President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has maintained that the exploitation of resources in Liberia be done in an appropriate governance framework that protects the national interest. According to the Liberian leader, the management of Liberia’s natural resources calls for an open and transparent environment which guarantees investors a fair return on their investment, while maximizing benefits for Liberian citizens and Liberian businesses.
In her Annual Message on Monday, January 27, 2014, President Sirleaf noted that creating conducive environment for investment for both foreign and domestic is critical for attaining economic growth and development of Liberia.
Liberia’s forest sector is one of the key sectors the President mentioned in her speech as very important the economy. The President did not bite her tongue on the controversy that has marred the issuance of the Private Use Permits (PUPs) to private citizens in accordance with the National Forest Reform Law of 2006.
The National Forestry Reform Law of 2006 makes provision for the issuance of five categories of forest resource licenses to access forest contracts: Forest Management Contract (FMC), Timber Sales Contract (TSC); Private Use Permit (PUP); Forest Use Permit (FUP); and Community Forestry.
But the Liberian leader noted that the poor management of the implementation of those laws resulted in a setback in attracting quality investors to the sector and a major loss in revenue.
She disclosed that the government has revoked 29 Private Use Permit (PUP) licenses issued, while 34 PUP licenses are being reviewed. PUP license holders have, however, criticized the government for denying them the opportunity to play their role in the forest sector and the economy of Liberia.
A number of Liberians who are now unemployed as a result of the suspension or revocation of their employers’ say they are disappointed in the government.
Speaking on the Theme: “Consolidating the Processes of Transformation” the President explained that the issuance of 63 PUPs prior to the formulation of relevant regulations to guide the process raised national and international concerns.
The government of Liberia (GOL), it may be recalled, constituted a special independent investigating body (SIIB) to probe the PUP saga and made recommendations that led to a moratorium on the issuance and operations of all PUPs pending the validation of the draft regulation.
“Meanwhile,” she emphasized “29 of the 63 PUPs issued have been revoked, while the remaining 34 are being reviewed for further action and possible cancellation.”
President Sirleaf clarified, however, that the actions taken against the 63 PUPs have no effect on the operations of entities with valid FMC.
“It should be noted, however, that this has no effect on forest operations which continue for entities with valid Forest Management Contracts,” she stated.
She further explained that the new forest laws stress the integration of community, conservation, and commercial forest management, while a Community Rights Law empowers communities to fully engage in the management of forest resources.
She called for the passage of a new legislation relating to bid premiums to fully revive the forestry sector so that the sector can adequately contribute to government to revenue.
“The Board of Directors of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has been reconstituted and new management has taken bold steps toward compliance with all laws and regulations,” the President declared.
President Sirleaf has meanwhile, observed that the voluntary partnership agreement with the European Union should attract quality investors committed to value addition to the sector.
She disclosed that the National Bureau of Concessions (NBC) began work, with stakeholders, to develop a uniform national template to monitor and evaluate the compliance of concessionaires in the country, in order to reduce the many and often confusing reportorial lines.
According to the President, a National Concessions Cadastre is to be established for the administration and operation of a unified National Concessions Database System that will integrate and consolidate a repository of concession information.
“The Bureau is to make certain that concessionaires remain in full compliance with the terms and conditions of their respective concession agreements, and ensures that Liberian citizens and firms get the anticipated employment and business opportunities from these concession contracts,” she stressed.
The Liberian, however, admitted that the NBC faces challenges, including the lack of human capacity, logistics and insufficient budget allocation.
Amidst these challenges, the new management is expected to address these challenges to meet the purpose for which the Bureau was created.