Liberian economy struggles as election crisis drags on

Businesses in Liberia’s dual-currency economy are feeling the pinch as customers stay home and the exchange rate keeps climbing in the absence of a resolution to the country’s disputed presidential election.
“Nobody wants to buy, people are keeping their money,” said Ruth Wollie, one of many female market traders who make up an important voting bloc for Liberian politicians.
“For us to sell 1000 LD ($8) per day is very difficult,” she added at her stall in Monrovia.
Liberia has enjoyed 12 years of peace under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but hopes for an economic revival after back-to-back civil wars between 1989 and 2003 and the impact of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis.
Now an electoral crisis has compounded the problem.
It began in late October, when Vice-President Joseph Boakai and opposition leader Charles Brumskine finished second and third in the October 10 election, but alleged “massive fraud” afterwards.
The allegations were rejected by the National Elections Commission (NEC), which found that the two parties failed to provide “indubitable evidence” as required by the constitution that the vote was tainted by fraud.
The parties then appealed to the Supreme Court, which is due to rule next week.
The process has delayed the selection of a Sirleaf successor for nearly a month, as Boakai was due to face top-placing candidate and former international footballer George Weah on November 7.
“We were expecting a run-off and they took themselves and carried themselves to court,” market trader Beatrice Harris said.
Harris added that politicians are making the people “suffer”.
Christopher Pewee, a shoe seller in Paynesville, said the situation had “stagnated”.
“Investors are holding back investments, and the demand for US dollars is high. That’s why the rate has climbed from 110 to 130 Liberian dollars to the US dollar,” he said.
Liberia has two legal currencies: the Liberian dollar and the US dollar.
The country also imports the vast majority of its food, and wholesale imports and taxes are payable in US dollars only.
“If you don’t have US dollars to buy, the price will be increased and the rate is 130 (Liberian dollars) now. We are just asking the government to at least speed up the process,” market trader Ruth Wollie complained. — AFP

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