By Julius T. Jaesen II
Since Liberia returned to peace and political stability after years of brutal carnage which decimated lives and property, ArcelorMittal-Liberia, the country’s biggest investment partner, has played an essential role in the country’s economic recovery and efforts to address the security threats – high unemployment – that portended danger for a nation coming from its troubled history. The company’s billion dollars investment in Liberia during such a sad time of our history served as an important source of government revenue and a driving force behind broader economic development.
It can be recalled that after the civil unrest, Liberia was plunged into a dire economic situation. There was high unemployment which threatened the nation’s fragile peace. On the other hand, the government of Liberia was heavily challenged in raising the needed financial resources to support economic development, attract investments in the mining sector to create employment opportunities for its unemployed youthful population, boost the country’s revenue envelop and underpin growth. In the face of these constraints that handicapped the government’s capacity to deliver on real economic prosperity, ArcelorMittal, the world-leading steel giant, entrance into our mining sector and announcement of a 1 billion dollars investment at the time, was a shining hope for Liberia’s return to its glorious past where iron ore mining was indisputably the backbone of the Liberian economy contributing more than 60 percent of export earnings and roughly 25 percent of GDP growth. Such a huge investment from ArcelorMittal at a time when there were still lingering doubts about Liberia sliding back to its dark history, inadvertently boosted donors’ trust in our country and restored once again confidence in our investment climate.
Today, it is good news for Liberia as the World Bank and IMF are reporting that Liberia’s GDP per capita is expected to return to the pre-COVID-19 level – and GDP growth according to the projection – will be driven largely by the mining sector. These projections from both IMF and World Bank about Liberia’s GDP growth reinforce our calls for the government of Liberia to without any ounce of delay ratify AML’s mineral development agreement. Any delay with the ratification of AML’s deal will no doubt worsen or deepen Liberia’s economic woes.
We urge the government to exercise caution in its approach to dealing with our mining sector and all its actors, especially AML, the country’s biggest investor. We must not afford to prioritize companies seeking rights only in the usage of our rail and port facilities to transport the ores they are mining from foreign domiciles and with no interest in significantly investing in our country and creating employment opportunities for our youth. If we tread cautiously and prudently we can leverage on the revenues from our mining industry to address infrastructure and human capital and general services deficits that are obstacles to the development of sustained broad-based and inclusive growth not to mention to achieve improvements in social indicators.
The vast contributions AML has made and continues to make through mining royalties and income tax payments – in no small way have helped to boost socioeconomic development and have taken some of the burdens from on government.
Indisputably, AML has played a significant role in addressing Liberia’s development debacles. And so, extending their operations or stay in Liberia is of significance and should be welcomed by all well-meaning Liberians. Since AML’s advent in Liberia, the company has also played a substantial role in improving the quality of human life by creating jobs, providing skills and knowledge to young Liberian professionals, putting incomes in the pockets of our once impoverished families, supporting infrastructure development and public health services, among other things.