Editorial: The Weah administration should do more to attract foreign investors into Liberia to reduce unemployment, drive development and economic growth.
For the past five years, the government has been unable to bring in investors to help revive the economy and create jobs for the youth, who constitute 60 percent of the population.
It is not that foreign investors are not interested in coming to Liberia, but the rightful environment and business atmosphere is not encouraging, as officials seem more interested in personal benefits than discussing clean business.
The United States 2022 Investment Climate Statement on Liberia records that the Government does much to discourage investors and investment. It quotes some business leaders as saying it is difficult even to meet with government representatives to discuss new investments or policies damaging to the business climate in the country.
This is serious and should claim attention of this current administration and administrations to come. Without an investment-friendly climate, it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the level of development that ordinary citizens yearn for to improve their standard of life and move the economy.
The U.S. points to a weak legal and regulatory framework, lack of transparency in contract awards, and widespread corruption as factors that inhibit foreign direct investment. It notes that investors coming to Liberia are often treated as opportunities for graft, while government decisions affecting the business sector are driven more by political cronyism than investment climate considerations.
This cannot be far from the truth as public record exists of a senior official in the Office of President George Weah asking for US$5 million from a South African investor, who came to the country last year to explore investment opportunities. Madam Makenneh L. Keita, Coordinator for Presidential Special Projects at the Executive Mansion, solicited the bribe.
We wonder how many foreign investors coming to Liberia have met similar ordeal and frustration that may have left them parking to depart the country because of the selfish and greedy motive of a public official, who should be encouraging investors to come. This is the sad state of our investment climate today.
The U.S. further says, many businesses in the country find it easy to operate illegally if the right political interests are being paid, whereas that that try to follow the rules receive little if any, assistance from agencies of the government. It specifically notes that Liberia Liberia’s Investment Act restricts market access for foreign investors, including Americans, in certain economic sectors or industries.
Why should there be restrictions against well-intentioned and purpose-driven investors coming to our country to do business? Perhaps the only explanation could be they refused to do business unscrupulously or to give in to bribery in what was supposed to be a transparent process.
Unless the Government of Liberia heed these concerns outlined by the U.S. Government and move quickly to address them, foreign direct investment would continue to elude this country for a very long time. Unfortunately, this would be at the expense of the impoverished population, who cannot find their way into government to solicit bribes from well-intentioned investors and siphon public funds, while this country wallops in a vicious circle of poverty, disease, and mystery.