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Guest Editorial: Resolve the Pleebo Investment Conundrum Now!

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In an interview with a local radio station in Monrovia this week, he alleged that there was no due diligence of the companies that vied for the investment.

A Guest Editorial by S. Kpanbayeazee Duworko, II

For the past week, a war of words has been going on between Representative Dr. Bhoffa Chambers of Setoken, Pleebo District in Maryland and the Ministry of Agriculture over the awarding of a US$5.5m concession agreement to FISCA, a Malaysian-based company to operate an oil palm plantation(formerly Decor is) in the district.

Representative Chambers, who represents Setoken in the Liberian Legislature, has been trading accusation that the current deal to FISCA does not benefit his people.

In an interview with a local radio station in Monrovia this week, he alleged that there was no due diligence of the companies that vied for the investment.

Mr. Chambers said that the current company awarded the contract does not have the capacity to perform the task and to provide numerous economic benefits to his people.

In fact, the representative alleged that another company that had offered US$125m was the best choice for the contract because it would have provided more than 400 jobs for the people of Setoken.

On the other hand, Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth has been claiming that correct and proper procedures were followed in the best interest of Setoken and that FISCA has the financial capacity to perform and provide incentives to the people of Setoken.

She also told a local radio that the current company has US$60m plus to adequately undertake the venture.

While we do NOT know the details about the contract and have allegiance to none of the parties involved in the mudslinging, the way agreements surrounding investments have been carried out in the country is not in the best interest of the nation and its people in the long term.

The BRE 100 tax waiver that was later cancelled after many criticisms is still fresh on our minds.  Now, questions are being raised about the US$1.5 billion BHP Billiton agreement before the Liberian Legislature.

What is needed now is for the Ministry of Agriculture and Representative Chambers to publish the facts about the investment in dispute.

Was there ever a due diligence carried out in line with the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC)? Was there a thorough check done verifying that the current company has the financial capability? Does the current company have a history of investment experience in other places?

While we do not side with promoting violence, however, some of the concerns raised by Representative Chambers are legitimate since he and all Liberians want investment with long term benefits.

We believe that the government should act quickly to resolve the current problem because it has the propensity to reignite violence in that part of Liberia. Liberia cannot afford any violence aimed at driving away potential investors.

Equally, Liberians do not need investment that will be of limited benefit to the people. We don’t want a repeat of the past, when growth in the economy did not bring about development because agreements were not favorable to Liberia and Liberians.

 

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