The Core of Economic Independence
The greatest problem any nation can face that can cause that nation to become insecure even from within for that nation to be overwhelmed with unemployment. Finding solution to the problem of unemployment may be elusive ever so long if the unemployed themselves are not involved in the process of finding the solution. So it is safe to say the problem of unemployment cannot be solved without the involvement of the individual job seeker.
We have suffered for more than 160 years finding solution to the problem of unemployment in this country. For the most part, our efforts have produced pseudo results that were so paradoxical that they perplexed us. We thought we were at target until the hour came when things fell apart.
Today in post war Liberia, job creation is ringing tone in every political sermon around the country, with government shouting at peak pitch when a single concession agreement is signed. This illusionary myopia has compelled the Daily Observer Labor Column to somewhat delve into little bit of the nitty-gritty of this matter that has turned itself into a monster.
One may wonder whether the job seeker can be directly involved in creating a job in the establishment he or she wants to work; or be a part of setting up the office a man or woman would love to sit in and proudly say “I am at work.”
We do disagree that multimillion dollar companies provide jobs for hundreds of workers and the granting of more concessions adds value to the job market. But the capacity of companies and their ability to maintain and sustain a certain size of workforce and yet create more jobs for more workers at the same time is inconceivable.
However, job creation cannot be the sole prerogative of government when individuals who have the ability to impart the knowledge and the technical know how to job seekers to be able to create employment for them sit idle and wait for someone to give them the help they are able to provide even to others.
The Money Market
Have you ever stopped for while to ask: how did the money market open so fast in Liberia that today almost everyone is busy buying and selling money? Where did it begin literally for the common man? What was the economic power of the pioneers of this money market in Liberia?
The money market growth in the latter 1970s could not be forecast from looking t the people who were engaged in the business as means of employment. There was first the alien who exchanged the US dollar that was then the larger circulating currency in the country with other currencies for traders, since the Liberian dollar coins were on par with the US dollar. The business then was between these money exchangers and traders who had to go to neighboring countries to do cross border trading.
But most importantly it was the group commonly called the ‘95 boys’ who traded directly in the Liberian dollar in money market. This group comprising mainly early teenagers usually offered 95 Liberian cents for one dollar, US dollar or Liberian dollar. This enabled petty traders to sell to locals and house wives who needed change coins to buy in the local markets; and drivers of taxi cabs found it a blessing, because commuters who wanted to evade paying their car fares always gave drivers dollar coins for a twenty-five cents distance to embarrass the driver.
So, the 95 boys traded and made five cents profit on every dollar as means of creating jobs for themselves while the graduates of our then only university and college went hunting for job heedlessly. What we are driving home is the fact that jobs can be created by the job seeker in most areas of human need to yield capital, since capital accumulation is the utmost purpose of seeking job. One wonders then whether there are areas in our economic sector people could explore in the quest for job creation.
In spite of the lofty aspiration of this noble endeavor, problem soon entered the trade when older boys got involved in the money market. The 95 cents soon came down to 85 and 90 cents to dupe their customers, especially when the taxi drivers were in haste or ready to pull up in the traffic. But the trade continued until it has now developed into a major market today creating job for many people. Many job seekers who were applying for job in many establishments are now self-employed today in the money market; and some of them have hired people to work for them, thereby turning the job seeker into an employer.
Shoe mending in Liberia was a very serious problem because of the lack of skilled shoe repairers in the country. Many pairs of shoes were disposed of that could the owners much longer it they were repaired or mended.
When the Liberian civil war reached a turning point, the lull in violence allowed for disarmament that brought many fighters to peaceful civilian life. The question then was how to transform fighters into skill and productive citizens. So, shoe mending and production was one of the several options to some politicians and the West African Economic Group (ECOMOG) peace keeping force on the ground started to work in conjunction with some agencies of the United Nations to devise modalities derive at appropriate solutions for the problem.
And so, some former combatants were trained to mend shoes as a way of helping those ex-fighters create jobs for them to avoid falling into the trap of unemployment that could turn into instruments of violence. A good number of those trained later engaged into shoe making that eventually also turned some of them into employers when their shops developed. Howbeit, there are but few cobblers visible at street corners today. The rest have narrowed down to mending slippers and polishing shoes. They have otherwise turned into shoe-shine boys.
Sadly, however, most cobblers in the country today are of the alien Fula ethnic group that continues to migrate into Liberia in search of greener pasture. Similarly, the money market is substantially in the hands of the very Fula ethnic group. They are the ones who have ideal and respected money exchange centers or booths; while most of the Liberians engaged in the trade as employment sit along the street or in corners that customers fear.
And so, it is about time for us to understand that we consider job creation in terms getting the job seekers involved in the venture and not only rely upon concessions coming in or investors who only want to maximize profit to come and absorb our workforce. No one can do for us what we are able to do for ourselves.