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GeneralLiberia news

CENTAL dialogues on economic analysis survey

By Lewis S. Teh

Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia or CENTAL has held a one-day policy dialogue on findings of political economy analysis conducted on economic security with focus on diverse conflicts in affected mining areas.

Providing an overview of the dialogue Wednesday, June 14, in Congo Town outside Monrovia, Anthony Myers, a senior policy advisor at the Democratic Action Initiative (DAI) said findings of the dialogue are a result of an anonymous survey conducted by CENTAL and its partners on the working of mining companies, nothing that recommendations and answers from the survey was recorded and taken into consideration.

Myers said answers emanated from the previous survey conducted with stakeholders in which issues about jobs became top priority for citizens in mining areas where there are concession companies gave rise to the one-day dialogue.

He named education and health as other key areas highlighted during the survey, noting that the main question was about economic security with focus on diverse conflict in affected mining areas.

According to him, it was against this backdrop that it was decided for them to look at concessions, especially given the history of Liberia where development of the country is infrastructure and revenue from corporate taxes, revealing that it was in the early forties and sixties that concession companies began arriving in Liberia.

The survey was carried out in four of Liberia projects affected counties, including Bong, Nimba, Grand Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu where mining activities are ongoing to allow citizens give their views on issues that affect them.

In remarks, the Director General of the National Bureau of Concessions NBC, Mr. Edwin Dennis, welcomed the dialogue but stressed the need for the findings to capture the real issues faced by citizens in those mining areas.

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Mr. Dennis: “As you find in your survey, I’m not sure what you want to see but being someone who has been into those concession areas, I’m sure you must have heard some of the things that I have heard as head [of the NBC] during my monitoring and evaluation”

He said the issue about jobs, access to good health care, and education are parts of corporate social responsibility but frowned on counties that are mismanaging their social development funds, something he noted, often leads to strikes in the concession areas by those living or working in those affected mining areas.

He said if project-affected counties will begin to invest their social corporate funds wisely by using said funds to create empowerment and employment opportunities for citizens, it will reduce burden on the shoulders of national government.

He cited as an example, if a county is receiving US$1.5 million every year this is sufficient money for them to invest in skills training or vocational training center that will benefit at least few of their citizens.

He then appealed to the legislature for budgetary increments to enable NBC to carry out its functions adequately.

Also speaking on behalf of the superintendent council, Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker, extolled CENTAL and its partners for venturing into the concession areas, adding “This is where most times we hear noise about protest and all sorts of things.”

“We want to use this medium to call on our legislators to get our people involved whenever they are about to sign an agreement with concession companies”, she recommended

According to Superintendent Walker, in most instances confusion that normally comes from concession areas are due to crafting of the agreement, saying “Our people can’t be there whenever a concession agreement is being crafted; they don’t know what their rights are; these are things that give rise to strikes across this country.”

The launch of the findings brought together stakeholders from government, civil society organizations, students and youth groups. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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