Amidst Risking 3,000 Jobs And Economic Benefits: House Returns ArcelorMittal’s MDA To Executive For Renegotiation

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The plenary of the House of Representatives on Monday, March 28, 2022 during its first special session of the 5th Session of the 54th Legislature overwhelmingly voted to return the 3rd amendment of the ArcelorMittal Liberia (AML) agreement to the Executive branch of government, with recommendations for proper renegotiation in the best interest of the Liberian people.

   The decision of the members of the House to return the instrument to the Executive branch came as a result of a motion made by Margibi County Representative, Ben A. Fofana. The Margibi lawmaker’s motion states that, since indeed the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives cannot concurred with each other on the Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) between the Liberian Government and ArcelorMittal Liberia and knowing that the Legislature cannot negotiate agreements, it is necessary to return the agreement to the Executive with the various recommendations for renegotiation. He said the Legislature’s function is to ratify agreements that are being negotiated by the Executive and not to make changes.

   The plenary of the House in December 2021 passed the AML 3rd agreement with some recommendations attached and forwarded it to the Senate for concurrence. But the Liberian Senate passed another version of the agreement in February this year, thus leading to the constitution of a conference committee.

   In the wisdom of the House’s plenary, it was necessary to return the MDA to the President for renegotiation instead of hauling and pulling between the both Houses. The Senate has already closed for Easter break and the House is expected to close this Tuesday, March 29, 2022.

   According the Speaker of the House, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, the MDA was returned to the Executive in the best interest of the country. However, some observers have rejected the Speaker’s statement, arguing that the MDA offers significant opportunities for job creation and the overall economic development of Liberia.

   There are speculations in the public that the decision of the House to return the MDA was heavily influenced by a Guinean concessionaire with interest in using Liberia’s rail and port for the export of its iron ore.

   What is not clear is the benefits of taking a company with its investment in Guinea over ArcelorMittal which has invested over US$1.7 billion in Liberia. Even though the ArcelorMittal Agreement debate at the Legislature was marred by lots of opposition, particularly from the company’s affected counties, which accused the company for not fulfilling all of its obligations in the MDA, there has not been any particular clause in the amended MDA pointed out to be against national interest.

   The AML MDA promised almost 3,000 new jobs for Liberians, over US$75 million in revenue and royalties, increase in County Social Development Fund and opportunities for local businesses. “The return of the MDA to the Executive will cause delays in opportunities for the many Liberians who are facing extreme poverty and looking to changing their life stations,” an observer noted.

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