…Firestone Liberia Clarifies, says media reports were wrong
Firestone-Liberia has dismissed recent media reports about amendment to the Amended and Restated 2008 Concession Agreement entered with the Government of Liberia (GoL). Primarily citing a stipulation of exclusivity in the production of rubber and rubber products, media reports took cue from a report by the Senate Committee on Concession and Investment, presented to Plenary.
In the report, presented to on Thursday, May 23, 2019, the Senate Committee listed as one of the highlights of the 2018 Amendment to the Concession Agreement, “that the Government of liberia has granted Firestone Liberia the exclusive right, permit and license to engage in production in the production area (subject to other terms in Liberia) and the utilization in Liberia of rubber and rubber products and the exportation of rubber products from Liberia.”
The Committee report adds that: “Except as provided in the amendment, Firestone Liberia is not to engage in any business other than the production and utilization in Liberia of rubber and rubber products and the export from Liberia of rubber products…”
However, the company, in a statement issued on Wednesday, May 29, said it the media reports “are simply wrong.”
“Firestone-Liberia says the reports carried in a number of dailies recently are erroneous, and inflammatory in nature, and do not reflect the reality of the company’s agreement with the government,” said the statement, signed by Firestone Liberia communications director, Patrick Honnah.
According to the statement, Firestone-Liberia began negotiating the amendment in good faith with the GoL since four years ago, “and throughout this process, it has worked closely, openly, and in keeping with proper concession procedures with the government to arrive at an amendment that would provide critical support of its Liberia-based operation due to continued and unsustainable major financial losses.”
The company’s management noted that it has worked and collaborated closely with the office of the President, the National Investment Commission (NIC), the ministries of Agriculture (MoA), and Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).
Other government agencies with which the company said it has collaborated, are the Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA), various Liberian and foreign government legal advisors, the Inter-Ministerial Concessions Committee and other stakeholders.
The release added, “The reasons for the amendment were clearly communicated to the GoL and other stakeholders, and previously reported by other media during the protracted negotiations over the past four years.”
“The primary objective of amending the Concession Agreement is to provide critical financial assistance to Firestone-Liberia by extending certain rehabilitation term benefits included in the 2008 Concession Agreement; and came to an end on December 31, 2015 for an additional 60 months after the date the amendment becomes effective.”
The release said the “rehabilitation term provided for certain duty and tax relief as Firestone rebuilt its operations and business after the end of the civil conflicts in the country.”
“The only exclusivity provided in the amendment is what was already stipulated in the company’s 2008 Concession Agreement with the GoL– the ability to exclusively engage in production in the production area of Firestone-Liberia,” the release said.
While this amendment by itself will not solve the current financial issues facing the company, Firestone-Liberia said it believes it is a critical show of support by the GoL for private sector employment, which account for employees and their dependents, the Liberian natural rubber industry, and the long-term viability of the largest private employer in the country.