Hurray! The Monrovia Stock Exchange Hits A New Milestone: Imagining the Possibilities
By Patrick Flomo
During the past three decades, Liberia had been in the eye of a “Category 5 Hurricane.” But between 2006 and 2012, the Category 5 hurricane that had turned the country into a war zone downgraded to a mere tropical storm. By 2015, the storm had subsided and the rebuilding process had begun with serious economic reforms. Life began to return to normal as the winds of economic change began blowing from the U.S. across the Atlantic and from China across the Pacific.
The 2018 election was democratic, transparent, free and fair. It ushered in a new generation of Liberians who were fiscally conscious and determined to get rid of the morbid economic policy that had kept the majority in abject poverty and the country underdeveloped. This was a new generation of deficit hawks, balanced budget advocates, proponents of smaller government, free market economists, and strong believers in entrepreneurship.
Mrs. Hawa Zondo Duzon was elected president and her first cabinet nominee was the president of the Central Bank. This first nomination suggested that the economy would be the centerpiece of her administration. She appointed Ms. Mamie Massaquoi, the country’s most eminent economic wizard, as Central Bank president. The president considers the Central Bank as the most important institution and an economic combustion engine for economic and social transformation. The transition from “mat to mattress” is only feasible through job creation in the private sector and not the government, as had been the case for more than half a century. The appointment of Ms. Massaquoi clearly demonstrated the president’s determination to radically and structurally change the economic dynamics of the country.
The president’s economic pronouncement during her inaugural address was earth-shattering. She said that “75 percent of the retail sales market will be controlled by Liberians and in ten years, 100 percent of the retail sale businesses in the country will be controlled by Liberians.” She added that within the first hundred days in office, she planned to cut the number of ministries from the current 13 to six and slash government payroll by 35 percent. The pronouncement that earned her a 30-minute standing ovation was that “the government will guarantee small and medium size business loans ranging from US$50,000.00 to $250, 000.00 to all Liberian willing to start new business enterprises.”
The reverberation from these revelatory economic policy pronouncements by the president was felt in every corner of the country. The president’s speech excited the business community to the point that many decided to take advantage of the greatest opportunity since 1847. A new age of business exuberance was dawning throughout the entire nation.
The mounting tides of economic activities and the burst of business exuberance that engulfed the country seem to suggest that Liberia’s Gilded Age had arrived. The impact of this Gilded Age is seen everywhere. For example, the pockets of shanty towns with open sewage and cabbage dumps (from the proximity of the Executive Mansion to the Water Front, commonly refer to as Waterside) that once housed a large segment of the population all but disappeared from the face of the earth. Now, you find single-family homes with property values ranging from $50,000 to $150,000.00. A new middle class and intellectuals are on the rise. The flurry of economic activities are no longer concentrated only in Monrovia but have spread throughout the major cities. All major cities and towns are now connected to Monrovia by highways and electricity.
This is an economic miracle in every sense of the word. In fact the economy is so robust that the president received a new nickname: The Economic Messiah of Liberia. What created economic miracle was a success of the fundamentals: the president’s policies on consumption tax, tax abatement for small and medium-size businesses, small business Affirmative Action for Liberians, the return to the US$ (dollar) as the national currency, the free trade agreement with China, a continuously balanced budget, and the declaration of war on corruption. Ms. Mamie Massaquoi, the Central Bank president, enforced a monetary policy of keeping the lid on “inflation.” This has been the pepper and salt for sweating the profit margins for businesses, and the catalyst for the bullish market. In fact her monetary policy earned her the nickname of the Monetary Czar.
What a Wonderful Dream