By Leroy M. Sonpon, III
A group of Liberian entrepreneurs, with a membership of about 40 persons, have vowed to take over the country’s economy and trade if the House of Representatives and the Senate approve the new “Liberianization bill.”
The new bill, which is the Liberian Business and Economic Empowerment Act of 2018, will expand the existing law protecting Liberian businesses and business interests from 26 to 46, and restricted only to Liberians.
Among the 46 listed businesses that the bill mentioned, included would be import, wholesale, distribution and retail of flour, sardines, can mackerel, sugar, salt, cooking cubes, cooking-oil and margarine.
Others include salted products (meat/fish), onions, eggs, tomato paste, corn beef, luncheon meat, milk, and spaghetti.
The Liberian entrepreneurs are temporarily led by Mrs. Mai Urey, Mrs. Eyvonne Bright-Harding, Mr. Vivien Jones and Mr. Alex Galley.
If approved, the law will create the Liberia Business Economic Empowerment Authority (LBEEA) to regulate it, and a Liberia Business Development and Investment Fund will be established at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) of not less than US$20m and for the purpose of guaranteeing loans or providing incentives.
The Liberian entrepreneurs formally presented the bill yesterday and indicated that they would mobilize “people” in the streets when the House of Representatives decides to discuss the bill.
Mr. Vivien Jones said the bill is not only to create a more restrictive environment and a stronger enforcement mechanism, so that Liberianization as envisaged by the government and people of Liberia becomes a fully-fledged reality but is also aimed at promoting an enabling environment for Liberians to take ownership of the economy as declared by President George M. Weah.
Mrs. Bright-Hardling said there are Liberians who have the capacity to take over the country’s economy and trade, including herself.
Mrs. Urey argued that “Liberian entrepreneurs can succeed if we work together.” During the presentation, an Economic Empowerment Policy of three countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ghana, there were calls for advanced economic transformation – and enabling the participation of the marginalized communities in the economy was highlighted.
There was also a presentation of a data-rich/evidence-based market research, including holding economic dialogue, to inform policy decisions.
“The Business Law will create a supportive business environment that provides substantial opportunities for Liberian businesses – including financial and technical support,” one of the entrepreneurs said.
The Liberian Business and Economic Empowerment Bill of 2018 was submitted and sponsored by Grand Kru County District 2 Representative, Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, who is also chairman of the House’s Judiciary Committee.
The law, if approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate and printed into handbills, 46 businesses will be reserved for the exclusive ownership of Liberian citizens.
46 Liberian-owned businesses
Some of the 46 Liberian businesses which have been identified since the 1973 Investment Act include:
Supply of sand; block making; itinerant merchant (peddling); real estate agencies and real estate management services; travel agencies or travel agency contract for airlines; distribution and retail sale of flour, cement and rice; retail of stationery and office supplies; ice making and sale of ice; tire repair shop; independent auto repair shop; shoe repair shop; retail of timber and planks and operations of gas stations.
The others are: video clubs; operations of taxis, importation and sale of second hand or used clothing; distribution in Liberia of locally manufactured products; importation and sale of used cars (except for certified used cars imported by authorized dealership of the same make); customs brokerage services; stevedoring; ship chandler services; commercial printing services; trucking services (all forms); commercial printing services; newspaper publishing and printing and also payment processing systems and services including sales on behalf of government.
Joint Venture and Foreign Investment
If the law is also approved, foreign investors may invest or engage in certain businesses provided, however, that the investment capital of said investor is more than US$1m and at least 25% of the common stock or shares of the company is owned by natural-born Liberian persons or businesses wholly owned by natural-born Liberian persons.
The joint venture includes production and supply of stone and granite; ice cream manufacturing; advertising agencies, graphics and commercial artists; production of poultry and poultry products; production of pork and beef and pork and beef products; and entertainment centers not connected with hotel establishment.
The remaining joint venture is the sale of animal and poultry feed; bakeries; sale of pharmaceuticals; repairs and maintenance of transformers and generators (unless those under manufacturer warranty) fishing and fish processing, especially activities within the territorial waters and light manufacturing, processing or packaging services of any kind.
The law further mandates foreign companies to provide proof of funding by the display of a local bank confirmation, and foreign investors who enjoy free services or other tax incentives will require sourcing all supplies and services that are available on the local market.
It added: “Any foreign national be he resident or not of Liberia who violates any provision of this act and any Liberian, for purposes of evading the aims and objectives of this act, who fronts for a foreign national being a resident or not of Liberia shall be subjected to punishment of not less than three years in prison and not less than US$100,000 or its Liberian dollars equivalent.
In addition to the penalties herein described all materials, equipment, and proceeds associated with the violation shall be confiscated and auctioned for the benefit of the public treasury.”
SOURCE: The Observer