu Flomo, who has been selling charcoal for more than eight years, is now classifying the hardship in Liberia, as the 'dig-hole, cover hole' syndrome. The proverb in the Liberian setting which means, using one situation to solve another and still entangled in debt, is now the new style of living in the post-war nation.
"I borrow some money from one of my friends to go for my coal in the bush, but her husband got vexed, and sent for the money. When she came, I had already used the money, so I had to borrow from another lady to pay this first lady. So tell me if this is not digging one hole to cover another hole?"
The middle-aged woman says even during former President Charles Taylor's regime, when Liberians were running from rebels and wars, the hardship, was not as much as it is now.
'Taylor Time Was Better'
"My daughter, let me not lie to you, but during Charles Taylor's time, the money was right in this country, so things were not this hard, but now the ministers and lawmakers are sending the money in the US to support their families, because none of their children are here going to school, Says Ma Lorpu.
"Even though, we were running from war, but we were still buying rice two cups of some done rice for L$ 15.00 and a bag for US$15.00 and US$22.00, for USA parboiled rice. But now we are buying one cup of rice for L$30.00, while the bag is US$35.00 for Chinese rice and US$50.00 for USA Parboiled rice."
Borrowing money to pay another debt, and still be indebted at the same time, is now taking over the entire country that the act is not only limited to civil servants and young people but business people as well.
It can be recalled during the general and presidential elections, Liberian market women massively voted President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf into office, with the hope of promoting the advancement of women in all sectors. But now the very market women are singing the same song of hardship, due to the hiking in prices on the market partly due to the inflation in the local currency market. The rate now stands at L$77 to USD $1 and close to L$80 to purchase USD $1. This makes it extremely difficult for those business people who buy their goods in US dollars and sell in Liberian dollars.
At the Rally Time or Merry -Go -Round Market, in Monrovia, market women selling various kinds of goods, had many things to say on the issue.
"We stood for ma Ellen, so she should also stand for us and talk to the people responsible for prices to reduce the prices before we die, because this is why we the women, voted her into power ," Says Mary Siah Varney, a dry meat seller in the Merry - Go-Round market.
"Because this whole market business is like digging hole to cover another hole, because at the end of the day, we are going home with debt on us. For example, if I credit a food woman my meat to cook and pay at the end of the day, and if her food does not finish for her to pay me, I have to take another person's money to replace the food woman's money"
'Digging Bigger Holes'
Mary Varney, who has been selling dry meat for seven years said she buy one bundle of meat for L$ 3,500, and have to sell five bundles, which will amount to L$ 17,500. "I have to put susu (Daily Saving) and do sell and pay, before I pay for my market, because I cannot buy it cash down. And sometimes when you dig the hole too big, it will cover you, because the debt will weigh you down, so we have to be careful, but it is not easy."
Speaking about loan given to market women to improve their business, Varney said those giving L$6,000 loan, to be paid within three months, are digging bigger holes for the market women in that the money is not enough. And In order to empower them, money like L$25,000 to be paid within six months, will do well for them.
However, a close source working with a loan enterprise disclosed that companies and banks giving out loans to business people are skeptical of giving out big money because some business people, who take loan, want to live more than their income, so they dig bigger holes, they cannot cover.
He further explained that some men would take the money and buy car for girlfriends and when it is time to pay the loan they are unable to pay because the money did not generate interest. While others taking loan to build houses would buy disputed land and would be taken to court once they start construction, because the alleged owner would issue a still order on the construction and they would end up paying for damage without being able to pay back the loan.
Ma Yamah Mulbah who sells dry goods and palm oil in the market says business is not fine with her because she is along without a helper.
"I am jam and force to do this business because my children father is not living, so this is why I am selling. Getting L$250.00, 75.00 and 15.00 profits cannot feed us and pay my house rent because the US exchange rate is so high and prices are not coming down, Says Yamah.
"This kind of market is called, "from hand to mouth", which means we are only selling to be able to eat. I am sick but I cannot rest, because when I rest, who will carry food to the house for the children to eat?"
Ma Yarmah is appealing to the government to build a fence with Iron Gate, like the Nancy B. Doe Jorkpen town Market is build. She feared that the many thieves who sleep on market tables may break into the warehouse and steal their goods.
Musu Duoh, mother of five, who sells many different kinds goods, said is the only way to be able to realize something is when her table is filled with many goods.
"The prices are too high on the market that we only sell in order for your family to eat, but this market we are doing, is from hand to mouth market. Like when we were buying Farina bag for L$ 8.00, we used to get profit because we used to sell an era paint bucket L$60but now we are buying it for L$2,100, so we sell bucket for L$160.00, so we make little or nothing as profit."
'Some Holes Hard to Cover'
Musu who has been doing business since 1992, says her husband is not working at the moment and her mother lives with her, which make it strenuous on her as the only bread winner.
"Some holes are hard to cover, because when you dig a hole to put goods on the table, before you look, children school fees and house rent will have to be paid, so it is hard to cover that kind of hole. I am appealing to the government to try and help us to see to it that prices go down, because the cost of living is so high."
Not everybody in the market was happy to speak to journalist. A lady selling rice by retail refuse to call her name or speak because she said she is tired of talking to journalists because she is not seeing changes.
"Even if I talk from now to judgment day, it will be for nothing, because the government will not do anything. When has this government come to our aid since we have been crying on the high prices on the market? This is why I refuse to talk because I am tire talking to people who cannot hear."