NIC Chair-designate Faces Public Skepticism

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Mrs. Etmonia David-Tarpeh, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s choice for the Chairmanship of the Liberia National Investment Commission (LNIC), has daunting tasks ahead to reawaken the spirit of the Commission and put it back on track to generate and attract more foreign and domestic investors, investment analysts have said.

Upon embarking upon her new portfolio, the new NIC Chair-designate will have to convinced the public that she is the right person for the job.

But until then, pundits believe that the new NIC Chair-designate, lacks business experience or business development strategies,  including the ability to attract strong foreign direct investments to Liberia.

“Until she can prove me wrong, but this woman is out of touch with the local business community, least to say foreign investors,” said this economist on condition of anonymity.   

 The Liberian leader nominated her friend on November 16, but she still has to wait for confirmation by the Liberian Senate. If confirmed, Mrs. Tarpeh will replace Acting NIC Chair Mr. George Wisner who is also Executive Director of the Commission.

 Mr. Wisner took over as Acting Chairman of NIC after President Sirleaf removed former Chairman O. Natty B. Davies. But, Mrs. Tarpeh, who has spent her entire life working in the education sector in Liberia and in international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), has been criticized for displaying poor performance as Minister of Education of Liberia.

 Madam Tarpeh faced similar criticism when she served as Minister of Youth and Sports few years ago where most of the country’s youths said she was out of touch.

  Before joining Ellen Sirleaf’s government, Madam Tarpeh held various high-level positions with Plan International in several African countries, served as National Director for World Vision International and worked as the Associate Director for Education at the Peace Corps in Liberia. She is a former director for Hilton VanEe International School in Monrovia.

 Many people are concerned that Mrs. Tarpeh, the President’s new choice for the Chairmanship of the NIC, does not have the contacts and influence needed to pull the strings and transform the NIC,  judging from her performance at both the ministries of Youth &Sports and Education, respectively.

 “I think that the President has once again slipped by appointing her friend to head the NIC. The NIC is not like some of the public institutions around here. This entity must be run by individual or individuals who have the contacts internationally and locally to attract potential foreign and domestic investors,” an insider at the NIC anonymously said.

 The Chairman of NIC has a core responsibility to generate investment locally and to attract foreign direct investments (FDIs).

The Commission’s former Chairman, Dr. Richard V. Tolbert, a Wall Street veteran and nephew of slain Liberian President Richard R. Tolbert, attracted over US$15 billion FDIs to Liberia during his chairmanship of the Commission.

 Mr. Tolbert is praised by NIC employees and investors for his innovation and personal contacts with most of the foreign and local investors whom he is believed to have known from his days on Wall Street, New York  and Liberia.

 Dr. Tolbert, formerly of Mesurado Group of Companies, a conglomeration of local manufacturers owned by the Tolberts, many people believe, had the niche to make the NIC relevant to investors and potential investors.

 The National Investment Commission was created by an Act of the National Legislature on September 6, 1979 and amended on July 19, 2010 to promote and coordinate investment related activities in all sectors of the Liberian economy.

 The Commission is comprised of six Commissioners headed by the Chairman, who is the administrative head of the Secretariat and has cabinet-level ranking. With the vision to aspire to be the premier dynamic investment promotion agency for a sustainable, vibrant, and inclusive economy in Liberia, the NIC’s mission is to promote, attract, facilitate and retain quality investments in Liberia.

Part of the role of NIC is to accompany investors throughout all phases of their investment projects, facilitating meetings, assisting investors in navigating as efficiently as possible the regulatory and establishment procedures, and maximizing investor opportunities through dedicated programs in business linkages, development of special economic zones (SEZ) and incentives.

 Beyond its role of investment promotion, the NIC also chairs the government of Liberia’s Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC), which oversees and coordinates the entire investment concessional review processes and its due diligence functions. The NIC is the arm of the government that helps domestic and foreign investors navigate through the Liberian marketplace to ensure business success.

The Commission expects that as Liberia continues to grow, large investments will continue to increase, particularly in natural resources and cash crops.

 Investments in the service sector are also expected to increase considerably.  The Liberia National Investment Commission (LNIC) along with other partners in government works to ensure that while unlocking Liberia’s natural resources, the country’s national interest is safeguarded,  jobs are created, and access to capital, new technologies, markets, and world-class training and business development opportunities are accelerated. Contracts negotiated by the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee (IMCC) since 2006 have led to an increase in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow.

 All key steps in the concession award procurement process are guided by the IMCC, which is chaired by the Chairman of the LNIC and includes permanent committee members from the ministries of State, Finance, Justice, and Planning and Economic Affairs.

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