Australian Billionaire Investment In Liberia Seems ‘Uncertain’

Liberia’s Justice Minister Cllr Frank Musa Dean on left and Billionaire Mr. Andrew Forrest on right – African Star photo File

Recent visit of an Australian billionaire to Liberia to finding a possible investment opportunity seems uncertain, despite of exchange of Memorandum of Understanding between the Liberian government and Fortescue, owned by an Australian business billionaire and magnate Andrew Forrest.

During his visit to Liberia early this year which was widely publicized, the Australian billionaire during the signing of the MOU at the  Executive Mansion in Monrovia last July quoted Mr. Forrest, the founder of Fortescue at investment discussions in Monrovia as saying, “I am here to grow your economy. I am here to grow your social services and to grow the standard of living of the Liberian people.”

Liberian Presidential aide Sekou Kalasco Damaro immediately after the discussion last July released photos on social media which showed the Australian mining magnate Mr. Forrest along with several senior officials of the Liberian Government including the Ministers of Finance and Planning, Energy and Justice signing a document along with Sheik Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) while President Weah and the Minister of State and others are seen observing the event.

In his social media post last July, aide Mr. Damaro wrote, “Under the MOU, the investors will upgrade existing railways and build new ones from Guinea to the port of Buchanan without a cost to Liberia. They are expected to rehabilitate the port of Buchanan and build new one if required. The investors hope to begin the transportation of ores from Guinea before the turn of the year….”. He ended his social media post which had photos of the signing ceremony by saying, “Trust me, this is news that few guys won’t like to hear.”

African Star contacted the head office of Mr. Forrest in Australia to ascertain the terms of the “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) purportedly signed between the Government of Liberia and Fortescue Metals. But a statement issued by Foretescue Metals  Group (FMG) to African Star said, “…As a mining company, Fortescue has world-class exploration and infrastructure expertise and will build on our operational reputation to harness the skills and capability of our team members to drive future growth through product diversification and asset development. A delegation led by Fortescue Founder and Chairman Andrew Forrest AO, recently visited Liberia to meet with the President and senior government officials to discuss potential economic and development opportunities. These were introductory meetings and at this stage, no Memorandum of Understanding or other agreements between Fortescue and the Liberian Government have been signed.”

Later, Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe clarified that no MOU had been signed with Mr. Forrest or his company.

But in a follow up this week with Fortescue on the “investments” touted by Weah Government, the company gave African Star a statement in which it reiterated that , “…A delegation led by Fortescue Founder and Chairman Andrew Forrest AO, recently visited Liberia to meet with the President and senior government officials to discuss potential economic and development opportunities. These were introductory meetings and at this stage, no Memorandum of Understanding or other agreements between Fortescue and the Liberian Government have been signed.”

Fortescue Metals Group (Fortescue) is one of the world’s largest iron ore producers with operations in the Pilbara, Western Australia. It says it is focused on the long term sustainability of the core iron ore business, balance sheet strength and delivering returns to its shareholders, as well as growth and development.

As a mining company, Fortescue has world-class exploration and infrastructure expertise and will build on our operational reputation to harness the skills and capability of our team members to drive future growth through product diversification and asset development.

The Weah Administration has been desperate to showcase that investors are returning to Liberia. A declining economy which is breeding social unrests and protests is pressuring the government to deliver relief for struggling citizens.

No major investors have signed agreements in spite of Government’s slogan that “Liberia Is Open For Business”. A major concession Sime Darby Plantations is pulling up stakes and leaving by end of the year while Firestone Rubber has had to slash employees due to global pressure on its product.

Disenchantment with the nearly two-year old Weah government is at an all-time high. But Government is blaming former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for its economic woes, saying it inherited empty coffers.

As part of reducing the crippling wage bill, Government has undertaken a Salary Harmonization program which abolishes the basic and general allowance salary structures of the previous years, giving all government workers one pay. The program, recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), aims to address wide discrepancies in government workers salaries.

The program which has come under criticisms by civil servants has all workers under the harmonized bill now being paid more equitably, with people of the same qualification and experience making about the same amount or in the same range.

Source: African Star Online

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About Cholo Brooks 12532 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.