MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberia is set to enter a harsh and serious recession this month and possibly for the entire year after protests, widespread corruption and the government’s counter-productive response hampered the country’s business climate, especially retailers, and brought the nation’s under-developed and struggling tourism industry to its knees.
The Monday, January 6 demonstration in the West African nation erupted when a mass opposition group known as the Council of Patriots (COP) comprising citizens from all walks of life in the country complained about excessive corruption, bad governance and the Liberian leadership inability and unwillingness to listen to the voices of the people.
In June last year, the COP also filed a petition to the Liberian government, asking the Liberian president, His Excellency George Manneh Weah, a former international soccer star, to take prompt action in handling the worsening economic conditions in the country by ‘stepping up.’
The president has since not acted, and ‘economic hardship,’ according to many Liberians, continues.
Retailers and local businesses have taken a huge hit as a result of the increasing protest and unrests.
Already a tourist deprived nation increased uncertainty, and unceasing protests also affect the country’s poorly developed tourist sector.
The number of tourists in the country has fallen dramatically. In addition, several businesses are slowing down while others are gradually pulling out of the country, posing a threat of technical recession starting from June 2019.
A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
A known Liberian public policy professional and job creation expert, Jones Nhinson Williams, attributed the poor growth figures and economic uncertainty to the ongoing protests and the government’s inability to rationally address the citizens’ concerns through well-thought-out policy framework and programs for economic growth and social advancement.
“The continuing protest and social unrest have deterred overall business confidence, shaken basic everyday sectors like retail trade, restaurants, tourism, and other industries, exacerbating an already-weak economy,” he said.
“The capital Monrovia’s tourism and retail industries have taken a particularly bad hit,” he added.
“If the Liberian government does not handle the situation from a policy and programmatic perspective, the number of visitors and investors into Liberia will plunge in 2020 and forward,” Williams said.
Williams said, since the June 2019 protest, average hotel occupancy rates in the country have also fallen, and that the total sales volume among retailers decreased by an unspecified percentage.
Williams added, “The COP is not a government and therefore has no responsibility in satisfying the citizens’ aspirations. On the other hand, the ruling CDC-led coalition is the governing administration that has the duty and responsibility to satisfy the citizens’ aspirations. Hence, failing to find an amicable solution will only hurt the government and put it at odds with the citizens.”
Retailers and other businesses in Liberia, including hundreds of small businesses, have already suffered losses because of the uncertainty and the protests. The government mismanagement and negative response have also forced businesses to close down.
This is what typically takes place during a recession as was with the last global recessions in 2008.