All concession agreements entered into between the Liberian Government and companies operating within the territorial confines of Liberia are expected to undergo a complete review process.
Communication by a Senator of Rivercess County raising the issue as a recommendation to the Senate’s Plenary is already in possession of two essential committees of the body responsible for such matter – the committees on Lands, Mines and Energy and Agriculture, for perusal and recommendation(s).
Senator A. Dallas Gueh’s recommendation for reassessment of the operations of concession companies in Liberia was against the backdrop of the inability of the companies to add values to the raw materials on which their operations are based, noting that such exports were not impacting the Liberian economy.
“Why can’t the logging companies construct sawmills that will add value to our wood products and inversely create additional jobs? Why can’t ArcelorMittal establish a steel factory and manufacture steel here instead of shipping the raw ores? Why can’t Firestone, LAC and those in the rubber industry establish factories that will manufacture rubber products?”, asked the Senator, further emphasizing that such developments wouldn’t only add values to their operations, but create more job opportunities for Liberians, thus relieving the Government of Liberia of the burden of jobs for its citizens.
“Our people cannot continue to languish in poverty as a result of unemployment in the midst of these natural resources that continue to benefit other economies other than ours; with this little population as we have, how can we boast of US$16.5 billion foreign direct investments, and in terms of job creation, we cannot feed the impact,” said Senate Gueh in his communication to his colleagues, one of whom – Senator Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, objected any attempt for such review process by the Liberian Senate, even though such objection was also resisted by another colleague – Senator J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County in support of a complete review of all concession agreements signed by the government.
Why we wouldn’t want to determine whether or not the Senator’s recommendation and its ‘future endorsement’ by the majority of his colleagues are in good faith and in the interest of the people of Liberia, one thing that must be said is that such issue is belated.
While we do accept the fact that not all of the Senators were on Capitol Hill during the ratification of these concession agreements more than five years ago, many well-meaning and rational Liberians may currently harbor the fervent belief that such an important issue as adding values to companies’ operations in Liberia in these times of modernity must have initially be given a high priority during the process of ratifying the current concession agreements.
Whether or not the “honorable” Senators then accorded all of the draft agreements at the time ‘actually read and accorded them due diligence’ before passage is something that must now be pricking the patriotic minds.
Granted there may have been an ‘intentional’ oversight by the Executive to exclude the issue of these companies constructing factories in their areas of concentration to turn raw materials into finished products, it was the responsibility of members of the Legislature to make such ‘wrong’ right by insisting and ensuring the inclusion of such important factor of economic development.
As for the Grand Cape Mount County Senator, Cllr. H. Varney G. Sherman, there should be no credence given to his so-called objection in any manner and form, considering his roles with most of these companies in terms of interest representation – remembering his situation with former Bong Mines workers.
It has become an open and practical fact that our country’s socio-economic growth may be the way it is because of the personal interest which supersede the general interest of the people of Liberia whenever concession agreements are signed and ratified.
The “honorable men and women” in the Liberian Senate should have known far better during the process of ratifying these agreements. While we do agree with Senator A. Dallas Gueh and others regarding a review process for these agreements following five years of operations, the issue being raised by him and supported by others should have been the first to seriously considered during the ratification of such concession agreements.
And so, for the Liberian Senate to even begin talking about “reviewing current concession agreements entered into by the Government of Liberia” under the guise of ‘adding values and creating employment opportunities’ when it should have initially done such, is very unfortunate and belated, and may not be in the interest of the Liberian people.
Such justification as provided by Senator Gueh and others is unacceptable and not well-intentioned.