UNEMPLOYMENT CONTINUES TO be a big problem affecting Liberia as the number Liberians without jobs is so high living conditions are so unbearable.
SOME ESTIMATES PUT THE FIGURe of unemployment between 85% of even higher and despite this alarming statistics, a few jobs available in the country are competed for by Liberians and foreigners. EVEN IN THE BUSINESS SECTOR, foreigners are fighting Liberians for control and a Liberianization policy setting aside a number of businesses exclusively for Liberians is not being implemented. LABOR MINISTER NETO LIGHE has embarked on a very ambitious mission—a rigid enforcement of the Liberianization policy to ensure Liberians are protected on the job market. DURING AN INTERVIEW WITH FrontPageAfrica, the Minister said this rigorous enforcement of plans is meant to increase employment opportunities for qualified and competent Liberians in the nation. THE RIGID ENFORCEMENT of the Liberianization policy stemmed from a consultation held with the Indian and Lebanese Communities in October 2015 when it was agreed that beginning 2016, employers in the merchandise sector (Supermarkets, Shops, and Stores etc.) will have to be more consolidative in reaching the minimum threshold of four Liberians to one expatriate. THE LABOR MINISTRY SAYS it is meant to serve a reflection of policy guidelines and regulations, ensuring stronger employment opportunities for deserving Liberians, as much as a needed build up to adequate employment within the sector. MINISTER LIGHE FURTHER said the program will beef up the Liberianization policy. “Change is always a challenge and so it is with this enforcement. We just need to be focused.” In furtherance, he said more than 80 expatriates work permits have been denied in the merchandise sector, accounting for 70%, thereby, providing additional employment opportunities and ensuring a local content in Liberia’s human resource output potential. SUCH PRONOUNCEMENTS COMING from the Ministry of Labor are welcoming but must be taken with a pinch of salt. WHILE THE PRONOUNCEMENT IS worth commendation, Liberia has had a long issue with labor, beginning in 1926 when Firestone came to the nation to plant and export rubber. During the infancy years of the company’s operations, it was linked to several inhumane labor practices, including forcing the indigenes—with the acquiescence of the then Americo-Liberian government—to work slavery hours for a pittance. SO MUCH THAT FORMER PRESIDENT Charles Dunbar Burgess King (C.D.B. King) had to resign alongside his vice Allen N. Yancy when the League of Nations investigative team led by the British Cuthbert Christy found the former president and his vice culpable of slavery practice by looking the other way when indigenous Liberians were sold to slavery on the Spanish Island of Fernando Po. IN 1973, A LIBERIAN BOY, Edward Gberie, was choked to death in a supermarket by his foreign employer when he allegedly swallowed a candy. FAST FORWARD TO PRESENT DAY, there has been an upsurge of foreigners being employed in the various sectors. In most instances, they are given lean back jobs which should/can be performed by Liberians. AND SO IN MAKING THESE lofty pronouncements, Minister Lighe falls short of telling the public how many businesses have conformed to the rigid enforcement of the Liberianization policy. IT IS A GOOD THING to deny the work permits of expats performing jobs which can be done by Liberians. However, we are tempted to ask whether there has been a follow up by the Ministry to ensure that the various businesses are in full compliance with this directive. A DISMISSED FOOD AND beverage manager of the Royal Grand Hotel whose work permit was up for revocation due to alleged acts of sexual assault against Lloa Bass-Golokeh during the early morning hours of the New Year’s Day is suddenly in the employ of another foreign owned business doing a task which, we believe, can be performed by another Liberian. ONE OF THE many problems compounding Liberia today is the enforcement and implementation of the laws. Over the years, several laws have been placed in the books but implementation has been a serious bane for the postwar nation. AS THERE ARE reports of inspectors of the Ministry receiving bribes to look the other way, we hope the new pronouncement by the youthful Minister will not be a play to the galley by just another public official. IT IS COMMENDABLE for a youthful Minister to take such a strong stance in coming up with such pronouncement in a country where over the years it has been common for foreign business tycoons to control some of our government officials giving these foreigners the leverage to do things their way. THIS MINISTER LIGHE Liberians are watching to see your procurement come to reality and many will see it as a shift from the past.