Poverty in Liberia is projected to increase over the next few years, a worrying prediction that aligns with enormous unemployment and low income.
This projection, international financial institutions conclude is mainly driven by swelling food prices, the decline in chief export commodity prices for minerals, and drawbacks of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In the real world view, poverty in Liberia experts believe will remain widespread, with more than half of the population 50.9 percent already below the national poverty line, according to the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey.
This is a national poverty dimensional figure that understandably translates into more than 2.3 million Liberians who are unable to meet their basic needs daily.
Liberia’s poverty nightmare is largely tied to the inability of the government to create means of income jobs that would deliver income for individuals and households to make demand make for goods and services.
ArcelorMittal’s 1.2 billion Phase Tow Expansion project holds the good promise to help the government to solve one of its key challenges- for job creation deficit which has ravel the impoverished West African nation for years.
This is an investment that must be cherished and maintained to save the roughly 68 percent of the country’s poor that live in rural areas where poverty incidence according to the World Bank is 71.6 percent, more than twice as high as in cities (31.5 percent).
We are aware that in December 2020 round of the household surveyed about 60 percent reported paying higher prices for basic and staple food items with significant revenue losses for businesses, and jobs to the employees.
In its Phase Two expansion which is already ongoing even though the Legislature rejected its 3rd Mineral Development Agreement, the company says it has a clear vision and does new investments that will help create new good-paying jobs, upgrade Liberian infrastructure, and increase government revenue.
ArcelorMittal plans to invest about $200 million to expand the capacity of the railway between Yekepa and Buchanan which is already in demand by other companies.
There is ongoing expansion of the cargo handling capacity of the Port of Buchanan and the construction of an ore concentrator in Yekepa where about 800 contractors are already working in various capacities.
Ninety-seven percent of ArcelorMittal’s employees are Liberians now and the company plans aim to increase that number.
As announced in 2021 by the company, the taxes paid from these investment activities will increase significantly as ArcelorMittal harnesses her potential to grow production from five to fifteen million tons annually, resulting in a 300 percent increase in production.
Notwithstanding, taxes and royalties vary from what the prevailing iron ore price is at the time and certainly a very big increase in taxes and royalties will happen to encourage other companies to invest in Liberia.
Such an investment will not just be limited to mining companies, but other supporting industries and large-scale industries can see what ArcelorMittal- a global leader in the steel industry is doing in Liberia and trying to invest as well and create more jobs that can attend to the current poverty crisis.
But these will not happen all by themselves.
Increasing investment would only come when other companies notice a favorable investment climate in Liberia often by looking at what’s obtaining on the ground and analyzing whether the country is an attractive destination for investment in Africa.
Keeping investments in Liberia will depend not only on political maneuvering in Monrovia but on how well the existing investments like ArcelorMittal that target reducing poverty in the poorest segment of the population are treated.