11 August 2014

Liberia: Traders On State of Emergency

Petty traders at the commercial hub in Red Light, Paynesville, have described the state of emergency imposed by President Ellen Johnson Sirelaf as hell because it places stress on the livelihood of the already starving and economically stranded local population.

They told our reporter in an interview Saturday that the cost of living is getting harder and harsher as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

At the West Africa Cold Storage facility in Red Light, one of the many traders, Mamie Saywah, a mother of four, who sells 'meat soup', said living condition in the country is ever increasing with no intervention from concerned leaders since the outbreak of the virus.

"A large carton of scaly Sardine (20 kg) once sold at the cold storage for LD$1,400 is now LD$2, 400,"she said, adding it is quite exorbitant, unaffordable and frustrating for petty traders.

Mamie further indicated that she was finding it difficult to feed her family and save money at a local micro finance saving scheme. She said she is indebted to the micro finance institution.

"Within the 90 days of state of emergency, I do not know where I am going to get money from to pay back those that I owe and even to be able to pay my rent on time and take care of my children," she complained.

Thomas Gbaye, a foreign currency exchanger situated at the corridor of the MilageHage Complex in the commercial district, said he is worried about his kinsmen in Nimba County.

As a result of the state of emergency which is expected to last 90 days, he said he would love to move back to rural Liberia with his family.

"The state of emergency is a complete declaration of war because it not only worrisome and threatening, but it also outstretched the local economy," Gbaye noted.

According to him, "a 25 kg of rice in my village in Glarylee, Nimba County, is sold for LD$1,500 as compared to LD$1,250 in Monrovia and it can also be transported from Monrovia to Bahn for LD100."

Another trader, Abraham Saylee, said the state of emergency will make them return to some of the things they did during the war.

"The state of emergency will make us to go back to eat buds, locusts, caterpillars, termites and bamboo worms because at the end of the 90 days, we will not have money to buy fish and meat," he maintained.

Owing to the seriousness of the situation brought upon them by the Ebola outbreak and the state of the emergency, Saylee said, "I am going to resort to using mo-moin," he said. 'Moin-moin is a locally preserved fish with pungent smell used to spice food, which is used in place of standard fish meat that is out of the reach of the poor.

For his part, Spencer P. Zed, another foreign exchanger from Zayzay Community Block E, said "the state of emergency has confused us and it is really disturbing as it has made things harder for us."

While he said he is willing to work with the government in combating the Ebola virus, he claimed it is also worrisome for the government to not control price, adding "the imposition of the state of emergency should have considered all associated economic factors."

"There is no business, no buying, nothing is coming and nothing is going to and from the interior parts of the country and people are just worrying about such a decision by the government," he explained.

Mr. Zed said he is worried and can hardly sleep at night because of the various unfolding financial transactions which affect daily commercial activities in the area.

"Soon, there will be no potato greens on the local market; traders are not moving between Nimba and Lofa Counties and the cost of food continues to increase with no intervention by the government," the petty trader noted.

Madam Esther Baimboe, another petty trader and a mother of four and a resident of Soul Clinic Community in Paynesville, said transportation to rural Liberia has increased uncontrollably.

She added that there was an ardent need for government to come in to save travelers from being exploited.

"I paid LD$1,500 from Ganta to Monrovia in a taxi yesterday. From Saclepea to Monrovia by taxi is LD$1,800 for each person; we will not be able to travel at the end of the 90 days," she added.

Reader Brown, a fashion dealer from Zwedru, who was planning to return, told this paper that "we used to pay LD$2,500 on taxi cab but we are now paying LD$4,000 per person.

"The child that I am carrying on my lap will cost me LD$2,000 excluding load. I am also paying LD$3,500 for my load to go. This is my first time since I have been in Zwedru for the last five years to pay such an amount is subject to be paid before takeoff from the parking lot in Red Light.

"Can you imagine that the market I am carrying is less than the transportation; the money is too much and no one is saying anything about that," she added.

A young resident of Duport Road Junction Community, who preferred anonymity, said he is not associated with anyone who thinks that the interior is the best place to take his or her family in the wake of the current Ebola outbreak.

He said everything done by the government to fight the pandemic is in the interest of the people and the state.


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