Thursday, day 4 of the on-going National Judicial Conference will focus on issues affecting the ease of doing business in Liberia. The conference is expected to bring together a wide range of speakers from the private and public sectors and the donor community. The conference is also expected to go global through the use of Zoom. This will enable partners outside of Liberia to fully participate and make contribution towards improving the business climate.
Ahead of the planned meeting, the Liberian Business Association held a one-day working session under the theme: Analyzing the Security and Trade impacts of Container Tracking Note. The meeting according to LIBA President, Hon. James M. Struther was necessary to understand the role of the Global Tracking Maritime Solutions (GTMS), the institution that operates the Container Tracking Note.
Hon. Struther noted that the essence of the meeting was to better prepare LIBA for the pending business climate meeting on June 10th at the Ministerial Complex. He pointed out that the meeting was gear towards win-win solution and not a zero sum. “We are here to find workable solutions to doing business in the country.
A presentation from the GTMS highlighted a thirteen step approach to obtaining container tracking number by importers and exporters. With its operation spread in over 10 countries, GTMS noted that their goal is to ensure that their business relations with the port operators including customs brokers, importers and exporters were cordial.
Responding to allegation, Madam AminataBangura, General Manager of GTMS said that her institution was never thrown out of Sierra Leone as is been insinuated by some unscrupulous individual. Displaying a letter from the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone, Madam Bangura noted that our good record speaks for us. Besides our fiduciary responsibilities, we are also engaged in corporate social responsibilities in some of the Liberian community.
Madam Bangura in a more soulful mood asked the audience to see GTMS as their own African brothers and sisters doing business in Liberia. “I am from Sierra Leone, I have Liberians cousins, uncles and aunties but sometimes, the way we treat each other is not good. We look down on our own African business and give much credence and respect to other businesses. GTMS is here to provide security and facility trade” she noted.
During their presentation, the Liberia Business Association outlined some of the challenges faced by the business community in the importation of their goods. They accused GTMS of charging excessive fees for obtaining a tracking number. Mr. Dominic Nimley speaking on behalf of LIBA said GTMS was charging extremely high penalty for no reason. He called on the government of Liberia to distinguish the responsibility of GTMS and BIVAC as there was not a clear line of function.
After the presentations followed by questions and answers, a group comprising LIBA, GTMS and Civil Society was set up to develop a joint resolution as the way forward for harmonizing the relationship. The three counts resolutions read:
- That the Government of Liberia and the GTMS do a review of the contract with specific focus on the fees and penalties with a 25% reduction on Container Tracking Note fees and penalties;
- That GTMS presence is visible and accessible at every point of loading and also be made public on other websites; and
- That penalty shall be imposed ten working days after loading and seven working days after landing; a total of seventeen days in total.
The joint resolution was signed by Mr. Samuel Kofi Jones, Madam AminataBangura for GTMS, RemaFawaz, Lawrence Cole and Robert Teah for the Liberia Business Association, Mr. Charles B. Weah for Civil Society Organization and Hon. Clarence Freeman from the Ministry of Commerce.
In concluding remarks, Hon. Struther informed the more than 70 participants that the resolution will form part of his presentation at the June 10th National Judicial Conference.