International environmental watchdog, Global Witness releases a damning report in which it reveals how the Government of Liberia stabs its own citizens in the back by secretly writing off US$13 million of Bid Premium payments owed by logging companies operating in the country. In effect, the government gives logging companies exploiting our forests tax holidays spinning over 10 years with the accrued amount stated above denied the citizenry.
The GW report released Tuesday, 19 December further details that in the next three years the companies will not need to pay what they owe this country, but will be able to claim ill-defined “investments” accrued between 2016 and 2020 against this tax bill. What a sell out!
According to the report, the government secretly passed a law in October known as the Forest Industrial Development and Employment Regime Act, but only made public last week when all attention is toward electing a new President to succeed Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
GW notes that there is no logical explanation why Liberia should subsidize loggers who have persistently broken the country’s law and now are failing even to pay taxes they owe the state, wondering what motivation led the government to this action that is meant to keep villagers in perpetual poverty while their natural resources are being depleted right before their eyes without any benefit coming to them.
Although the government has promised to respond to the report, but we join the GW in calling on partners in the forest sector, including the United Kingdom, Norway, European Union, and the United States not to only suspend support to the sector, but to demand explanations from the authorities.
It is regrettable that while foreign governments and partners bring their countries’ monies here to help us resuscitate a key sector of our economy, our leaders would undercut the process by scrupulously enacting laws to sell cheap at the detriment of the suffering majority.
It is apparent that tax holidays benefit a few elite at the expense of the masses. Greedy and heartless politicians make such decision under the guise of attracting investors to help the economy to grow, but their real intent is to grow their personal pockets and bank accounts. It is not for the love of country.
The logging industry is an important sector of our economy. It has contributed millions of dollars thru taxes during past administrations. There is no justification now whatsoever why predatory companies should be given tax holidays in the tone of US$13 million to take away our logs, leaving nothing behind for future generations.
Those officials, including members of the Legislature and the Executive responsible for such give away should think twice now or be made to account for their actions or else, posterity would judge them unkindly.