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More hardship -As Concessions face closure

Members of the House of Representatives are debating the status of concessions that are not financially contributing to the national budget. Such concessions would be shut down on grounds that they are no longer adhering to concession agreements signed with the Liberian Government.

The plenary, in its heated debate, suggested that concessions should stop operations until the prices of natural resources can improve on the world market so that the government and its people can benefit
their just share of natural wealth.

The House, in its argument, said since the global meltdown, many of the international concessions, including Arcelor Mittal, BHP Billiton, China Union, Putu Mining and the rest, were reneging to pay their taxes, Social Development Funds commitment to counties in which they operate. Already, BHP Billiton and Putu Mining have pulled out of the country due to poor operations.

Debating the issue yesterday during its regular session in the chamber of the House of Representatives when Lands, Mines and Energy Minister Patrick Sendolo and Finance Development and Planning Boima Kamara appeared, Bong County Representative George Mulbah said it makes no sense for the concessions to be operating and exporting the natural resources of the country, and at the same time, refusing to pay social development funds required by law.

Rep. Mulbah noted that BHP Billiton has about three years now and the news gathered by him was that the company has pulled out. Confirming the information, Minster Sendolo said BHP Billiton has suspended its operations, transferring its asserts to the Cavalla Resources.

But when Minister Sendolo was quizzed as to why the Liberian Legislature was not informed about the company’s departure and transfer of its asserts to another company, he requested to seek consultations with Justice Minister Fredrick Cherue before responding to questions.

The Finance Ministry is reported to have reduced the County Development Funds from US$3 million to US$1.7 million without consulting the legislature. But explaining the deduction, Deputy Finance Minister James Kollie said the amount was reduced due to the gross cut in the annual budget contributions by major concessions.

Dr. Kollie indicated that as usual, major companies operating in the country were not living up to the financial commitments made during the signing of their respective contracts, noting that the excuse has always been the drop in the value of the nation’s resources.

Grand Bassa County Representative Gabriel Smith said in the wake of the alleged refusal of the international companies to live up to their commitments, the government should find a way to curtail the financial meltdown or effect closure if it will be only option.

According to him, in the future when the prices of the resources, including rubber, Iron Ore and the rest are back on track, the government can recall them. Meanwhile, indicted House Speaker Alex Tyler, with support from his colleagues, has requested the two ministers to appear before Plenary on next Tuesday and Thursday to better explain the process.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor-Edited by George Barpeen

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