Thursday, 18 August 2016

“Sweet” Liberia – Boom or Bust?

By Haresh Karamchandani

I first set foot on the soils of this blessed country way back in October 1982, a week before my 17th birthday. 

The idea was, or the mission was: make some money > stand on your feet > become independent > support the family back home > get married > have children > support the children and wife > get divorced > get married again > have more children > support the family > get old > retire. 

I got down to checking out the above list from day 7, my birthday:

- Secured a job and started earning money, check; 
- Stood on my own feet > became independent, check; 
- Started sending money back home to parents, support the family back home, check; 

The first million dollars was deposited into my bank account at the age of 24 and now it was time to check out the list again:

- Get married, check; 
- Had 2 daughters, check; 
- Support children and wife, check; 

By the age of 35, it was time to check out the list again:

- Get divorced, check; 

By the age of 45, it was time to check out the list again:

- Get married again, check; 
- Had 1 more daughter, check; 
- Support the family, check; 
I am going to be 52 this October. Not yet time to get old and retire. 

The idea is to check the list in the next 10 years’ time. 

Meanwhile, i have been given an assignment to write a blog, by my CEO, my wife, my life partner. She sent me any email saying that I should write on the below points: 

- state of business 
- economy 
- growth prospects 
- challenges 
- HR challenges 
- Latest IT news in Liberia 

She also threatened that she will not sign any more checks until the blog is written and posted. 

I have no choice, but to consider writing. 

Reading and looking at above list, I really do not have much to say. 

But nevertheless, since I do not have a choice, here I am writing away. Let me try and tackle the challenge, point by point.

State of the business: Business is good. I know most other businesses will say “Bullshit, not true, business is bad”. But I say business is good. Why do I say so? Well, we are a debt free company, we have regular income which helps pay the bills, the salaries, the holiday bills, the wining and dining. Yes, it was better last year or the year before last. Yes, it will get worse, according to predictions. People say, the Government is not spending money, UNMIL has departed, Oil prices are down, Commodity prices are down. All these factors show doom. I am talking out of experience. 36 years of experience. It could be worse. Notwithstanding all the above factors, we are still able to keep the pot boiling. Therefore, business is good. 

Economy: Farzana did not mention which economy. International or Local economy? I will assume she wants me to talk about the local economy. But I will talk about both. (I never like to do what she wants!) The local economy: It is one year to elections, general Presidential elections take place in 2017. There are already 22 registered political parties with the National Elections Commission. Another 21 more are trying to get registered. Therefore, all things going well, we will have 43 political parties and 43 Presidential candidates come 2017. The total voting population should not be more than 1.5 million. I see a lot of drama. The rumors are that the ruling party has the edge. The current VEEP should take over. But then, there are also a lot of other rumors. Last week there was talk of some rebels in the bush. Nearly every day there is a demonstration at the Capitol Hill. I smell instability. I hope I am wrong. The world economy is in a mess. The USA is in a trillion dollar debt, they are facing a very embarrassing elections, BREXIT, War in the Middle East, Russia posturing, North Korea shooting missiles, Kashmir, Yellow Fever, Zica, Global warming. Only bad news. What will be the situation, in 10 years’ time? Where will I be able to retire peacefully?

Growth prospects: Yes, when everything is bad, how badder can it get? It can only get better. This is my belief. So yes, there are growth prospects. Let me be positive: 

- The Liberian elections will happen without any issues or situation. More investments will flow, business will boom. 
- Even if Donald Trump becomes the next US President and USAID stops, CHINAID will come in and business will boom. 
- Oil prices will go up, and business will boom. 
- Commodity prices will go up and business will boom. 
- Liberia will boom. 

- Living and working in Liberia is challenging. Electricity, Water, Medical facilities, Emergency care, Education, to name a few.

HR Challenges

Yes, this is challenging. We lost our senior most staff last month. He committed fraud/forgery at a client site. Not that we are missing him at all. There was an issue at the same client site last week and we were able to resolve the problems more efficiently. Our umpteenth accountant has left. I guess this position is the most demanding for Liberians. We are unable to find a competent Liberian staff to handle our Book-keeping. Should we opt for an Indian? Not yet. I still have hope. There are a few interviews lined up and we will continue to hope for a suitable Book keeper in the near future. There is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Latest IT news in Liberia: “Pokemon go”, the new worldwide gaming craze, does not work here! Cool. Novafone and Lonestar are merging to form the biggest GSM provider yet. Hopefully this will mean cheaper internet service. Time will tell. NATC is and will continue to be Liberia’s Number One ICT Services and Supplies Company. 


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