Chambers Laments Economic Rip Off -Says Liberia Loses from Maritime, Mining

MONROVIA: Amidst the low level of development which has driven majority of the citizens into abject poverty, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dr. Bhofal Chambers has attributed the disturbing narrative of the state of the country to the long history of economic rip off by some Liberians and foreign interest wherein the resources and other state assets are exploited just as he  identified the maritime and mining sectors which according to him despite raking in millions of dollars, not meaningful returns have benefited the country and its people.

Former Speaker Chambers made the assertion yesterday, Wednesday, February 7, 2024 when he addressed some media institutions on how the country has been losing revenues and that there must be a change in trajectory before the country can reap from its resources and other assets.

Former Speaker Chambers said the legislature was able to deliberate on some critical investment areas which according to him did not give the country substantial opportunities to improve the economy which would have impacted on the lives of the people. He named the non-rectification of the Mineral Development Agreement deal between the Government of Liberia and the ArcelorMittal Mining Liberia, describing it as one of the investment areas that the House of Representatives took a firm decision to protect the interest of the country and its citizens.

He said the reason why the agreement was not amended or ratified was because it lacked a lot of issues and it raised concerns, among which was that AML was not able to honor most of the clauses in the first MDA and there was no point talking about renewing or amending the existing agreement.

“There was the water issue as the people could not use the water because it was contaminated, you can’t use the water, you are reducing the lifespan of the population, Mittal was bringing in containers for our people to live and we said it was unacceptable, they have not been able to build a concentrator, a concentrator that they should have built in their previous MDA they have not done so and then they want to talk about a new MDA, even their reporting on how much revenue they make, to our view it has not  been fair to us, whatever they generate from the mines, have not been able to adequately benefit our people”, he said.

Former Speaker Chambers while also speaking about the mining sector also took time to make some clarifications about the HPX, an American company seeking mining investment in Liberia especially in the area of using the Liberian rail to transport its iron ore from Guinea to Europe through the Buchanan port for which a wide allegation was made against him that he pocketed $500k to facilitate the deal.

He denied ever being offered said amount by anybody, stressing that the information is baseless, being spread by mischief makers just as he maintained that he does not know a single person at HPX or has ever sat in the company of any of their staffers. He said he subscribes to fair play and probity in every transaction and will do everything possible within his might not to contradict himself.

“We cannot pretend to be leaders and go to negotiate for our people and begin to scheme. Negotiation is not scheming.It is your ability to propose your end of the bargain, in fact we trusted you as an authority to speak on our behalf and it will be only fair to come back to us to tell us what is right”

“We have had issues which I believe this administration can correct. Issues in investment, issues of proper recordings in legislations, as it is, there is an issue with HPX and its drive to acquire highly prospective iron ore licenses in Liberia and the multi user port facility has been unresolved, Its acquisition for operation license “in Liberia cannot be denied because the country has a government , a government that thought that HPX has not been charitable, it is not an NGO, therefore in our name, people representing Liberia’s interest must be virtuous and hold on to standard set forth in such engagements for sound best practice and to investment”, he said.

Chambers also said the stiff competition in the mining sector involving Mittal, Solway and HPX should be cheering news to the country as it represents boom in the sector which according to him should be leveraged on by the government “to promote the common good of the citizens”

“From what has been done  in the sector , especially where Solway did exploration, one cannot say it was for Mital but it was a boom for the sector , the issue of multi user gives flexibility, it gives security, it does favor a particular group of people in charge, or predominant.

“Since AML is also in the area of iron ore, the approbation of the usage of the multi-user should be allowed by MITTAl, it  should not be a referee and also a player, and so that we said objective reasonableness was necessary to ensure that Liberia becomes like other countries that practice justice and fairness.  We should stand for just and impartial treatment for everybody, whoever comes to the table must be protected, no one should have the capacity to subjugate others to be inferior”, he said.

Chambers said from following the discussion with senior government officials under former President George Manneh Weah HPX supported the Liberian government’s commitment to multiuser infrastructure in Liberia and true to the process, Weah issued an executive order #112 in October of 2022 to ensure that the multiuser program is pursued and realized.

“The Liberian government received millions from the company called HPX. The company’s presence in Liberia to do legitimate business in Liberia should not change. We cannot ensure or carry out or promote the spell of oligopoly . We have AML  doing well, but it has to do more and what has happened is it has been having some issues with fulfilling its side of the bargain. AML has not been able to build its concentrator for value addition, issue with corporate tax, sanitizing and giving water boiling in occupied areas to the inhabitants, has been having problems with providing housing facilities to its people, etc.”, Chambers said

Speaking further, Chambers said another area of concern was with the maritime industry and lamented that  despite the rise in the sector, there was no corresponding rise in revenue or change in the welfare of the Liberian people.

He said LISCR, which is in charge of ship registry and keeps all records on the sector, has been doing well with its own operations and could be seen in the expansion in its revenue but there is nothing substantial for the country.

He said he personally made interventions to contact the local office of LISCR to get details of the records on the industry, but surprisingly as relevant as his office was, he could not get the cooperation of the institution.

He said during his trip at the Headquarters of LISCR he enquired about the challenges and gains of the sector but the lady whom he spoke to told him that they have not been able update their documents and that at an appropriate time, they will do so “and in fact, surprisingly she was asking whether the President and the Deputy Speaker were aware of my visit and I was even told that the gentleman who led me in the office was fired because he breached protocol by allowing us in”

“So it only validates the secrecy surrounding the industry, so I want the government to probe into the maritime saga, whether the maritime sector that was given to us for it to now be a sector or portion of our economy that we are not benefitting from”, he said

He called for the removal of LISCR to be replaced by a more responsible body if it is not in the interest of the Liberian people, adding that he could not understand why LISCR has reporting issues that it does not support the national budget.

Chambers also used the occasion to address the issue of the TIA investment which according to him was tampered with by some “unscrupulous people” changed the originally concession period of 5 years to 20 years and said when it was detected by the 54th national legislature, a decision was reached that the years should be reversed to 5 years or the agreement be revoked.

Look at the issue of TIA, which should have been a backbone to telecommunications, it should have been for 5 years but there have been some changes intended to be 20 years but at the end of the 54th national legislature, it was made clear that it should be ratified or revoked.

“We hope it is now in place because you are a gate keeper but why are you keeping your gate for 20 years. They have no innovation, they have nothing, and in fact even if Liberia comes up to the point where she can regulate her own traffic, there will be no need because it will be a waste of resources when we are yearning for the optimization of what we are able to generate. So it will be something like wasted funds if you 20 years and you don’t have program to entirely benefit the very formation of growth and sustainability”, he said.

1 Comment
  1. E Massoud says

    “AML raking in millions and not (no) meaningful return for the country” sums it all.

    Thank God Liberians are finally coming to the realization that AML is not only exploiting exportation of raw minerals but insulting Liberians intelligence with no impactful development that improves the standard of living in health care services or enhancing the facilitation of education programs and improving infrastructure development and roads in city and rural areas affected by their operation. Why don’t their senior staff live in containers? Why is the CEO mute on question of how much proceeds and dividends AML have accumulated over 20 years of operation?

    If AML President Mr Mittal can spend $60 million on his daughters wedding, why should Buchanan be in darkness after 20 years of operation?

    No public rail bus, no concentrator plant, no washing plant, no pellet plant, no steel manufacturing plant etc. Liberians deserve so much more than to be scrambling for electricity relief with no alternative than to reluctantly turn to the very noisy and toxic generating pollutants that permeate the atmosphere from generators that are definitely not environmentally friendly thereby adding fuel to the already hot existing temperatures!

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