Mr. James Yarsieh, executive director of Rice and Rights, has said that both the County and the Social Development Funds were not making any impact on the lives of ordinary citizens, especially in those communities where companies are extracting natural resources. He claims that the locals were being denied of their just benefits.
Mr. Yarsieh acknowledged that concession companies over the years had made significant contributions to the county and social development funds, but, he alleged, not a dime goes directly to impact the lives of communities which should benefit.
“We know that the concession industry has contributed significantly to the national budget, but there is no direct benefit for the communities where the natural resources are being taken from,” Yarsieh claimed.
Mr. Yarsieh made the assertion on Tuesday at the opening of a one–day meeting of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the extractive sector held at the a local restaurant in Monrovia. The meeting was intended for participants to find avenues to put forward suggestions to government about the improvement, management and governance of natural resources in the country.
“We need to emphasize on these concerns because we will soon be having a peaceful transition of power from one administration to another and we have to echo on this so that those who will be elected will act immediately,” Yarsieh said.
According to him, the communities were not benefiting so they continue to remain poor. “There is no doubt that our natural resources are not benefiting our local communities,” he said.
Yarsieh reminded CSO participants that one of Liberia’s major challenges is the governance of natural resources. If they were to be properly managed with transparency and accountability, we would have the means to build lasting peace and stability in the country, he said.
“What it means is that we can succeed as a nation through the natural resources and the enormous benefits associated with them if we can manage them properly and transparently thereby making them a blessing and not a curse to the country.
“If we can do that as a country, we are going to move forward in consolidated, lasting peace and build our young democracy,” Yarsieh added.
He acknowledged that much has been achieved in the last ten years in the mining and forestry sectors, naming for example the establishment of a reformed forestry law that has put in place mechanisms from which communities have directly benefited.
“This is a progress for which Liberians need to be proud of,” Yarsieh said.