Liberian Senate Warns Over Prioritizing Guinean Company Over AML Under The Guise of Port and Rail Exclusive Rights
Co-authored by James B. Kollie and Julius T. Jaesen II
Every country’s economic viability is heavily reliant on the purchasing power of its population. This means that the government would make use of the current opportunity while also exploring new opportunities, but to ensure that the pursuit of such new opportunities does not jeopardise the national interest or the interests of the population. The government would capitalise on its comparative advantage, especially if it borders on economic growth, and establish an ecosystem in which individuals’ abilities are harnessed and developed. In lieu of this assertion, it is a conventional assumption that a functioning government that genuinely cares about the welfare of its people would seek to prioritise and strengthen existing institutions that have demonstrated a track record of fulfilling their financial commitments over time, rather than giving extra leverage and a premium to a foreign company over ones that have long been operating in Liberia and contributing to the country’s economic development – as is the case with ArcelorMittal Liberia and HPX operating from the Republic of Guinea and the Russian funded mining company, Solway.
The ratification of the AML deal suffered setbacks at the hands of the Liberian House of Representatives almost two weeks ago, following news that report of the House Joint Committee was written by HPX and Solway. These ratification efforts yet in the Legislature before the Liberian Senate, when not properly taken with caution or exercising judicial prudence, would hamper the economic progress of the country; thus losing AML’s payments in royalties, taxes, and social corporate responsibility. Largely due to some undercover maneuverings by some ranking members of the Legislature advocating and lobbying for the introduction of a foreign company, at the expense of suffering people who are being helped to escape poverty through AML billion dollar investment over the years. This Guinean company has had no socioeconomic impact on Liberia’s growth as AML has done since its operational activities in 2005, and will pay no royalties and taxes to the Liberian government but will only pay for the use of the country’s rail and port – something that will be far more infinitesimal and significantly less than the US$80 million proposed in AML’s new deal negotiated with the Executive branch of the government of Liberia. However, the hidden hands seeking to oust AML’s concession ratification are rather bent on personal greed and self-gratification. This has resorted not only in public concerns over hedging of ratification.
Recent headlines about the ratification of the ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) concession agreement have inflamed the media, with evidence of some officials of government attempting to dampen the chances of the extension of AML’s deal. As a result, some reliable sources claim that the legislature has overlooked certain crucial elements of the concession.
The recent tinkering with the AML extended arrangement by the House of Representatives in no small ways accidentally favors a foreign company, Russian funded HPX of Guinea, disallowing and dampening the chances of an existing company that is already having a meaningful impact.
It is instructive to note whilst we are indeed advocating the importance of multi-rail use which allows other companies to use our railroad; however, we must guarantee full rail access and usage to companies that are within our borders with huge investment and that are already contributing to our economic development in a big way.
It is noteworthy to indicate that AML has not only hugely invested in the socioeconomic development of Liberia but has also invested 500 million dollars in the construction and rehabilitation of rail and port, to make operational accessibility.
The HPX Guinea has for some time now been on smear PR campaign using rogue media outlets, including online news websites and radio stations as well as some elements in the circle of government fronting for a Guinean company that would not even contribute 15 percent of what AML is currently contributing. At current, AML provides between 35 to 45 million dollars in direct contributions to the budget of the Liberian government, aside from its annual 3 million corporate social responsibility to affected communities; excluding support to public institutions not limited to hospitals, schools, etc.
We have been receiving news that the Guinean government headed by Colonel Mamady Doumbouya has ordered a re-evaluation of the rail and infrastructure plans connected with the Simandou iron ore project which is ultimately prolonging the commencement of railway construction.
Guinea has some of the biggest untapped iron ore deposits in the world located in the southern region of the country but due to the absence of infrastructures, they are in a difficult position to bring into the production of iron ores. Also, it is important to note that two local iron ore companies have bought the attention of leading international companies in the mining industry, Nimba and Zogota which is causing mining companies to adjoin exploration permits. Interestingly, it seems that Liberia is heading on a different plan allowing ArcelorMittal’s rail line to transport ore through its territory.