“It is our resolve to shift from simply exporting raw materials to being a manufacturing nation.”
These were the words of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when last week she received the letters of credence from Turkish Ambassador Senturk Uzun. She told him she was inviting Liberia’s partners, “including Turkey, to direct their investments [to] the manufacturing and service industries.”
The question is, how serious are she and her government?
In advancing any pleas and challenges to partners, one has to know these partners well enough. Does the Liberian government know Turkey? It is a very serious country, which is fast becoming industrialized. It is also self-sufficient in agriculture.
We understand that most of the steel rods which are imported into Liberia come from Turkey.
Yet Turkey has no iron ore. So how does she produce enough steel rods for local consumption and export?
The poor Liberians would not believe this: and when we say poor, we have no intention of ignoring the fact that yes, we are desperately poor, yet we are vastly rich in mineral and agricultural resources. So what is it that
Liberians would not believe? Turkey produces its steel rods from scrap metal that it imports! It then manufactures them as well as steel plates and other products, then ships them to iron ore rich Liberia.
That is why we ask the question, how serious is our President in inviting Turkey to help lead us into manufacturing?
Does the government recall the golden opportunity we missed just two years ago when a Chinese steel manufacturer put in a concession bid for the Western Cluster mines? Yes, then Lands, Mines and Energy (LME)
Minister Eugene Shannon, reputed to be one of our brightest sons, joined others in shortsightedly rejecting this Chinese company, brought in by President George Bush’s brother, Jeb, former governor of Florida. The reason: Shannon and company found every excuse to reject that Chinese company, including that it could not raise enough money to engage in the Western Cluster mining!
Now here are two things about that decision that will make All Liberians cry! First, the Chinese company told the government they were willing to establish a steel plant in Liberia. Here was a golden opportunity not simply missed, but REJECTED!
The second thing that will make Liberians cry is something they already know only too well, especially since this newspaper, the Daily Observer, wrote repeatedly about but we, too, were ignored and rejected: Elenilto, the Israeli scrap metal company that the LME and the President’s Ministerial Council declared as having “won” the bid for the Western Cluster mines, HAD ABSOLUTELY NO EXPERIENCE IN MINING OPERATIONS. They were only scrap metal dealers and financial speculators.
And Elenilto knew that only too well. So, realizing they had no experience in mining, before they even signed the concession agreement with the Liberian government, they sold 49% of it to the Indian steel company Sesa
Goa! And months after Elenilto’s signing of the concession agreement, they sold to Sesa Goa the remaining 51%!
Here you had the whole sovereign government of Africa’s oldest independent republic taken for a ride by scrap dealers!
This is why we ask, how serious are the President and her government in inviting the Turks to engage in manufacturing? For clearly, to have allowed itself to be taken for a ride like that by Elenilto, rejecting a company that was committed to building a steel here, makes one wonder whether those engaged in these negotiations do not take their work seriously, are incompetent, or just plain unpatriotic.
Now, after barely two years of operation, Sesa Goa has informed GOL that it has scaled down 80% of its operations. That is apart from the outrageous proposal they recently put to GOL to transport its iron ore by truck through the already heavily congested Duala traffic to the Free Port of Monrovia! This means that the deal Elenilto led GOL into and GOL willingly accepted for reasons GOL has never explained to the Liberian people, is now at a standstill.
We suggest that GOL investigate the possible breach of this concession agreement, cancel it and reopen the concession bid for the Western Cluster.