LPP Chairman Disagrees With Minister Tweah -On Domestic and External Support to Govt. -Says country was ripped off by concessionaires

The Chairman of the Liberia People’s Party(LPP) J. Yanqui Zaza has said he holds contrary view against the assertion of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah Jr, that the Government of Liberia ceased to receive contributions from donors upon the ascendency of President George Manneh Weah in 2018 and that he believed that the government was ripped off from receiving $3 million from the AncelorMittal Mining Company meant for Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong counties as per the 2010 agreement signed between the Government and the concessionaire.

Mr. Zaza who provided tables and other statistics from official government and other sources said that the Minister was being economical with the truth as it can be indicated from the 2018/2019 Fiscal budget that the government received $584,694,000.00 from donors for various projects with the International Development Association(IDA) contributing $159,808,581 to the funds.

Other major donors to the $584,694,000.00 are the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) $129,013,180.00, The African Development Bank (ADB) $102,003,023.00, Government of Germany $40 million, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation $39,395,000.00

Mr. Zaza also named the Government of Japan as bringing in $15,308,968.00, the European Union $9,152,337.00, the UN Peacebuilding Office $8,673,888.00 , the United Nations Development Program $3,423,001.00 and the United Nations Children Emergency Fund(UNICEF) $2,276,000.00 among others.

The prolific writer also said that in the 2018/19 Fiscal budget, on-budget support came from the World Bank with $20 million, USAID Health support-FARA amounting to $15.33 million, the European Union contributed $12 million , while the African Development Bank sent in $4million.

What was more revealing in his critique of Minister Tweah’s presentation of the Government’s receipts concerning social payments from major concessionaires in the country has to do with the underpayment of said money to the government, the development he blamed on the government for failure to compel the companies to live up to the signed agreement those companies should have committed to.

Now, let us review the payments of cash and cash-in-kind on Table # 33 of the schedule prepared by Liberian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives for fiscal period 2016/17. The schedule has two important columns Mandatory column and Voluntary column); mandatory representing payments made in accordance with the USD 1.5B Agreement amended in 2010. That Agreement requires ArcelorMittal Steel to pay USD $3M to three Counties, but the word mandatory and the amount reported under mandatory might suggest that the government and ArcelorMittal Steel have reduced the mandatory $3M payment per year to $220K per year”, he said.

Quoting for the table, Mr. Zaza said total payments from the major companies were $2.9 m from Firestone Rubber Company, the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC) brought in $0.7M, Cavalla Rubber Company paid in $0.1M, while Bea Mountain Inc and AncelorMittal paid in $0.4 and $0.2 M respectively. He said emphatically that In any case, ArcelorMittal Steel, as per the above schedule, paid less money to the three Counties than the $3M that was stipulated within the 2010 $1.5B Agreement.

Interestingly, the Minister did not make any statement about two important issues Mr. Zaza raised in his observation. Mr. Zaza stated that Firestone and ArcelorMittal Steel, the two companies that exported significant products outside of Liberia in 2013/14 and 2014/15, did not withhold taxes imposed on goods exported to buyers outside of Liberia. “The export tax should have been paid by buyers, Firestone’s parent, and ArcelorMittal Steel’s parent. Prior to December 5, 2015, the export tax was 10%. Presumably, the waiver of export tax by the Liberian Government without any economic issues might have been added tax exemption to other issues in concluding that 66 of the 68 Concessionary agreements were fraudulent” he noted.

The second issue the opposition leader raised was the findings of Moore Stephens Audit Firm and the decision, according to him, by President George Weah to disregard the conclusion of the Licensed Institution and accept the conclusion of an unlicensed Institution. “On page # 11 of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity, Weah Administration stated that the 68 concessionary agreements met internationally best practices and Liberia received benefits”, he said.

Mr. Zaza said he was of a strong conviction that President Weah did not provide any explanation to support the decision to disregard the findings of the Audit Firm, adding that the public might have begun to revisit the 66 fraudulent concessionary agreements had Minister attempted to discuss his (Zaza) concern. He stressed that President Weah and the big companies do not want to revisit that issue.

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