By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
Street-selling is a way of life in Liberia.
It is a way to survive.
Just ask the countless Liberians that constantly brave the humid temperatures and torrential rainfalls that pours down annually, and their reasons for doing what they do so good.
They will say in unison that selling in their particular location – streets or street corners, sidewalks, wither markets, wheelbarrows, etc., is the only place and the only way they know how to sell their products.
So, when the Sirleaf administration puts out a decree demanding street sellers to leave the streets for the unsafe, unsanitary, overcrowded and environmentally-unfriendly deathtrap known as ‘market buildings’ without addressing the real issues why these people are selling in the streets, proves that President Sirleaf is out of touch with reality.
There are no jobs in Liberia. Period!
That’s the number one problem.
And President Sirleaf’s only efforts to create jobs are photo-ops, naked and shameless promises and rampant corruption, which seems to be her only monumental accomplishments in the nearly 12 years she has been president.
Grown men, grown women and teenagers are walking around their communities hopelessly begging for handouts and with no jobs to survive in Liberia’s tough economic climate.
Some of these teenagers are not in school, and have made stealing a career just to live.
Adding insults to injuries is the Sirleaf administration’s policy of seizing part of a person’s Western Union’s money transmitted to them from friends and loved ones overseas.
According to reports, no matter what the amount transmitted via Western Union or from any other company is, the Liberian government can now seize part of the money and will give the individual 75% of his or her money in US dollars, and $25% of that same money in Liberian dollars.
This is the same Liberian government – Sirleaf administration that refuses to accept its own printed Liberian dollars during business transactions with the government, but demands that Liberians accept that useless and meaningless money to do business elsewhere.
Also frustrating is the fact that most businesses in Liberia will not even accept the Liberian dollar as a legal tender note.
So, if the Liberian government cannot accept its own money and does not have any confidence in its own printed Liberian dollar, why force it on the Liberian people?
Knowing how corrupt and dishonest the Sirleaf administration is and has been, I truly want to believe high-ranking officials in the Sirleaf administration, and their family and friends are the only ones who have access to the US dollars that the government is seizing from the Liberian people.
However, in a country with 85% unemployment and fewer private-sector employment, selling goods anywhere and anyplace in Monrovia (Liberia) can keep a person from starvation and from the grave too soon.
Believe it or not, some college-educated Liberians who are now adults got to where they are today in life because their mothers, fathers and other family members once sold goods in the streets to put that individual through school.
It is a humble experience for that (uneducated) mother and father and other family members to see their hard work of selling in the streets of Liberia – rain or sunshine pay off as they eventually see their loved ones become somebody through their efforts, in Liberia’s tough economic climate.
Where else these mothers, fathers and others could have gotten the money to send their kids and other family members to school had it not been for them selling from their ‘wither’ markets, wheelbarrows, from street corners, and on the side of the roads?
With no public-sector jobs and private-sector jobs for these individuals to fill, where else these mothers, fathers and others (some of whom didn’t go far in school) could have gone to get the financial support to even eat on a daily basis, and for their kids and extended family members to also eat?
The argument coming from the Sirleaf administration and its surrogates is there are market buildings around Monrovia that these people can use, and they refused to use them. The presence of these sellers in the streets is an eye-sore and a safety issue, they want us to believe.
Oh well, when did the Sirleaf administration ever concerned itself with eyesores and safety issues in the country, when garbage and human and animal feces are often seen all over the city – side-by-side with human beings?
Monrovia is an overcrowded city with plenty of unemployed and hungry people hustling to survive every day.
“That one that true.”
As overcrowded as Monrovia is, there are not that many market buildings around that can take in hundreds and hundreds of sellers (marketers) daily and at once without creating chaos and deaths.
The markets that are around today lacked modern toilet facilities and garbage collectors and disposal facilities, and the environment is not conducive to encourage marketers to even want to stay in there and sell the entire day.
There are people that are going around collecting money from the sellers in the name of tax. The Liberian (Monrovia City) government needs to enact sensible policies and laws that will protect the sellers from these unscrupulous people going around the markets collecting fees that doesn’t upkeep the facilities and help the marketers; but ends up in the pockets of the criminals.
The current market buildings are death traps that are unsafe and unworthy for human dwelling or selling. The current market buildings are ancient, unsafe, dirty, messy, creepy and filthy for any human being to sell food for consumption.
The solution is not to arrest and boycott street-sellers as suggested by a government billboard.
The Sirleaf administration should attempt to create private-sector jobs so that some of the street-sellers will leave the streets and settle into working the old-fashioned way to earn and bring incomes home.
The Sirleaf administration must work hard to put Liberian boys and girls (teenagers) to work.
The government must create vacation jobs so that young people will earn incomes to live from day to day. The Sirleaf administration must also create jobs for adult women and young girls to earn a living.
President Sirleaf cannot continue to blame others for the massive unemployment that hovers over the country.
Street-sellers are not the problem in Liberia.
Rampant corruption is the problem.
Incompetence is the problem.
The lack of vision is a problem.
The Sirleaf administration is the problem.