Liberia: job creation and economic improvement
..A more positive approach towards ratification of ArcelorMittal’s MDA
There is absolutely no doubt that Liberia urgently needs any form of assistance in the areas of employment and business incentives. The ocean of idle youth roaming the streets and alleys across the country, especially in urban centers, speaks to the great need for an increased pace of job creation and economic stimulus to absorb much of the this segment.
Liberia’s economy is mainly based on the export zone of resources like iron ore, rubber, diamonds and gold. These industries are almost exclusively dominated by foreign companies, operating on a concession basis. It is not up to Rocket Science to grasp the harsh reality that must be welcomed and to encourage these companies to invest more in the field of training, especially in an area that is sorely lacking like professional and technical skills.
According to a forecast by Liberia’s Ministry of Education, as of 2020, there is a potential demand for 620,000 skilled workers in various industries. But the question is, are we on track to develop these skills to meet market standards?
Do we have institutions to produce the quality of technical skills required by the labor market? It seems that few institutions in Liberia are rising to the challenge.
An example that comes to mind is the Vocational Training Center (VTC) that was inaugurated and dedicated in Yekepa, Nimba County, at ArcelorMittal Liberia, in September 2018. Training teams like this, powering operational extensions with a prepared workforce, are undoubtedly necessary to make our young people functional and productive citizens capable of leading these industries and being influential players in the market. Obviously, this will have a ripple effect in boosting economic activities in the country.
In May 2021, after completing an intensive 3-year professional and technical training program, ArcelorMittal Liberia Training Academy, formerly VTC, graduated its first class of forty-five professional technicians in various fields.
The company trusted the first graduates of its training center by absorbing them into its workforce.
It is training ventures like this that our government should take concrete steps to encourage other dealerships across the country to replicate if they are not already committed to workforce development. With a focus on training and expansion, ArcelorMittal Liberia needs every encouragement to do as it did during the very devastating EBOLA attack on our sub-region when it refused to fall back and flee like many others have done.
It was such a show of trust and faith in the Liberian people that a rare number of other for-profit companies will find the courage to do it.
ArcelorMittal Liberia made history on September 11, 2011, when the company’s first shipment of iron ore left Liberia for Asturias in northern Spain, reviving the long dormant iron ore industry. of the country after 20 years of absence from the world stage. Building on this milestone to fulfill its commitment to Liberia, the company had long intended to increase production at the mine to 15 million tonnes per year, but the expansion was put on hold in 2014 in reason for the declaration of force majeure following the Ebola epidemic. outbreak in West Africa, with Liberia being the most affected.
Despite this setback, ArcelorMittal has shown commitment to the project and, despite the emerging threat of the novel Covid-19 virus to the global economy, is poised to expand its Liberia investment portfolio by $800 million. This effort will increase ArcelorMittal Liberia’s iron ore production from 5 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes per year over the next 3 years. This additional investment will create thousands of new jobs in support of the Liberian government’s Pro Poor program and will undoubtedly reduce the unemployment that plagues the country’s unemployed youth and limits their future prospects.
Today we are witnessing an ongoing negotiation for the continuity of the state and operations of ArcelorMittal Liberia, and in this, a huge recommitment to expansion in almost all spheres of its operations and its commitment to community service. The commitment to increase employment at skilled and semi-skilled levels, as well as the expansion of certain aspects of its mining operations, obviously speaks of greater space to absorb increased numbers of our young people into the labor force. as well as a boost in their personal growth resulting in more secure job security and more secure relations between management and workers.
Road newly reconditioned by Arcelor Mittal Liberia
If the end sought in this endeavor is the harvesting of the greater good for this country, the way cannot be to demand unattainable returns and thus force a withdrawal of a major contributor to our revenue generation, but rather to focus on putting in place the mechanisms that will ensure the actualization of the commitments defined in the new expansion plan. Policymakers must be meticulous in crafting measures that will prevent any reversal in the delivery of these goodies contained in this expansion agreement.
For example, imagine the dividends of economic improvement that will accrue if the company fulfills its commitment to increase local sourcing which will multiply with expansion as well as its commitment to developing SMEs, which is good for business and economy.
Accordingly, a more positive approach to the ratification of the Mineral Development Agreement must be adopted, aware that now is not the time to fall into acts of excessive demand and thereby inadvertently create a deterrent to continued productive investment in our struggling economy.
What is urged here is that we do our best in these discussions while introspecting the pervasive unsavory acts of some officials who continue to impose extra-legal burdens on for-profit companies operating in the country only to satisfy personal interests. Strict laws and effective enforcement channels, backed by severe penalties, must be designed to discourage such acts which undermine the achievement of the true objectives set out in the agreed operational and financial principles.
Just as we are always proverbially warned never to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so we refrain from turning a blind eye to the basket of very positive and hard-hitting MDA proposals on file and let our emotions take the over on us. Emotions and sentiments aside, there are clear indications of the horizons for better job creation and economic improvement if this agreement is ratified and scrupulously followed.
Contrary to unsubstantiated claims and the disinformation campaign against the ArcelorMittal deal, what stands out most are the 2,000 jobs promised by the deal for the construction phase of the expansion and the additional 1,000 jobs in the operational phase. These are in addition to increased revenue and royalty payments to a minimum of $75 million; $0.5 million would be added to the current $3 million County Social Development Fund, for the affected counties – Nimba, Grand Bassa and Bong. Other notable benefits of the modified MDA include advanced training in the areas of mine production and operations optimization; growth of small and medium enterprises that provide a range of services to ArcelorMittal Liberia, among others.
Just imagine what the teeming masses of this nation’s people who live in abject poverty would lose if the Senate did not show leadership and coordinate with the Lower House to find an acceptable and honest balance in order to approve d the amended ArcelorMittal agreement urgently!