On Thursday, July 6, 2017, the Daily Observer published a story about the House of Representatives investigating a 17-year tax cut proposal from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The tax cut deal, valued at some US$200,000, is a part of an Investment Incentive Agreement (IIA) between Liberia on the one hand and TIDFORE Investment Company and Liberia Steel and Cement Mining (LICEMCO) on the other.
There are a few benefits the crafter of the bill, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, underscored to enlighten the lawmakers why it should be considered significant to the development agenda of Liberia. One of the benefits is that LICEMCO will develop and operate a steel and cement factory in line with International Mining Standard & Laws and best business practices. Solidifying this benefit to convince the lawmakers, President Sirleaf in a letter said the investor under the agreement will construct, acquire and install proposed steel plants infrastructure and equipment at the facility. Additionally, the President assured that when the bill is enacted into law, it will enable LICEMCO to provide for safety procedures; create jobs and comply with its corporate social responsibilities; and needed revenue for the country will be generated.
When a bill surfaces in the Legislature and the information reaches out to the Liberian populace, a concern arising from past event comes to mind – the passage of 68 bills during the sittings of the 52nd Legislature and that 66 could not be beneficial to the country but only two, being one of the instances. Buchanan Renewables is a classic example of this deal. When it came to Liberia and was afforded the opportunity to operate, the company and government said that it would use rubber chips to electrify Monrovia and Kakata; only to realize in the end that it was sending the wood chips to Europe to electrify that part of the world. The public can also be reminded of manipulations and clandestine deeds by government officials who set up companies in other people’s names and award contracts to those companies. The recent occurrence, implicating Representatives George Mulbah and Bhofal Chambers, speaks to this public perception. One member of the 53rd Legislature is recalled to have said, “The National Legislature is a place that vote rules decision. Even if you have the best ideas that are in the interest of the people, your idea will be turned down when lobbyists use their influence to kill your dream by getting the rest of our colleagues on their side.” This also speaks to public perception that lawmakers are there to accept bribes from people for the passage of a bill, whether or not it is detrimental to the people that they (lawmakers) represent.
The bill about tax cut for LICEMCO and TIDFORE is critical to the socioeconomic development of Liberia. On the one hand, it seeks to put Liberia at a financial risk as thousands of dollars will be waived. This has the propensity to get the country to lose huge revenues that should enhance development. This is why lawmakers have to be meticulous enough in assessing this bill by thoroughly investigating, examining the pros and cons, and bearing in mind that any inappropriate act on their part will not only affect ordinary Liberians, but them (lawmakers) also.
Another side of the issue is that benefits of the tax cut for the concerned companies are significant. The installation of a steel and cement plant is a laudable venture which, when complete, will create training and job opportunities for Liberians. It is believed that the presence of a steel and cement plant in Liberia will help to reduce prices of these basic commodities. If this is done, it will complement efforts Liberians are making to build dwelling places that are essential to the basic needs of any individuals. Many young Liberians, despite the economic hurdles, are striving to erect decent structures that will represent them and give facelift to the environment in which they find themselves. However, the skyrocketing prices of building materials remain a serious challenge.
For the Daily Observer, we believe if this bill truly meets the purpose outlined by the President, it would help the ambitious upcoming youths to erect magnificent structures for residential and commercial purposes. Let us look at the fast growing commercial city of Ganta. Young men and women in that city have built attractive stores and restaurants on the main street in compliance with the mandate of the city authority. Besides, people have gone further to build attractive homes in all parts of the city, and anyone intending to build there will want to match or surpass the quality, size and function of already existing structures.
We hope that, as our lawmakers investigate this tax cut of US$200,000 for the concerned companies, they will use Liberia as a common denominator to do the best that will benefit the country and its people, and not render a decision that will be disadvantageous, to only advance personal aggrandizement.