Liberia: Speedy Justice Attracts Investment

-Weah tells judges

President George Manneh Weah has told justices, judges and lawyers at a national judicial conference in Monrovia that growing the country's domestic and private investments is dependent on the process and time it takes to resolve legal disputes and the perception of justice that arises from the adjudication process.

"If businesses cannot get timely legal redress from the courts, or if contracts cannot be effectively or fairly enforced, we affect the investment climate," President Weah said at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town Thursday, 10 June.

Addressing the conference, President Weah said only the Judiciary holds the key to people's and institutions' perception and sense of justice in Liberia, adding that the powers held by the Chief Justice, Associate Justices and learned counselors and lawyers in Liberia's democracy and over Liberians are awesome.

"I am very impressed that you have chosen to assess the impact of this power on our national polity and economy through this Judiciary Conference. It is also commendable that, on this Fourth day of the conference, you have also chosen to specifically assess how this power may be impacting businesses, corporations and investors," he noted.

According to President Weah, his government's drive to provide jobs for the people and to grow the economy by increasing the flow of both domestic and private investments are all dependent on the structure of Liberia's business climate.

"That very structure depends on the body of laws and policies which we have in place to regulate the free flow of investments and commerce, the process and time it takes to resolve legal disputes arising from the application of these laws, and the sense or perception of justice that arises from this adjudication process," he said.

According to him, this very structure of business and investment climate has been his concern since taking office, noting that in October 2018, the Government established a Business Climate Working Group to look into ways of improving the business climate in Liberia.

He assured that the Executive stands in partnership with the Judiciary in seeking to overhaul business processes and simplify them.

Accordingly, he announced that he will shortly appoint a high-level Cabinet sub-committee on the investment and business climate which will be chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and will include the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Liberia Revenue Authority, the National Investment Commission, the Liberia Business Registry, the Liberia Electricity Corporation and other agencies as may be necessary.

President Weah detailed that this cabinet sub-committee will be tasked to present a roadmap after the Judicial Conference that will track the recommended actions and changes needed for improvement.

He said the committee will be required to present a report in six months to show credible progress on the business climate in a range of areas.

"Mr. Chief Justice, you will agree with me that if we make it difficult for businesses to register, to get electricity, or to pay their taxes, we affect the economy," President Weah indicated.

He suggested that if commercial banks cannot enforce judgment on collateral when people default on their loans, these banks may not be able [to] lend money into the economy.

"I therefore urge you to let us work together as a Government to re-brand Liberia through impressive reforms and actions affecting the business climate. I have no doubt that this Conference will contribute meaningfully toward this end," he continued.

"If the law is the problem, then let us reform the law. If processes and systems are the problem, let us change those processes. If the lack of funding is a problem, let us find ways to provide more resources," he added.

President Weah further urged that if certain people are the problem because, for selfish motives, they stand in the way of fair and transparent processes, then let them be kicked out of the systems to improve the investment and business climate.

He thanked the international partners who continue to stand with Liberia to transform the country, asking them for a stronger partnership as his government aims to transform the business and investment climate here.

President Weah said a series of workshops and meetings across the Government and with Development Partners and other stakeholders have identified key challenges affecting the business climate and opportunities for improving it.

These challenges, he said, are largely summarized by the World Bank's Doing Business Indicators, which include indicators such as: starting a business, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, registering property, protecting minority investors, trading across borders, and resolving insolvency.

"In this regard, I am informed that Liberia ranks 175 out of 190 countries, that our neighbor Sierra Leone ranks 163 out of 190 and that Cote d'Ivoire, our other neighbor, ranks 118 out of 190 countries," he stated.

President Weah noted that this indicates that his government and the country have some serious work to do, saying at the conference, the Judiciary will be looking at its contribution to changing these numbers through the application of the law, in key areas such as enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency and getting credit.

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