The Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC) Mr. O. Natty B. Davis has outlined key challenges facing local businesses in Liberia despite negotiated and renegotiated concession agreements of investments to the tune of about US$2.53 Billion between July1, 2011 to July 30, 2012.
Speaking at the regular Thursday press briefing of the Ministry of Information at the Charles Gbenyon hall of the Ministry last week, Mr. Davis who painted a positive picture of NIC's policies, incentives and opportunities indicated that most of the investment was in the iron ore mining and in mining support services, and gaming management for a projected 3,000 direct jobs.
He mentioned as another key achievement the granting of 15 investment incentive certificates to businesses amounting to a total proposed investment of US$60 Million that will employ a projected 1,200 direct jobs, adding that their research on areas to focus on shows agro-industry business, energy, light manufacturing industries and transport.
The NIC Chairman also stressed that they have initiated a process of rebranding the image of this Country and that they are making a transition from regulatory agency to an investment promotion agency; launched business linkage initiative, relocated to a new space for fostering better working environment as well as developed a new website and investor's guide.
The NIC cited that based on the new budget framework, they will be concentrating on the valuation of the various concession agreements signed between government and the various concessions, adding that the implementation of the budget will focus on measurable programs.
"Since NIC was established in 1979 and its Act later amended, we are playing the role of increased market access, encourage and promote the participation of foreign and local investment in the Liberian economy. In President Sirleaf's recent inaugural address she said NIC has done extremely well and she wanted them to encourage local business investors', Davis said.
According to the NIC boss they have also undertaken surveys to note challenges and interventions, adding that in the past they have not been doing well to determine how Liberian businesses access goods and services and their support services. "There are gaps on how they can deliver on services, purchase order. We want to build to build and strengthen their capacities to increase their shares in large concessions", he said.
Dilating on the renegotiation of contracts, the NIC Chairman observed that there had been a renegotiation of the Firestone contract, and some improvements on renegotiations done now and those done during the transition period, especially Bhbiliton, China Union and in the agricultural sector are Sime Darby and the Liberia Agricultural Company (LAC), the 2010 Chevron, African Petroleum agreements under the umbrella of the national Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) etc.
The NIC boss briefly mentioned the lack of awareness and training on the part of the domestic entrepreneurs for example if one is to travel to Ganta few businesses know about a US$5illion that government has set from the central bank of Liberia to the LBDI for loans to Liberian businesses. "We want to strengthen the capacity of local businesses to partner with foreign investors in the Country," Davis noted. (Writes John Momoh)