30 May 2014

Liberia: Communal Violence Impedes Investment

Photo: Liberia Government
Minister Konneh receiving the Finance Minister of the Year Award from a London-based magazine's Senior Editor Brian Caplen (file photo)

Communal violence by groups of people demanding benefits from concession companies is impeding investment, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has warned.

"Community issues relating to land and benefits have too often resulted to violence and destruction, which continue to undermine not only the operations of the investments but also the renewed confidence that Liberia is still a good destination for investment," she said.

The have been protests at the Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) by community residents accusing the company of encroaching upon tribal lands belonging to the people of Butaw and Nimopoh clans in Kpanyan Statutory District, Sinoe County and desecrated ancestry shrines. The situation reportedly affected the smooth operation of the company with. Also, citizens of Sinoe County filed a complained to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an overall body of Palm Oil Worldwide, for the company to stop Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) operations of land clearing in their towns and villages.

Fire destroyed about 200 hectares of an oil palm plantation owned by Malaysian firm Sime Darby in the northwest of Liberia by unknown individuals.

Community residents have resisted Sime Darby's efforts to expand its operations, accusing the company of not properly informing them of the scale and implications of the project.

But addressing the nation on Wednesday, President Sirleaf warned against communal violence recalling that the issue of fraud and abuse in the forestry sector is resulting to significant loss of budgeted revenue and community benefits.

"Natually therefore, when we block the paths to the successful completion of a phase of an investment - when we disrupt the progress of a company on account of a matter which could otherwise be easily resolved through dialogues; when we delay in concluding negotiations to get a committed investment to become operational; or when we unfairly portray our country to the rest of the world as unworthy of external investments - we actually strain the engine of our bus and reduce the speed at which we could possibly travel," she said. She added: "It hurts all of us. It makes it harder to find jobs - harder to care for family members, harder to pay school fees, harder to pay hospital bills, harder to reach out to friends, and harder to climb out of poverty. This is the interrelatedness of our actions on the economy for which we must continue to be aware."

She said with many constraints and challenges, the country's economy has performed well over the past 6 years, averaging annual growth rates of 7 percent.

"Our annual growth rate exceeds the average growth rates of the West African region. Estimates from the IMF indicate the growth rate in 2013 to be 8.7 percent. This performance was based on an activation of operations in the traditional sectors of iron ore and rubber. At the same time, efforts are underway to reactivate other traditional sectors such as cocoa, coffee and oil palm," she said. She said in the oil palm sector, government is inviting the best from Malaysia and Indonesia not only to invest but also to transfer knowledge as to how these countries succeeded in transforming their economies through oil palm productions. Simultaneously, efforts are underway to diversify into agriculture and fisheries, and to accelerate petroleum exploration.

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