Where Is Finance Minister’s Empowerment Pledge to Carpenters?

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Shortly following his appointment as Finance Minister, Amara Konneh announced that the GoL would make it mandatory that all furniture for public offices would be locally produced furniture.

The Daily Observer wholeheartedly welcomed that announcement and applauded Finance Minister Konneh for this bold attempt to empower Liberian carpenters and cabinet makers. We said if the Minister kept his promise it would give a powerful spark to the furniture sector in Liberia and put our carpenters and cabinet makers to work as never before.

We suggested that experts from major furniture producing nations could be engaged to give our cabinetmakers crash courses in the trade. In an afterthought, it may even be a good idea to have these experts bring in some modern cabinet making equipment, to boost the cabinet making shop at the

Booker Washington Institute (BWI), where the crash courses could be held.

We commend the synergy ignited between the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, which are encouraging Liberian businesses to formalize their enterprises with GoL in order to qualify for at least 25% of government contracts. This is a very positive step and sets the stage for Minister Konneh to make good on his pledge.

We were reminded of it when last week President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met several Liberian business people who told her the serious disadvantages they face in their own country, where foreign business people, especially the Lebanese, are consistently given preferential treatment. They win all the bids leaving Liberian business people in the cold.

The President acknowledged the problem and pledged GoL’s commitment to do what it could to help Liberian business people to succeed.

Well, one tangible way in which the President could help is by urging or presaging her Finance Minister Konneh, to honor his pledge to the carpenters and cabinet makers.

We recall the great advice the outgoing Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yue gave us. He said we should limit our concern on the extractive industries and devote our energies to MANUFACTURING. That is why we took Minister Konneh’s vision so seriously.

We urge Liberian entrepreneurs to visit China and other parts of the Far East and see what the people do with the reed plant. They manufacture all kinds of products, from furniture to vehicles. With all our iron ore, when will the government enter negotiations with the iron ore companies to undertake
a joint initiative to manufacture steel in Liberia?

Come next year, it will be 70 years since we started mining and exporting iron ore. Yet, we cannot make a steel rod in Liberia. What are we waiting for? Several years ago the Daily Observer suggested that the GoL encourage mining companies to consider creating a steel plant in Liberia.

Remember we missed an opportunity when a Chinese Company interested in the Western Cluster offered to build a steel plant in Liberia. But thanks to the short sightedness and lack of patriotism of GoL officials and others, bent on their selfish intents, this offer was rejected.

The western cluster was handed out to an Israeli Company that had no knowledge or experience in iron ore mining.

Just as the Daily Observer had repeatedly warned, Elenilto, within less than a year, sold its concession to an Indian Company. Here once again, the GoL missed a golden opportunity to introduce industrialization in Liberia. A steel plant could have led to the creation of many auxiliary enterprises that Liberian business people could have taken great advantage of.

With the prices of rubber and iron ore down on the world market, what has the government done to revitalize the economy? It seems to us that GoL could infuse US$10 to US$15 million in agriculture, especially rice production, to empower our farmers, who comprise the lion’s share of productive employment in the country.

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