A Clarion Call to Weah-led Gov’t: Stop Making Liberians Spectators to Their Own Economy

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PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH, made it quite clear during his inauguration in January that as the new government opens its doors to all foreign direct investments, it would not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized.

SAID THE PRESIDENT: “We cannot remain spectators in our own economy. My government will prioritize the interests of Liberian-owned businesses and offer programs to help them become more competitive and offer services that international investors seek as partners.”

TO THE CONTRARY, reality appears to be sinking with each passing day as the President and his advisors repeatedly dole out millions of dollars worth of contracts to foreign nationals with close ties to the President.

AN INVESTIGATION by FrontPageAfrica has found that since the government took over in January, most of the contracts for roads and development projects have been given to Lebanese nationals.

MR. SHAWKI FAWAZ IS MANAGING DIRECTOR/CEO OF SSF ENTREPRENEUR, INC AND West Africa Construction. Both companies share between them five major contracts.

THOSE PROJECTS include: Duazon Sand Beach Road 1,0km, Sophie Road 1.2km, VOA ELWA COMMUNITY ACCESS RD 1.5KM, MANATEMA RD,(1.7KM) ELWA. R2 Community Access Road (1.0 Km); Cooper Farm Jangaba Road (1.0Km); Thinker’s Village Telecom Road (2.2Km) Soul Clinic (2.5Km) Rehab Community Road (2.5Km) and Morris Farm (3.0 Km)

MOHAMMED BITTAR, another Lebanese national has received construction permits from the Ministry of Public Works to construct housing unit in Grand Kru and Sinoe counties without going through the procurement process of the Public Procurement Concessions Commission. Construction is expected to start later this month.

USING THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Act, FPA recently received confirmation from the PPCC that Bittar was contracted for work on the 14 Military Hospital while another Lebanese National, Ali Kobiessi of Building Materials Center (BMC) is reportedly contracted to revamp the VIP terminal at the RIA.

BOTH BITTAR AND ALI of BMC are also said to be involved in construction of several of President Weah’s private properties including the reconstruction of the 9th Street property, the Jamaica Lodge Resort, and what is believed to be his dream house near the Baptist Seminary on the Roberts field highway. Bittar was also awarded the Doe Community road contract.

THE PPCC INFORMED FrontPageAfrica that the Bittar Construction Company was awarded the contract for the supply of building materials worth US$2,977,230.31 for the construction of the 14 Military Hospital.

LAST WEEK, a FrontPageAfrica investigation uncovered yet another report that the President has instructed authorities at the Roberts International Airport to grant his long-time friend, the Ghanaian businesswoman, Ms. Angela Diala List, the Business Lounge and two stores at the new terminal at the Roberts International Airport.

DESPITE ASSURANCES from the LAA that the bidding would be conducted through the National Competitive Bidding (ICB), FPA has learned that the ICB Act was amended and approved on September 11, 2018, specifically to allow List an opening with emphasis that the bid would be open to ‘‘all bidders from eligible source countries as defined in the guidelines.’’

LIST IS ALSO aggressively pursuing interests in the mining sector with a strong push for the Hummingbird concession.

PRESIDENT WEAH and his officials must realize that they are taking a dangerous route that could spell trouble down the line.

THE ECONOMY is in peril and most Liberians are barely getting by. In the wake of abject poverty and two major scandals involving missing containers of LD16 billion and the mystery surrounding how US$25 million was infused into the economy in a bid to curb rising exchange rate, President Weah and his aides are busy fattening the pockets of foreign business people with known ties to the President and his key aides.

THIS IS WRONG in so many ways. Most importantly, it reflects bad on Liberia’s image, particularly when, according to the US Department of Commerce latest ‘Doing Business in Liberia’ report, concludes that while the government seeks to strengthen institutions and introduce business reforms to improve the investment climate, progress in ensuring an attractive business Friendly environment is hampered by the weak regulatory environment, corruption, lack of transparency, poor physical infrastructure, and low private sector capacity. “The Process of negotiating and implementing concession agreements is flawed and some provisions of the laws intended to ensure transparency and accountability are inconsistently applied.”

PRESIDENT WEAH and his government are undoing every step taken in the past decade to put in place integrity institutions and repair the massive damage more than a decade of civil war inflicted on Africa’s oldest republic.

WE ARE CONCERNED that the president’s obsession with attaining absolute power is crippling Liberia’s bourgeoning democracy.

THERE ARE QUALIFIED Liberians doing good business that should be given a chance to feel a part of the local economy. Government should do all it can to promote local businesses instead of throwing everything in the direction of foreign business people fronting for government officials.

IT IS IMPORTANT THAT those around President Weah take steps to address these issues that are critical to his government’s survival and those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

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