Thursday, March 19, 2015

Poverty in the Midst of Plenty

Hunger and malnutrition in a world of plenty is an unacceptable and shameful reality of the 21st century.

Following the end of fighting in Liberia in 2003, several investors arrived in the country, promising to invest millions of dollars in a war ravaged country much to the delight of Liberians struggling to get jobs to make a living but the benefits are meager or in some cases, nonexistent. The 52nd National Legislature wasted no time in ratifying dozens of concession agreements granting these foreign companies the right to mine Liberia’s iron ore deposits and also engage in other activities.

Many of the companies made big promises of creating a large number of jobs, building roads and other infrastructure for the local communities, but ten years on, all the companies granted concession contracts in the mining sector have been unable to jointly provide up to 10,000 jobs for Liberians. The Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), a civil society organization, has revealed that Liberia earns too little from its iron ore exports, which has severely strained state--citizen relations and relations between local communities and foreign multi--nationals operating in the mining sector.

“We only hear that China Union is paying money for community development, but we don’t know where the money goes,” said Hawa Kerkula, women’s leader of the Yarbaryon Clan in Bong County, Liberia. She continued: “We who live near the mountain have not seen any benefit since China Union came here. Our roads are bad. There are no health facilities in our communities. How does the government expect us to live?”, the Bong resident is further quoted

The report reveals that Liberia gives overly generous tax breaks to iron ore investors, which grossly violates the country’s revised Revenue Code. SDI states that, for example, while the Revenue Code requires multinationals to pay 30 percent income tax on all corporate profits, ArcelorMittal, China Union, and Putu only pay 25 percent.

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