23 December 2013

Liberia: 'Stinging' Christmas! - Traders Compare Past Festive Seasons With 2013's

Two days to the universally celebrated holiday of Christmas, the day set aside by Christians as the birthday of Jesus Christ, the begotten Son of God, it has become clear that all is not rosy for many Liberians, if not all, not even the ones that defy the chilling conditions of the weather on a daily basis, trading in many wards to, at least, have something for the day and beyond.

This paper has found out from a sampling conducted Saturday that this year's Christmas is far stinging, in terms of no money or slow pace of business, than previous Christmas when citizens had enough money in their pockets to celebrate the season in grand style, taking care of themselves and sharing with relatives and neighbors. Sharing during the festive season is a tradition as it is a reciprocation of what happened during the birth time of Jesus. As recounted in the Holy Book, wise men came from the east, traveled to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, and worshiped him while others showered him with gifts.

Many Liberians interviewed blamed the 'stinging nature' of this year's x-mas season on the slowness of the market, which is to say that people are not buying as they should as the case was in past time due to the lack of money. A father of three, Jerome Dugbeh, who has been selling since 2003 after the end of the civil war, was concerned about the fluctuation in the market, saying the market gained momentum on Friday December 20, 2013 at which time he sold few goods.

Dugbeh who trades in watches, wallets and cosmetics on Randall Street said as a result of the slow pace of business (not buying), he is unable to meet the financial obligations to his family including payment of rental, school fees, let alone shopping for the kids as it is normally done during the festive season.

"There is no money, people are only buying small, small; things are getting harder day by day and I am quite worry about my kids; I do not know how they will think about me," the frustrated-looking father said.

"I am not selling so I do not know how I will settle my rental to my landlord who is also waiting for me his family needs as well."

As Dugbeh, Seyon Tweh, a vendor on Randall Street, described this year's festive season as dull and worst of all.

"It is quite frustrating because the sellers are more than buyers," he said. More and more people are said to be venturing in petty trading due to lack of employment opportunities, while the unparalleled status of the US dollar to the Liberian dollar, according Mr. Tweh, is a major factor.

He added "majority of the civil servants who take home salaries are well below LD$15,000, for example, will find it quite difficult to purchase for their Christmas goodies for their children."

Because of the hike in the rate, traders and businessmen are pricing their goods at will, disregarding Ministry of Commerce and other regulators.

"The highest civil servants take home is LD$9,000 and if he/she buys a bag of rice, pay school fees and rental he/she will be left with nothing," Mr. Tweh said.

Besides Dugbeh and Tweh, a woman trading in used clothes in the commercial hub of Redlight in Paynesville put the blame on the Liberian government, expressing frustration in the government over the increase in the rate.

With the present rate at LD$80.00 to one US dollar, many traders/business people blamed it on the increasing hardship that biting everyone.

The woman who did want to be named said she was even shame of her neighbors because she campaigned from door to door for the Unity Party in the community, adding that the party is not doing anything in the favor of the ordinary people.

"The party has brought suffering to the ordinary people as they are finding increasingly difficult to make ends meet; I never knew the Unity Party was not up to the task," the market woman added.

Also expressing frustrating at the way things are proceeding in Liberia with no sign of abetting, Jerome Vesalee, an official of a community savings club (local credit facility) in Duport Road Community blamed the problem on government's inability to pay civil servants.

He claimed that many small financial organizations failed to disburse as normally as done because creditors were unable to pay back loans borrowed.

"Our Christmas will not be good at all, the club is strangulated as a result of this no money syndrome," Mr. Vasalee said.

The conditions expressed by these Liberians, according to reports gathered by this paper, are just the same in many homes across Monrovia and its environs, let alone villagers who feel the brunt of the hardship and poverty striking Liberia.

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