Popular Public Discourse Center Chides GoL -Says ‘Flip-flopping’ In ArcelorMittal Deal Is Dangerous

From the apparent surface of things, it seems the Government of Liberia is upbeat in its resolve to see the amended Mineral Development Agreement with the world’s largest steel giant, ArcelorMittal, sail through on account of the seemingly lucrative benefits it holds for the country. The George Manneh Weah administration has been on the record showing much interest to see the deal past through the National Legislature, but there is a new account suggesting that the Government is unleashing a dagger in the back of the same company it exalts. The popular public discourse center called Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) is insinuating something fishy on the part of the power that be, indicating that the administrating is flirting with Mittal’s competitor, as The Analyst reports.

The Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) is questioning Liberian government’s sincerity in seeing the long-debated amended Mineral Development Agreement between the government and ArcelorMittal see the light of day.

The administration of President George Manneh Weah several months ago submitted the amended deal promising thousands of jobs and US$800 million in investment to the National Legislature for ratification.

The government and its supporters have lavishly celebrated the deal and have been particularly serious to have it go through the Legislature. So, far the House of Representatives has forestalled the ratification process, seeking further discussion, after it was passed by the Senate recently.

Meanwhile, a civil society group which has been following the Mineral Development Agreement with the company is of the opinion that the government does not mean well relative to the deal because, according to them, the government is “double dipping”.

CEIO assert that the decision by the House of Representatives to return the Arcelor Mittal Deal to Executive is clear mark of dangerous “double dipping” by the Government of Liberia.

At a news conference in Monrovia Tuesday, April 5, 2022, CEIO observed that the declined interest in the “promising 800 Million AML deal” is consistent with government of Liberia’s interest which is proffered by a Guinea- dominant ore explorer named HPX.

The intellectual group mentioned that it is troubling and extremely dangerous for the government to be contradicting itself about its so-called “Liberia is Ready for Business Mantra”.

The co-chairman of CEIO, Mr. Sylvester Tevez who read the statement, said “it is not only troubling to us and smells Double Dipping, but it ignites in us the feeling that our leaders in Government are interested in contracting with foreign direct company of lesser investment portfolio with meager benefits to the public good to line the pockets of political and material self-aggrandizement than seek the common good of their gravely dispossessed governed whose survival hinges on them.”

“We dismayed by the explicit nonchalance of the GoL in the passage of the new AML deal which seeks to increase not only the interest of AML in the ore Mining sector but also to provide additional thousands of jobs across the points of operations of the steel giant and significantly contribute to our country’s achievement of its national developmental agenda in the specific way of helping it realize the projection in the biggest budget yet in our national existence,” the group said further.

CEIO also revealed that there are indisputable and troubling news circulating both in print and electronic media that the government of Liberia entered into a secret deal with the Guinean concessionaire, HPX, two days before the Lower House went into emergency session to return the ArcelorMittal Agreement which offers about 3,000 new jobs for struggling Liberians, US$75M in revenue that could intervene in the procurement of medicine for hospitals and clinics, education and many other challenges.

CEIO added: “About this, we are taken aback, and with haste want to use this medium to urge the GoL to accord more attention to the AML deal, openly aspire for further fine tuning where necessary and grants the approval so sought that the company can begin its extension processes which holds much for the progressive growth in GoL’s revenue in this direction and the sustainable survival of our people”.

CEIO says it is more worried that the choice for ore investment in Liberia as is being made by leaders of Liberia who do not consider strength of prevailing circumstances when ArcelorMittal is offering better deal for the government and people while “another company that lines the pockets of lawmakers and members of executive against the interest of the entire country”.

“The fact that the US$1 billion AML deal holds tangible and readied benefits for the public good,” CEIO stressed, arguing that such is not only recognized by its assessment, but that the observed reality of the executive branch of government at the onset.

On announcing the new AML deal late last year, President George Weah is quoted as saying: “we are delighted to have reached this important agreement with AML, our long-term partner in the development of the Mining sector of Liberia. This agreement demonstrates to the world that Liberia welcomes and is a key emerging destination for capital. It further supports the government’s Pro-Poor Agenda, which is underpinned by the importance of creating jobs to lift Liberian citizens from poverty. The further investment by AML in Liberia bears testament to the company’s confidence in the future of this country. We are confident that our constructive working relationship will go from strength to strength.”

CEIO argues that in addition to the above appraisal of the deal by President George Weah, the US ambassador to Liberia and the EU have all affirmed the new MDA which they say meet all standards of openness for public scrutiny and conformity with international best practice were observed.

“Thus we are confounded by the disinclination of the Lower House to legislate this deal,” the group added.

CEIO has reemphasized it position that the deal is in the solemn interest of Liberia and is poised to foster good of Liberia’s already investment-starved status and its rampantly unemployed youthful population while empowering all groups of citizens in the areas of its operations and beyond through the provision of health, educational, and community infrastructure development assistance.

“We intentionally use this medium draw attention to the economic repercussion of disinvestment by a major ore investor, job loss by mostly rural dwellers in whose quarters the effects of poverty are so overwhelming, annual direct budgetary support of about US$75M which is pivotal to revenue needed to foster the national developmental agenda”.

According to CEIO, when passed the current Mineral Development Agreement will make available an additional US$65M to be disbursed to government account no later than the first 19 months following its approval and much more other support in corporate social spending.

Arcelor Mittal, CEIO believes, has proven to be capable of contributing to Liberia’s development as a long-term investment partner, and as such, the government of Liberia must exercise prudence and caution as it gives in to suggestions of alternatives that are yet to demonstrate their sincerity for sustainable investment that facilitate the national effort for infrastructure and human resource development as a step towards tackling unemployment and its attending consequence as poverty.

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