Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Liberia to Lose Millions: Investment Committee Head in Conflict Breach

Source: FrontPage africa

Global Witness
Global Witness has discovered that members of the Liberian House of Representatives have drafted legislation to reduce the annual fees paid by timber concessionaries by 80 percent. This could cost Liberians US$10.3 million a year in much needed revenue. In a clear conflict of interests, one of the lawmakers supporting the move holds shares in a logging firm that stands to benefit financially. The news comes as evidence mounts that the companies concerned are contributing next to nothing to Liberia's development.

"Liberia's logging companies knew their obligations when they signed their contracts," says Jonathan Gant, Policy Advisor with Global Witness. "Concessionaires have been lobbying for years to reduce their taxes and now look set to succeed. It makes no sense that the Government of Liberia, which is desperate for money, is bowing to the interests of logging companies that have delivered so little to the country."

The Liberian Government and donors, including the United States and the World Bank, have spent six years and tens of millions of dollars reforming the country's forestry sector. Yet as the UN and other groups have reported, Liberia's forestry laws have been breached repeatedly, allowing huge swathes of land to be given to companies that lack technical or financial capacity.[4] Companies are failing to deliver the benefits that they are contracted to provide to communities, leading to conflicts that have already claimed one life.

The proposed new law is not the first attempt by companies to substantially reduce the amount of tax they pay. In December 2008 and June 2009, the UN Panel of Experts reported on a deal struck between three companies and government officials whereby taxes would be reduced. The Panel described the agreement as 'appearing to be a serious violation of the National Forestry Reform Law and the Public Procurement and Concessions Act'. This deal, which was rejected after being exposed, bears strong similarities to the terms of the bill now under consideration.

Global Witness is calling on Liberian lawmakers to reject the proposed changes to the tax regime and urges international donors to act to stop the incipient failure of forest sector reforms. The argument made for years by the government and donors alike - that industrial logging is justified by the revenues it generates for development - has again been comprehensively discredited. It is time that alternatives to industrial scale logging are given the urgent consideration they deserve.

"Logging companies have broken the law, are not performing, and are not creating jobs. The government and the donors must agree to scrap this failing system before all Liberia's forests are chopped down and the rights of Liberian people are further trampled," said Gant.

The draft law in question has emerged from Liberia's House of Representatives, and is titled 'An Act to Abolish the Payment of Land Rental Bid Premium on Contract Area in the Forestry Sector of the Liberian Economy'. The bill is accompanied by a 'Report of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Judiciary and Agriculture, on the Act to Abolish Land Rental Bid Premium,' also from the House of Representatives.

Global Witness has copies of the Articles of Incorporation of the logging concessionaire International Consultant Capital, dated 20 August 2007, which show that Moses Y Kollie owns 6% of the shares in the firm. Moses Y Kollie is also a member of the Liberian House of Representatives, representing Lofa County. Accompanying the draft law is a report of the Joint Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Judiciary and Agriculture, on the Act to Abolish Land Rental Bid Premium, which includes signatures of members of the House of Representatives who support the proposed legislation. Moses Y Kollie is one of these signatories.

Kollie told FrontPageAfrica in a recent interview that the lack of monitoring or apparent reluctance to monitor the various concessions on the part of the National Investment Commission (NIC) is another factor many believe is hurting the country’s potential investment opportunities. Such comes in the midst of the NIC’s Chairman purported entanglement with conflict of interests in some of the concession agreements.

The Lofa representative furthered: “The National Investment Commission should be in the position to monitor these concessions, With an obvious golden package that is always put forth, Golden Veroleum’s package includes an oil factory mill that will be engaged with finished products.

Continued Kollie: “All of the concessions we have ratified in the agricultural sector are doing well expect for the ADA/LAP. Sime Darby is doing extremely well. When you have the chance to drive along the Bomi-Grand Cape Mount Highway, you will see that they are following in line in respect with their concession agreement. For the ADA, they have given some assurance that come October they will revamp the system because there is new management that will come in play, there will be some improvements."

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Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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