Liberia Faces Uncertain Business Environment

23 September 2020

-America warns

The United States Embassy in Liberia has observed with concern new challenges in Liberia's extractives and agriculture sectors in the last few years, leading concessions here to either pause, streamline, or halt operations.

The U.S. Embassy says an enabling environment is necessary to attract the kind of reputable businesses that will move Liberia's economy forward and create jobs, noting that Liberia's productive soil, iron ore, diamonds, gold, and its ideal climate for growing rubber and palm oil cannot make up for an uncertain business environment.

"From the perspective of the U.S. Embassy, we have experienced a number of instances in which U.S. businesses have expressed interest in doing business in Liberia. But they invest their money and other resources elsewhere when they hear about perceived difficulties in negotiating contracts and retaining respect for them, obtaining permits, and maintaining good relationships with the public", says the Charges D'Affaires Alyson Grunder when spoke at a policy dialogue on Promoting Transparency and Accountability in the Management of Extractive Industries to Enhance National Development in Liberia.

She further notes that Liberia's extractive industries are key to its economic development and to the livelihoods of many, adding that transparent and open discussions of the necessary policy environment for businesses in the country to thrive will be advanced through dialogue that is inclusive of all stakeholders.

The forum was conducted in Monrovia Wednesday, 22 September by the Governance Commission, a state institution dedicated to crafting policy reforms in government.

Charges D'Affaires Grunder says while the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on global prices may be partly to blame for some of the recent economic downturn, a difficult local business environment also disproportionately affects investment, like is the case right now in Liberia.

"Obstacles to doing business in Liberia as evidenced by the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report are a dissuading factor for individuals and corporations deciding on countries in which to set up shop", She says.

She stresses a need for strong oversight regime to ensure Liberia receives the most revenue for its natural resources and ultimately its development, saying "In this regard, we sincerely hope the Liberian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) and other oversight agencies present here continue to receive public sector support to boost their expertise and independence in line with international standards."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy reiterates its continued interest in Liberia's development and is ready to supporting the country's efforts to build an open and transparent business environment.

"The histories of our two countries are intertwined and we will continue to support this great country as you look to make Liberia not only "open for business" but also attractive and competitive among the world's emerging markets", the U.S. Envoy assures the people of Liberia.

Three panelists, including the Officer-In-Charge of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or LEITI, Jeffery Nukata Yates; the Minister of Mines and Energy, Gesler E. Murray, and Liberia's Auditor-General Madam Yusador S. Gaye, facilitated the dialogue.

LEITI boss Yates disclosed that ministries and agencies often renege in making available relevant information that should enhance the agency's reporting process, while Mines and Energy Minister Murray reiterates concerns about illicit Alluvial mining activities across Liberia by foreigners, assisted by local authorities and citizens, recommending need for both soft and hardware devices, including drones, 4-Wheel Drive vehicles, among others to pursue the illegal migrants.

Auditor-General Yusador S. Gaye, says with Liberia having 50 percent of West Africa's rain forest along with other natural endowments, the country ought to do more in ensuring its citizens benefit from these resources.

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