-Says It Will Reduce Liberia’s Dependence On Natural Resources
Assistant Minister for Commerce and Industry, Morris Saryon says there is a need to diversify the Liberian economy.
Minister Saryon said diversifying the economy through industrial activities will help reduce Liberia’s dependence on natural resources, something he said will in turn insulate the economy from fluctuating commodity prices as well as provide foundation for more sustainable development not dependent on extraction of finite resources.
Speaking at the ‘Unity Base’ intellectual Center on Carey Street on the topic: “The Industrial Sector of Liberia, Prospects and Challenges” faced by manufactures and the productive sector as a whole, Assistant Minister Saryon reminded Liberians that the country is blessed with fertile land for agriculture and tree crops, extensive forestry resources, iron ore, gold, diamond and extensive ocean and coastal areas.
He however lamented that for many decades these resources were extracted and exported without local processing or value-addition.
“In addition to loss of revenue (particularly significant in countries dependent on revenue collected from non-renewable extractive industries), this leaves little room for job creation and worst of all, communities in which these concessions operate are often time made vulnerable since their land is usually subject to concessions,” he said.
Minister Saryon further said Liberia has exceptional capacity for growth; particularly in the agro-based industries as current production levels are below Liberia’s proven capacity in the past.
“For example, before the war, mining contributed to 62% of export revenue in the 1970s and 1980s, while in 2008, it contributed 1% to Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” he added.
According to him, the government recognizes the important part industrial development can play in achieving its goals.
This, he said “sustained industrial growth can benefit Liberians through greater opportunities for formal employment and rising wages,” he noted.
He said employment opportunities in industries often create greater opportunities for skills development compared with self-employment or work in the informal sector.
This, Minister Saryon said can also positively impact gender issues as both men and women are able to access these employment opportunities.
“Furthermore, jobs are also more likely to produce a middle class than by direct redistribution of resource rents and by distributing income more widely it insulates vulnerable populations from the typical side effects of resource-driven growth spurs,” he said.
However, Minister Saryon said the industrial sector is plagued with numerous constraints.
He said these challenges can be enumerated through “increased production costs, electricity is a cardinal issue which cannot be overemphasized, lack of clean and pure water for manufacturing and beverages.”
Minister Saryon said the issue of meeting standards required to export to the European and American markets is essential and needs to be addressed, saying “the need to have the national standards laboratory equipped and accredited by the International Standards Organization needs to be addressed.”
Meanwhile, Minister Saryon has disclosed that low human capacity, inadequacy of skilled manpower has always been a perennial problem faced by the industrial sector.
“The need to invest in the TVET sector therefore cannot be overemphasized. Inaccessibility to long-term loan to increased production or expand is a serious issue. Commercial banks in Liberia only provide short-term loans (six months-two years on average),” he concluded.