Monrovia – President George Weah resurrected a familiar populist refrain from his inaugural speech of January 2018 Monday when he delivered his third annual message, declaring once again that Liberians would not be spectators to their own economy.
To the contrary the President and his administration has come under fire for not allowing Liberians to benefit from key contracts and concessions. A case in point. Several Liberians who sought stores at the new terminal at the Roberts International Airport were left in the cold due to taxing bid requirements that many could not afford. As a result, Ghanaian firms were given priorities. FrontPageAfrica has learned that those Ghanaians have in return sub-contracting catering and other businesses to Liberians.
Said the President Monday: “Permit me to also salute our construction contractors and consultants, especially our local Liberian construction contractors, who are actively participating in the transformation works of our country. I am determined to uphold my pledge that under my Administration, Liberians will no longer be spectators in the economy of their country. This is why I note with pride and satisfaction the involvement of these local contractors which represents the surest way of ensuring sustainability of these projects in the road sector.”
Ironically, during his 2018 inaugural speech, the President made similar declarations. “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 the President and his administration has come under fire for not allowing Liberians to benefit from key contracts and concessions.
A case in point. Several Liberians who sought stores at the new terminal at the Roberts International Airport were left in the cold due to taxing bid requirements that many could not afford. As a result, Ghanaian firms were given priorities. FrontPageAfrica has learned that those Ghanaians have in return sub-contracting catering and other businesses to Liberians.
In January 2018, the President made it 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.
Over the past two years, however, many Liberian-owned business have been as the government doled out millions of dollars worth of contracts to foreign nationals.
A 2018 investigation by FrontPageAfrica found that since the government took over in January, most of the contracts for roads and development projects have been given to Lebanese nationals.
Among them, Mr. Shawki Fawaz, 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)
Mr. Mohammed Bittar, another Lebanese national also 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 in 2018, received confirmation from the Public Procurement Concessions Commission(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 also participated in the 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.
In 2018, the PPCC informed FPA 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.