Liberia - Services

The services sector consists mainly of wholesale and retail distribution, telecommunications, postal service, transport, hotels and restaurants, repairs, financial services, tourist services, and government administration, but all such services are quite limited. For the most part, these services support the other sectors of the economy. The main exception is the charges made for the use of Liberian registration by merchant ships owned by private shipping companies from other countries, the so-called "flag of convenience."

Liberia's standing as the second largest flag of convenience was scarcely affected by the war, with revenue amounting to about US$20 million in 1995, providing the interim government with virtually its only source of income. Registration fees were collected by the International Trust Company of Liberia (ITC) on behalf of the Washington, D.C.-based Liberian Maritime Programme, which has controlled the Liberian registry since 1948. In 2000 the registry was taken over by the Liberian International Ship and Corporation Registry.

The financial sector is made up of 12 banks, but 8 were closed in 1996 when fighting erupted in Monrovia. By the end of 1997, about 80 percent of the loans held by Liberian banks were non-performing (that is, borrowers were not making interest payments or repaying the principle). Only 17 percent of the notes and coins in circulation in the country were thought to be in the banking system in 1995, implying a great lack of confidence in the banking system and reducing the ability of the banks to make loans. In April 2000 the Central Bank of Liberia stepped in to administer a leading bank, LUBI, due to liquidity problems and insolvency.

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