“Was the Rejection of the ArcelorMittal Agreement a Patriotic Act or Driven by Self-interest & Deceptions?
By Democracy Watch
When the young people of Liberia who constitute the bulk of our country’s population summoned the intestinal and moral courage in 2017 and went to the polls to elect their lawmakers, they did so in absolute demonstration of their highest degree of patriotism believing that such patriotism would be reciprocated by their lawmakers in the legislative decisions they would make. The young people came out courageously believing that their honest votes cast in favour of those men and women that ought to represent our collective interests at the Legislature would have overhauled our country from the absolute worse, the rising costs of living overburdening every household and high unemployment and would offer a pathfinder of hope.
All across our country, our citizens peddle the belief that it should be the obligation of their lawmakers to demonstrate the highest degree of patriotism or love for country in the judicial conduct of businesses in the hallowed chambers of the Legislature falling short of nothing less than projecting the common good of our country over self-aggrandisement. For them, if that is achieved by their lawmakers, it will be the truest test of their love for country or patriotism. Sadly despicably, our lawmakers fumbled on that responsibility, defaulted on their promises and crushed underfoot their true sense of humanity and the people’s power of attorney.
This careless betrayal of trust and patriotism was recently demonstrated in the third amendment of the Mineral Development Agreement negotiated and signed between the Government of Liberia and ArcelorMittal-Liberia when the people of Liberia to their sudden dismay saw their lawmakers rejected the deal not because it wouldn’t have served the best interests of the country. It was rejected principally because it doesn’t serve the self-seeking interests of our lawmakers.
For months, some our lawmakers, allegedly bribed by a fraudster of a Guinean company in HPX and a few others with vested interest in the mining sector, tossed away what is of golden opportunity that would have served the national interest of country and its people by rejecting the agreement.
The amended ArcelorMittal deal which languished for months at the Legislature is one which projects massive job creation opportunities for a little over 3,000 idled youth of our country and the overall economic progress of Liberia in buttress to the already 3500 jobs the company has provided over the last decade. But majority of Liberians who wanted the agreement ratified, saw the action of their lawmakers to reject the deal that was in the best interest of the government and its people, as nothing short of an effort punctuated in deceptions and a gluttonous displayed of self-interest by legislative kleptocrats against the best interest of the country and its citizenry.
The third amendment of the Mineral Development Agreement that was sadly rejected by the Legislature had it been ratified, instead of the current 45 million dollars per annum that goes to the government of Liberia as royalty, it would have seen a sharp increase in that amount from 45 to 80 million dollars per annum – constituting 20 percent of our national budget to fund economic development programs in Liberia.
The deal also, if ratified, in demonstration of ArcelorMittal-Liberia’s social corporate responsibility to the people of the three affected counties the company operates, would see those counties receive a little over 3.5 million United State Dollars instead of the 3 million that they receive currently per annum. Sadly despicably, our lawmakers allowed their personal interests to override their love for country and people. Now, citizens are wondering where our lawmakers’ love for country and people is. Where is their humanity?
Already, the current government under President George Manneh Weah is heavily challenged economically as the living condition of the people is worsening day-by-day. Unemployment is skyrocketing and poverty is quadrupling – evident by the World Bank data released on July 30, 2020 – which placed the poverty rate at 68.9 percent in 2020 as opposed to 55.8 percent in 2019. Most indices have echoed that more people are to fall below the poverty margin if the right policy measures are not taken. Foreign aid to Liberia and many other African countries have dropped.
Recently, Liberia failed on indicators or benchmarks to access the US government Millennium Challenge Compact grant for developing countries that would have helped to boost our economy and lessened the constraints on our budget. Now, we are left with no alternative than to heavily depend on domestic revenue collection. Amid all these challenges, Liberians home and abroad hoped that our lawmakers would have exercised judicial prudent in the third amendment to the Mineral Development Agreement that they on yesterday, March 28, 2022, rejected only to nurse the personal interest at the expense of the state.
This action of our legislators past and current has undermined the public trust bestowed to that august body thus creating deep-seated public skepticism of the dividend of democracy weakening and discouraging our people to vote in elections.
The rejection of the ArceloMittal agreement that is in the best interest of our people and national development by a coterie of legislative kleptocrats besets a stage for a widening gap of unemployment and widespread poverty with corrosive effect on the increasing rate of crimes.