Liberians Worry over Fate of CEMENCO as Govt Permits More Imports Amid New Cement Producing Companies
MONROVIA – A Liberian civil society group, Liberia Workers Rights Defenders (LIWORD), has described as alarming and counterproductive creeping attempts to subvert and undermine one of Liberia’s oldest and most viable partners in progress, the Liberia Cement Corporation (CEMENCO) and thereby jeopardizing the jobs of thousands of Liberian workers and the Liberian economy.
In a press release issued on Saturday, September 21, 2019, LIWORD said the opening of the floodgate for importing cement, granted to even ill-prepared importers of cement, which is one of the country’s critical commodities, is a clear and present threat and danger for the stability of the cement market, the welfare of 5,000 workers and the consistency of badly needed taxes for government’s development plan.
The civil society group says while it is not opposed to competition in the cement market, and CEMENCO apparently does not fear competition, it was worried that efforts were being made in the country to encourage influx of importers to undermine locally manufactured products and defeat the agenda on industrialization. It has also led to flooding the local market with substandard cement and undermine government’s tax regime in the sector.
LIWORD has discovered that many latter day individuals and companies in the cement sector are mere fly-by-night investors who don’t only lack the capacity to remain in the market and sustain their import, but also are unable to employ more Liberians and pay needed taxes to help the Liberian economy grow.
It is clear that swarming the Liberian cement market with less-prepared importers as is being currently done is complete sabotage, which is detrimental to the Liberian economy and inimical to Government’s job-creation and revenue growth strides embedded in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.
While monopoly is not an option, as there are over 30 importers bringing in pre-bagged cement into the country, laissez fair is even more dangerous and crippling to the stability of the cement market upon which the country’s infrastructure development is dependent.
LIWORD reconfirms its support to the Liberian Cement Corporation – the Liberia’s premier cement manufacturing company with over 5,000 citizens in its employ. CEMENCO also produces the only quality cement found on the Liberian market and one of the biggest tax-returning companies in the country.
It can be noted that in recent months, CEMENCO announced completion of the upgrade of its production facilities. This investment level allows the entity meets the production needs of the entire Liberian market.
CEMENCO also recently concluded arrangements with partners to ferry cement to the Southeast (Sinoe and Maryland) regularly for onward conveyance to other southeastern counties including Grand Kru, River Gee, and Grand Gedeh Counties. This rather groundbreaking effort is aimed at reducing and stabilizing the price of this important commodity across the country.
For an example, a bag of CEMENCO manufactured cement must not exceed US$9.75 in Maryland and other parts of the Southeast as of a result of the new arrangement.
LIWORD is pleased with CEMENCO’s continued commitment to provide all Liberian regions with the required quality cement to enable every Liberian family to build their homes with cement instead of clay, which it said is less safe.
Since 2013, CEMENCO has invested additional US$36 million to upgrade its production capacity with the purchase and installation of new state-of- the-art machineries that include Mill, Packing Machine, Roller Press, Silos, Palletizer, Eco Hoppers and Trucks.
CEMENCO purchased of the ECO Hoppers is the company’s commitment to be ecologically friendly in compliance with the canons of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) of Liberia.
This action by CEMENCO is a manifestation that its takes corporate social responsibility very seriously with the awarding of scholarships and establishment of block making academy as a means of helping Liberians make meaningful contributions to the reconstruction process of their country.
LIWORD warns that the protection of the cement industry in Liberia is a decisive factor for continued investment by CEMENCO, as this makes the protection of local manufacturers paramount and critical to Liberia’s reconstruction and development.
The ailing state of the Liberian economy must give Government strong reasons to encourage the likes of CEMENCO that are involved with manufacturing and industrial activities which not only promise foreign exchange earnings but also increased employment and tax returns.
Leaving the cement market vulnerable to momentary investment efforts will be cruel disincentive for serious companies like CEMENCO which are putting their investments on the line to create job and contribute to the economic growth of Liberia in varying ways.
The Liberia Workers Rights Defenders, as a Liberian civil society organization, is primarily involved in the protection of Liberian workers against acts that have the potential to undermine creation of jobs or jobs already created.