As reactions to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s recent annual message on the affairs of the state continue to emerge, Nimba County District #8 lawmaker Larry P. Younquoi has expressed fear that the President’s silence on the rubber industry may leave ordinary Liberians out of jobs.
Expressing the concern in an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday at his Capitol Building office in Monrovia, Rep. Younquoi said thousands of Liberians depend on the rubber industry for jobs, but the moratorium placed on it under Executive Order #56 has given Firestone the monopoly to determine the price of rubber as the sole buyer.
Consequently, said the Nimba lawmaker, the price of the commodity has dropped leaving farmers and others who could employ underprivileged Liberians without the financial strength to do so.
He contends that President William R. Tolbert, Jr. during his regime, created the Liberia Rubber Development Unit by statute, and National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) Chairman, Gyude Bryant by an act of the Legislature created the Liberia Rubber Development Authority (LRDA) by statute.
According to Rep. Younquoi, it is incoherent for an agency created by statute to be placed under a moratorium by an executive order, giving one company the monopoly to do rubber business in the absence of competition.
He said the President would have done better by strengthening the existing institution in this environment where legislature exists instead of issuing Executive Order #56, which gets the Rubber Brokers Union out of business and leaves Firestone with the monopoly to purchase.
Rep. Younquoi also recalled that in 2004 there was an LRDA act making the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia (RPAL) ineffective, but the RPAL is still operating and collecting US$2.50 from farmers.
He disclosed that his complaints are currently on the desk of the House Speaker, and there is a need to discuss them in order to strengthen the LRDA.
He said unemployment has the propensity to cause confusion in a country, adding that with the prevailing conditions in the rubber sector, government needs to discuss the problems in order to bring some “serenity” to the rubber sector.
The lawmaker reiterated that as a result of the Executive Order, those who once competed in buying rubber are no longer doing so, making references to Weala and other groups that have become dormant because of the moratorium.
Rep. Younquoi further argued that monopoly given Firestone under the Executive Order #56 will allow the American company to under declare its revenue which will consequently lead to under declaring taxes due to government.
He said setting an independent regulatory body and allowing competition in purchasing the commodity will allow more revenues to be generated for the government.
On the question of whether the lawmaker’s plea is meant for protection of his rubber farm, he rejected the idea that he was advocating in his own interest as a rubber farmer.
Rep. Younquoi disclosed that his rubber does not reach production stage until seven years. Rather, he is seeking the interest of the Liberian people, for which he claims he has received awards from many citizen groups.