House Committee Accuses Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Tampering with Liberianization Bill in Favor of Foreigners
Monrovia – Investigation by the House Standing Committee on Commerce, Trade and Industry has revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) made several changes to the Investment Act of 2010 in favor of foreign businesses.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, [email protected]
In the report entitled, “Stake Holders Engagement for A Better Legislative Oversight,” the Committee noted that during its consultation with stakeholders of the business sector, it found out that there is an addendum to the act which was passed into law on May 15, 2010 that gives right to foreigners to invest in businesses that were set aside only for Liberians.
The Investment Act of 2010 exclusively gives ownership right to Liberians in several business activities including the supply of sand, block making, peddling, travel agencies, retail sale of rice and cement, ice making and sale of ice, tire repair shops, auto repair shops with investments of less than US$50,000 and shoe repair shops.
Other businesses reserved for only Liberians in the Act include the retail sale of timber and planks, operation of gas stations, video clubs, operation of Texas, importation or sale of second-hand or used clothing, distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products and importation and sales of used cars (except authorized dealerships which may deal in certified used of their make).
Meanwhile, the contestable portion of the law denounced by the lawmakers points out that, “Foreign investors may invest in the following business activities provided that where such of the listed enterprises is owned exclusively by non-Liberians, the total capital invested shall not be less US$500,000; and, where such of the listed enterprise is owned by non-Liberian in partnership with Liberian and the aggregate shareholding of the Liberian is at least 25 percent, the total capital invested shall not be less than US$300,000.
The business activities concerned are the production and supply of stone and granite, ice cream manufacturing, commercial printing, advertising agencies, graphics, and commercial artists, cinemas, production of poultry and poultry products and the operation of water purification or bottling plant (excludes the production and sale of water in sachets).
Others business activities that fall under this clause include entertainment centers not connected with a hotel establishment, sale of animal and poultry feed, operation of heavy-duty trucks, bakeries and sale pharmaceuticals.
How did the MFA come into play?
The Constitution of Liberia mandates that “an act shall come into force upon its passage by both Houses of Representatives and Senate, signed by the President and immediately upon its publication in handbills by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
It was during its publication that the Legislative committee squarely blames officials of the MFA at that time for illegally inserting the clause.
Because of the “unscrupulous act” by some officials of the MFA, the Committee, Chaired by Rep. Samuel Kogar (Nimba Dist.#5), noted that Liberian businesses are being affected and called on plenary to summon officials of the MFA to give reason why they are ‘tampering’ with bills emanating from the Legislature.
More findings and recommendations
The Committee also asserted that the Bureau of Inspection Assessment and Control (BIVAC) and APM Terminal are serving as stumbling blocks to importers making use of the Freeport of Monrovia owing to their ‘harsh taxation’.
It accuses BIVAC, which is responsible for ensuring that the actual values of goods are properly declared to Liberian Government of “unnecessarily increasing the fees and other charges levied on imported goods to maximize profit.”
The Committee, among other things, called for the revamping and rebranding of the Liberia Business Association and an annual budgetary allotment of not less than US$15 million.
It claims this will ensure that indigenous Liberian businesses have a stake in our economy as enshrined in the Pro-poor economic governance agenda.
It also wants the relaxation and removal of most of the “unnecessary charges and fees that are serving as a stumbling block to the growth of Liberia business.”
Speaking to a team of reporters following the presentation of the report, Rep. Kogar welcome plenary’s decision in forwarding the report to the Judiciary Committee for further probe.
He expressed optimism that the committee’s recommendations will be implemented and those allegedly involved in tampering with the law will face justice.
“We want to inform the public that we will remain resolute. We will be persistent to ensure that we unearth the unscrupulous behaviors that have the propensity to undermine the Liberianization policy as well as circumventing the Constitution of Liberia,” the Nimba County lawmaker said.
“In my mind, anything that is not done properly is not done at all. I believe this identical law will be canceled and those who are involved in such practice will be dealt with according to the law,” he noted.