MONROVIA-Not many Liberians will disagree, abhor or argue the fact that antebellum concessionaires made no significantly impactful contributions to their socio-economic wellbeing, let alone the overall development of a country. Juxtaposed against benefits accrued from the explorations of the country’s natural endowments, bastardization and encroachment are just the reaps and rewards visibly stirring. The glaringness and visibility of their discomforting failure to impact the lives of Liberians and contribute to the national development mosaic is comprehensively and unarguably expressible.
Agreeably, current happenings against the interest of concessionaires in different parts of the country largely hinged on the “When snake ever missed, ordinary lizard also scares you” scenario. Just to reflect, Liberia established partnerships via different concession agreements with some of the world’s leading companies at the time.
Companies like LAMCO in Yekepa, Nimba County, Bong Mining Company in Bong Mines, Bong County, Liberia Sugar Company (LIBSUCO) in Maryland County and many more flooded the woodlands before the dawn of the senseless civil war that so dearly impacted all Liberians and left the country in the throes of near-perpetual backwardness.
Putting all of this into context means that these companies massively and blazingly flouted the laws that guaranteed them operations, and desperately flopped in their respective social corporate responsibilities (SCR) not only to the entire country but mostly areas occupied and concomitantly raked of endowed valuable resources.
Also, by blatantly flouting the law, these companies were aware that the terms of their contractual agreements were being undermined, and what was supposed to be a cherished partnership was butchered.
Accordingly, and perhaps, in lieu of the witticism that experience is a teacher, current concessionaires are making the most use of their agreements, endeavoring in all aspects to uphold the partnership they share with Liberia, by virtue of operating in the country.
In spite of the political miasma in the atmosphere, there is no gainsaying that ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading Steel Company has positioned itself as Liberia’s outstanding concessionaire and dependable partner, standing against all odds to honor its share of the bargain. Since 2005 or maybe 2006, the Company has shown much resolve, tenacity, temerity, and endurance in undoing what other companies that closed operations in protest of “harassment or bullying” could not stand in the truest demonstration of commitment to the principles of partnership and the values of its Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) with Liberia.
Partnership, as it is known, is incontrovertibly expensive and adorable. It is also said that true partners don’t easily back off, but help in finding solutions to situations threatening the partnership. Take or leave it, this is the unquestionable credentials of ArcelorMittal.
During an argument among some Liberians are claimed to be following developments with ArcelorMittal Operations, one remarked: “if every company operating in Liberia could be like ArcelorMittal, the country could be far off in terms of development and improvement of Liberian’s lives.” While it is not just possible for everyone to feel the physical impact of its being here, others are throwing their bodies in defense of the company’s achievements in Liberia.
If Liberians cannot stomach the company’s operations in Liberia, at least, let them reflect on the physically infrastructural changes done to the Port of Buchanan, the second largest port in the country, which lay in ruins prior to the advance of ArcelorMittal. By revamping the Port of Buchanan to its prewar status, the company was immediately creating employment space for thousands of Liberians who did not know their way out after the civil war. Also, by extension, ArcelorMittal was rooting and inculcating the stems of the partnership.
The provision of several scholarships, training Liberians in different fields, and its corporate social responsibility work speak volumes.
Why should there be this imbroglio and fomentation against such a partner like ArcelorMittal, when in fact it is doing it is part of the bargain contrary to what the host (Government) should be doing from the huge monies (taxes) it is receiving? Why should it be this agitation against the interest of the company, a great partner in progress, when in fact it is contributing so largely to the pavement of some feeder roads around its concession areas? Is there a company in Liberia concessionaires’ history that has committed such resources to the development of its operations area? If so, Yekepa in Nimba County should be second to none in terms of development.
Aren’t Liberians taking a cue from Bomi County which is still reeling from the closure and subsequent departure of the Mining Company without visible development anywhere in the county? Small-in-size Tubmanburg City is just a sad story of a failed partnership, of which ArcelorMittal is proving to be an exception.
Taking all of these factors of losing a company that has impacted the country so well, creating employment opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Liberians, it will be appropriate for the National Legislature to revisit the rejected new MDA between the Weah-led government and ArcelorMittal.
What is more admirable for ArcelorMittal’s commitment to its partnership is the glaring fact it remains unwavering in spite of challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Globally, the conflict is impacting growth and adding further inflationary pressure, which is spilling over into weakening of demand,” CEO Aditya Mittal said recently.
Slowing economic activity and inflationary concerns have resulted in lower global demand for steel, and steelmakers have considered cutting production to prevent oversupply.
Though these may be construed as worrying developments, it is understood that they do not have any impact on the Liberia project as the Company is looking inward to keep its heads above the “troubled waters” so that Liberia is happy and Liberians remained gainfully employed.
So, are Liberians or those creating unnecessary bottlenecks for the operations of the Company asking themselves the hard questions or conceding that their actions are only detrimental but not healthy for Liberians and the country? Where would they be in terms of employment and the benefits thereof had ArcelorMittal not braved the storm to venture into Liberia? To what extent were the mines and everything in Yekepa being utilized before the arrival of ArcelorMittal?
Let it be said that ArcelorMittal’s coming to Liberia at such a crucial time, immediately after the war in 2005 is only applicable to Jesus accepting his Father’s call to come to the world for the freedom and enlightenment of his people. Has played his part the world is freed from the crutches of the devil, so is ArcelorMittal. While the Company is playing its part in upholding the partnership with Liberia, the onus is now on the Liberian government to play its part in ensuring that the interest of its valuable partner is secured. Yes, the citizens will cry and call for so many things; yes, the lawmakers (politicians) will endeavor will to maximize every opportunity at their disposal to gain the support of citizens because of the desire to hold onto power, but what happens afterward matters.
The entire country should and must not suffer because of someone’s desire to use the citizens as human shields to keep climbing their political ladder. ArcelorMittal is not an enemy but a real and true partner; a partnership so well demonstrated in many ways since its inception several years. Others came and left because of so-called unfavorable conditions, yet ArcelorMittal remains put, showing to its adversaries that their actions do not represent the realities of its involvement with Liberia.
If there were three birds in one’s hand, and one is varnished in extreme circumstances, it is only advisable to hold onto the remaining two, creating an amicable and enabling environment for their sustenance to deter them from varnishing as well.
This is how ArcelorMittal is tightly upholding the partnership so well shared with Liberia. It, therefore, behooves the Government of Liberia and the Liberian people, to relax or remove the curtains of contention, and allow the lawmakers to relook ArcelorMittal’s revised MDA with the government because “revelation means redemption.”
The time is now for the Government act in order to encourage would-be investors because creating unbearable conditions for one partner on the ground is tantamount to scaring others from venturing into the country for business. If Liberia is open for business, as President Weah often says, there must be an accompanying level playing field for concessionaires as well.