World Bank and IMF’s Favorable GDP Projection For Liberia Hugely Depends on ArcelorMittal’s Phase Two Expansion
By Julius T. Jaesen II
MONROVIA-Since Liberia returned to peace and political stability after many years of brutal carnage, ArcelorMittal-Liberia, the country’s biggest investment partner, has played an essential role in the country’s economic recovery and efforts to address economic and security threats – high unemployment – that signified danger for a nation coming from its troubled past. AML’s more than1.7 billion dollars investment in Liberia during some of the most challenging times of our history served as an important source of government revenue and a driving force for economic recovery.
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 with raising the needed financial resources to support economic development, attract investment, particularly, in the mining sector to create employment opportunities for its mostly unemployed youthful population, and boost the country’s revenue envelop and ignite 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 Liberia’s mining sector and the announcement of an initial US$1 billion 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 colossal investment from ArcelorMittal at a time when there were still lingering doubts about Liberia sliding back to its dark history, inadvertently boosted investors’ confidence in the country and restored for a prosperous future.
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. According to the projected GDP growth will be driven largely by the mining sector. These projections from both these two towering Bretton Woods institutions reinforce our calls for the government of Liberia and AML to further deepen engagement to support the Phase Two Expansion of AML and leverage the mutually rewarding opportunities for the Liberian people.
As plans for phase two of its mining operations in Liberia move on, the annual capacity of the iron ore mine will increase from four million tonnes a year to 15 million tonnes a year.
This increase in capacity, which will also mean an increase in job opportunities for Liberians, will be accomplished through investment in an iron ore concentrator, expansion of the port facilities in Buchanan as well as increased utilization of rail capacity.
In addition to these new investments at both the mine site and the port, ArcelorMittal Liberia began to pay back the people of Liberia when it announced that an agreement was reached with the government of Liberia to build a 70 km road connecting Ganta and Yekepa which is being paved as of now.
It must be noted that ArcelorMittal alone is providing the $40 million needed to build the road.
We urge the government and people of Liberia to support the expansion and ask the government to continue to see AML as a credible partner and the country’s biggest investor ton date. If we tread cautiously and prudently we can leverage on the revenues from our mining industry to address infrastructure and human capital challenges and general services deficits that are obstacles to the development of sustained broad-based and inclusive growth not to mention improvements in social indicators.
The vast contributions AML has made and continues to make through the remission of mining royalties and income tax payments – in no small way have helped to boost socio-economic 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.