Rivercess County Senator, Dallas Gueh, has written Senate plenary requesting that body to see the need where necessary to review, amend and restate some of the concession agreements entered into by the current government which have been in operation for more than five years.
“The issues that have prompted this request include, but are not limited to the failure of concessions to add value to their products thereby exporting raw materials continuously, which significantly does not impact the economy of the country,” the Rivercess Lawmaker contended.
Gueh wondered why logging companies operating in Liberia cannot construct sawmills that will add value to the country’s wood products and inversely create additional jobs. Why can’t ArcelorMittal establish a steel factory and manufacture steel in Liberia instead of shipping the raw ore?
Senator Gueh asserted that Firestone, which has been operating in Liberia since 1926, should by now have taken the lead among those in the rubber industry, such as the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) in establishing factories that will manufacture rubber products in Liberia.
As Legislators, Senator Gueh wondered, “do we realize how many jobs will be created if all of these concessions start to add value to their products here?” The burden of job creation will be shifted to the private sector instead of the government, lawmaker Gueh, who represents the country at the Pan African Parliament, declared.
“Our people cannot continue to languish in poverty as a result of unemployment in the midst of these natural resources that continue to benefit other economies other than ours. With this (small) population such as we have, how can we boast of US$16.5 billion foreign direct investment and in terms of job creation we cannot feel its impact? Should we kill cow and eat dry rice? This cannot be allowed to go on,” exclaimed the Senator.
If the concessions to be reviewed cannot agree to add value to their products, Senator Gueh who chairs the Senate committee on Maritime, noted that “it will be in the best interest of this country and posterity for us to cancel those agreements than allow these concessions to flourish to the detriment of our country and its people.”
A majority of Senators at yesterday’s 49th day sitting, especially those from counties that have large concessions operating, unanimously agreed that it was time that new mandates are added to current agreements.
Supporting previous speakers who hailed their Rivercess colleague, Grand Cape Mount County Senator Varney Sherman argued however that the agreements signed by those concessions provide that when there are profound changes and circumstances, then and only then are they subjected to a review every five years.
“If we proceed to review an agreement with the purpose of adding new terms, we have breached the agreement, and we will be taken to arbitration. We should not rush to judgment. We must not open a Pandora’s box that we may not be able to close. I am not against the review.
Take the matter to committee room, call the experts for their input and they may be able to tell us whether it was time for review,” Senator Sherman, who chairs the Senate committee on Judiciary and is one of the country’s most successful corporate lawyers, advised.
Other Senators including Henry Yallah of Bong County agreed that there should be regular reviews as stipulated in most of the concession agreements, and welcomed suggestions that the issue be taken to committee room, but with a stronger mandate that they examine each concession agreement to find out which one is ready for review.
After over an hour of deliberation, the plenary voted unanimously on the motion proffered by Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence that the matter be turned over to the committees on Lands, Mines and Energy, Concessions, Judiciary and Agriculture, with the mandate that they report to plenary during the last sitting before the annual constituency break.