It was a glad tiding on last Thursday, June 15, 2017 when the Liberian Senate by unanimous vote concurred and awarded concession to the Global Logistics Services (GLS) to take over the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Cargo Operations. It is especially interesting because the concerned company, GLS, is a Liberian owned company that is about to begin this operation at a major facility that serves as one of the gateways to Liberia’s economy. Unlike other occasions when concessions are passed and granted to foreigners and aliens, Daily Observer Legislative Reporter at the Senate, J. Burgess Carter described the vote as “Landmark” and emphasized that GLS is the first Liberian owned company to be granted an operating concession of a major state asset in the history of the country.
Such a description and emphasis signifies that for some reasons of good or evil intent, concessions have been passed over Liberian owned businesses in favor of foreign companies, a situation that always reminds us of over sixty bogus concession agreements that were signed and awarded to foreign companies during the sitting of the 52nd Legislature. Not only have concessions been awarded to foreign companies against the interest of Liberian owned businesses, some of the lawmakers too, being shareholders in some companies will award concessions to their own companies using a foreign agent to front. That is the case with Representatives Bhofal Chambers and George Mulbah of Maryland and Bong Counties in the case of the Bong Technical College. We hope such a case is not the same as, or similar to that of GLS in this overwhelming vote that awarded it this concession contract.
On the other hand, many Liberian businesses have poor customer service, are dishonest, evade tax, front for foreign businesses, and in most instances fail to pay back loans; all of which may be reasons for denial by decision-makers for lack of trust.
In response to the award, GLS CEO, Peter Malcolm King, said “There is a need to take up the challenge of addressing Liberia’s problems by ourselves.” He acknowledged that they have seen and identified the problem at RIA, and have moved in to develop the aviation supply chain sector to benefit the NATION. “Benefit the nation” brings to mind many things: Efficiency and effectiveness in work to meet up with a timely schedule, employment opportunity for competent and qualified Liberians, training and development for workers without discrimination, and creating a feasible condition to meet the expectations of partners, are among those things that one imagines regarding “benefit to nation.”
Besides the poor facilities that give RIA its hideous appearance, this major point of entry has for sometimes been a place of missing items. It has also been a point for transiting harmful drugs as evidence of arrest by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) can show. Unloading cargo at the RIA has been a major challenge as was witnessed during the Ebola crisis when the Chinese Government sent a cargo plane full of materials here in 2014. Unloading these materials was quite difficult that the U.S. Troop on one side of the airport had to intervene by bringing its equipment to unload the plane.
So, Mr. King, as you identify the problem at RIA and are assuring us of addressing it, the government and people of Liberia are looking up to your company to do its best by living up to these promises. Meeting up with expectations of stakeholders will not only strengthen GLS’ credibility, but will reflect the image that there are still good Liberian owned businesses competent to be awarded major concessions like yours.
The Daily Observer also appreciates the Legislature for prioritizing a Liberian company in awarding this concession. We hope you did your due diligence and were able consider the best standards that meet the criteria for the concession before awarding it. We are also optimistic that GLS will be the starting point of vetting Liberian businesses to get the qualified ones for other major concessions to build a true sense of patriotism. We hope, one day, the Liberian Government will create the environment that will empower Liberians from being mere casual laborers in Lebanese and Indian stores to claim a better stake in the employment market and the economy as a whole.