Legislature Slams Weah’s Pro-Poor Agenda – Puts Over 3,000 Liberians Out of Jobs
By Julius T. Jaesen II
Owner & Managing Editor of Democracy Watch
When President George Weah was inaugurated President of Liberia in January of 2018, many Liberians, if not all, toyed with the high expectation that his messianic ascendency to the nation’s presidency would rib Liberia out of skyrocketing unemployment and end years of unbearable hardship that portend danger to national security through his Pro-Poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity.
The Pro-Poor Agenda, which was formulated by the government over a year plus in power, was premised on two major goals. Goal number one was to build a stable, resilient, and inclusive nation embracing our triple heritage and anchored on our identity as Africans. Goal number two of the Pro-Poor Agenda, on the other hand, promised to lift an additional one million Liberians out of absolute poverty over the next six years (and reduce absolute poverty by 23% across 5 of the 6 regions) through sustained and inclusive growth driven by increased investments in agriculture, infrastructure, and human capital development.
To achieve such an ambitious agenda and end the years of economic decline by putting food on the tables of thousands of families, the government’s provisional financing was estimated at an amount of USD 6 billion, with a forecast that pointed to domestic revenue accounting for 42 percent of the total to be achieved through domestic resource mobilization, which included taxes and royalties from businesses and concessionaires operating in the bailiwick of Liberia, whilst the remainder of 58 percent will be sourced through a combination of official development assistance and financing from loans to be secured at favorable terms.
But recently, to the dismay of the world and our development partners, the Legislature slammed the CDC-Led Government’s job creation efforts by wilfully rejecting the third amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement negotiated and signed by the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal-Liberia, not grounded on any genuine cause that makes the deal not in the best interest of our country and its people. It is important to note that if the AML’s deal had been ratified, the government would have received over 80 million dollars in royalty each year, which would have made up 20% of the national budget.
The rejection of the AML’s deal by the Legislature demonstrates their deep-seated and grave insensitivity to the plights of over 3,000 Liberians who will be losing their jobs by the rejection of the deal. Their action equally undermines President Weah’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity. The three affected counties are at risk of losing the $3 million per year they receive from ArcelorMittal.
As they enter their fourth year in office, the current government has failed miserably to meet its target of one million job creation, which was promised to be achieved in six years. However, they have rejected an additional 800 million dollars investment from ArcelorMittal, which would have put smiles on the faces of many impoverished families by creating an additional 2,000 new jobs, in addition to the over 3,000 jobs the company has already created. This singular action by the Legislature shows not only to Liberians but the world that our Legislature is grossly against not just the advance of its citizens but the progress of this administration headed by soccer icon George Weah.
As the government struggles to meet the needs of our people, reach its targeted revenue projection, and deliver on the policy promises that brought it to power, Liberians hoped that the Legislature would have found the moral encourage to ratify the third amendment of the Mineral Development Agreement, allowing the stay of tax-compliant investors like ArcelorMittal in our mining sector, noting that through the national budget, they serve as important contributors to sustainable development and increasing access to opportunities, including the reduction of unemployment and inequalities in the communities in which they operate.
Over the last 4 years in the administration of President George, ArcelorMittal Liberia has stood tall as the government’s biggest taxpayer and investment company, immensely contributing to the Pro-Poor Agenda through the royalty, social corporate responsibility funds, and other contributions the company makes to education, health, and other sectors of our country.
The Liberia Revenue Authority recently awarded ArcelorMittal-Liberia as the largest taxpayer in the country for its dutiful and invaluable contribution to the government of Liberia’s revenue collection efforts, which in turn fund the national budget, sustain the economy, and support the country’s developmental agenda.
The company pays over 45 million dollars to the government of Liberia in royalty per annum, exclusive of the 3 million dollars that go to affected communities annually as the company’s social corporal responsibility. In buttress of the government of Liberia’s efforts to invest in human capital development, which is very critical to the Pro-Poor Agenda, ArcelorMittal-Liberia, has so far invested over 1.7 million to support Liberian students to obtain advanced education in the sciences from abroad, in addition to the refurbished Nimba County Vocational and Technical College and the 50 million per annum that goes as support to the College. But with all these, the Legislature has elected to undermine the government of Liberia’s PADP and to turn over 3,000 happy families into improvised despair and wrecked harlots.