EDITORIAL: Raising Taxes At The Expense Of The Poor – The Audacity of APM Terminals in Liberia

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THE ONGOING DEBATE over the APM Terminals offers a perfect opportunity for those in the corridors of power to correct the flawed concession now causing headaches for Liberians.

APM TERMINAL is pouring misery on struggling Liberians barely getting by.

THE SHIPPING COMPANY RECENTLY took the unpopular decision to increase charges of its services at the Free Port of Monrovia, announcing a whopping 9.67 percent increment on all current charges of its services at the Free Port.

WE ARE APPALLED at the audacity of APM Terminal’s flimsy explanation that the increment was in line with its concession agreement with the government of Liberia which allows a 2021 tariff adjustment using predefined formula.

SADLY, THE JUMP in taxes comes on the back of another increment in 2020 and 2019, which has seen the company’s terminal handling charges increased significantly.

LAST WEEK, the Plenary of the House of Representatives mandated its specialized committee probing into the operation of APM Terminals in Liberia to submit reports of its findings, which include a comparative analysis of the company’s operations in Liberia and the Republic of Ghana.

THE PLENARY ACTION was spurred by Rep. Matthew Joe (District #4, Grand Bassa County), who proffered a communication to the plenary, seeking its indulgence to invite the management of APM Terminals and the Freeport of Monrovia to appear and give detail reasons why the company continues to increase tariff amid the economic hardship grappling Liberians.

FROM ALL INDICATION, the concession with APM terminals was bad from the start.

IN OCTOBER 2010, the Dutch company signed a 25‐year concession agreement for the operation of the Port, having been named the preferred bidder for the port management and modernization project.

AT THE TIME, the agreement resulted in the investment of $120 million USD in the facility over the course of the contract term. 

SINCE THE SIGNING however, the nation of more than four million people has been through a hellish period with struggling businesses and Diaspora-based Liberians being forced to cough of millions annually just to ship containers to Liberia.

THE DEAL SIGNED in 2010 was first seen as an opportunity for the government to privatize the port in response to the urgent need for port infrastructure improvement.

IT HAS HOWEVER, BEEN ANYTHING but a good thing for Liberians.

IN FACT, A RED FLAG was raised in 2010, by Madam Matilda Parker, Managing Director at the time, who told the House and Senate Committees on Public Procurement and Concession Commission, State Enterprise, Contract and Monopoly and Judiciary, that the contract did not address the plight of the employees and had serious security implications on the nation.

UNDER PRESSURE from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Madam Parker buckled under pressure as those issues raised slid under the radar.

WE STRONGLY BELIEVE that there is an urgent need to review the agreement signed between the APM Terminals and the Government to correct some of the flaws that the company is dwelling to exploit the Liberian citizens.

TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE, last year, members of the legislature agreed and voted to amend the APM Terminal Concession as part of their oversight responsibility, after three preliminary reports from the House’s Specialized Committee on Contracts, Concessions, and Review & Compliance. “Accordingly, section 7.17 calls for 50% of managerial roles to be filled by Liberians within five years of capacity building and within ten years managers should be 75% Liberians,” the report said. The committee noted that February 2010 to February 2020 makes it 10 years that APM Terminals has operated in Liberia with this agreement yet to be honored and implemented. The committee’s report indicates that the agreement about managerial positions for Liberians is still below the 50% threshold.

IT APPEARS the concession was so bad that it lacked a provision for review. The House Committee last year also raised concerns, proclaiming that it did not believe that a concession should be signed and ratified without a review clause. A review of information obtained from legislative proceedings during the passage of this concession does not point to a possibility that this concession was ratified without provision for review.”

THE ONGOING DEBATE over the APM Terminals offers a perfect opportunity for those in the corridors of power to correct the flawed concession now causing headaches for Liberians.

THE BOTTOM LINE is that APM Terminals can no longer continue to increase tariff on struggling businesses and ordinary Liberians.

WE STRONGLY BELIEVE that there is an urgent need to review the agreement signed between the APM Terminals and the Government to correct some of the flaws that the company is dwelling to exploit the Liberian citizens.

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD not stand by and allow APM Terminals to repeatedly raise taxes at will to the detriment of its own people.

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