Liberia’s lead transparency watchdog, the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) has expressed delight over Sime Darby Plantation’s investment in Western Liberia.
The Head of LEITI’s Secretariat Mr. Samson S. Tokpah, who led a LEITI delegation on a one-day compliance verification tour within Sime Darby’s concession areas in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties, observed during the week that the Malaysian Conglomerate was doing a lot for the local communities in addition to the terms laid down in its concession agreement with the Liberian Government.
Mr. Tokpah said he was quite impressed over the level of dedication and commitment Sime Darby was showing in honoring its commitment to the 63-year Concession Agreement that was signed with the Government back in 2009, and taking it a step beyond.
“I am quite impressed with the dedication and commitment that you are showing in honoring the concession that you signed with the Liberian Government in 2009. For us at LEITI, as a global watch-dog and a transparency body, our job is to strike a balance between business interest and accountability;” Mr.Tokpah said during the tour.
The Transparency top-man said, he acknowledges the daunting challenges Sime Darby faces in its land development plan for Liberia. He said, however, that there was a more compelling need to move the process forward through accountability and transparency in doing business in developing countries like Liberia.
He continued that his institution has a more global role to play, when it comes to verifying how each party to the concession respects the Concession Agreement (CA).
“The government has a role to play, and I think the government must respect that responsibility to the people and to you the investors. Civil society has a role as well; then of course you the investor have a role. If we can all honor our individual responsibilities, it is only at that point that we can consider it a good one,” LEITI Boss said.
The LEITI delegation visited SDPL clinic at Clerks, Bomi County. The Clinic provides free healthcare services to residents of Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties. Beneficiaries include employees and non-employees of Sime Darby as well as residents from other surrounding towns and villages, and accident victims.
Tokpah and his team also visited Sime Darby schools within the concession area, including Matambo Estate in Grand Cape Mount County. Matambo is Sime Darby’s first estate in Africa, and stands as one of the best among others within the agriculture sector, according to Finance Minister.
Apart from the healthcare centers in Clerks, Bomi County, Matambo Estate has a school, a clinic, and a day-care center for children of working mothers, a football field, a church, a mosque, a community hall and a supermarket.
Each of the 186 housing units within the estate has three bed rooms for ordinary workers including a living room, one bath and a kitchen.
Sime Darby Head of Project, Upstream Liberia, Roslin Azmy Hassan, said during the tour that his company was committed to developing more land in Liberia as it has done with Matambo.
Hassan pledged that Sime Darby will construct 88 central housing complexes in Liberia as well as employ 35,000 Liberians once the company is fully operational.
According to the first 4-year development plan, Sime Darby was expected to develop more than 24,000 hectares of green fields into oil palm and rubber; to date, however, the company has been able to plant only slightly over 10,000 hectares with oil palm and rubber.
Sime Darby also has more than 2,900 Liberians employed as permanent workers, earning more than US$5.65 as daily wages.
According to the Ministry of Labor, the daily wage offered by Sime Darby is the highest in the Agriculture sector. Employees of Sime Darby are also enjoying free medical insurance as well housing and educational benefits for their children.