Liberian Forests: the Blessings Remain

first_imgLiberia is one very blessed country! Why we are not among the most highly developed in our sub-Region is hard to answer.One manifestation of these blessing is our forests. After all these years of logging, Liberia is, according to Forestry Development Authority (FDA) Managing Director Harrison Karnwea, still the only country in the sub-Region with 43 percent of its forests intact. Intensive logging in Liberia began during the Tubman administration. Some Liberians remember filmmaker Bill Alexander’s famous documentary on Liberian forests, “Wealth in Wood.” It was produced in collaboration with the then Department of Information and Cultural Affairs (DICA), headed by Secretary E. Reginald Townsend. He commissioned many other documentaries on Liberia and, along with cultural icon Bai T. Moore, created the National Cultural Center at Kindejah and the National Cultural Troupe, which won worldwide acclaim. Townsend was also part of the decision making that created the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel, West Africa’s first five-star hotel. The Ducor was supposed to have spearheaded the launching of tourism in Liberia and West Africa—but. He also initiated the creation of the Liberian Broadcasting System, the training of scores of Liberian media and artistic personnel and the production of numerous books on Liberia. But both of these men were mistreated by the Liberian government. Bai T. was summarily removed from his job as Deputy Secretary for Culture, without even a pension. But Mr. Townsend got the worst of it—he was executed by firing squad following the 1980 coup d’état!Sometimes these diversions are necessary for historical purposes. Now back to Liberia’s forests.Last week President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Armah Jallah, expressed concern that Liberian logging activities had “ceased,” leading to interruption in related development activities such as jobs and the construction and maintenance of roads. The Senator made his comments when he received a visiting Montana State Legislator, Dave Hagstrom, who offered to introduce hydro-electric power in Gbarpolu County. Mr. Hagstrom said in his native State of Montana, people purchase electricity at only 9 cents, compared to 53 cents per kilowatt in Liberia.It was not clear why Senator Jallah, during that conversation, jumped from cheap electricity to logging. Was Mr. Hagstrom interested in logging?Mr. hagstrom’s push for mini hydros is one of this newspaper’s constant themes. In Monday’s editorial we wondered why Liberia was not using its many rivers to produce cheap electricity. So far there is only one up-country town producing hydro-electricity— in Yandehun, Kolahun District, and Lofa County. President Sirleaf dedicated it early last year. Our Correspondent Alaskai Johnson, who coveredVice President Boakai’s Lofa visit last week, also visited Yandehum where Alaskai observed that the town was enjoying electricity “24-7.”We hope Mr. Hagstrom will fulfill his Gbarpolu plan. This will encourage government to exploit our rivers and extend cheap power throughout the country.FDA’s Managing Director was quick to react to Pro Temp Jallah’s concern of alleged cessation of logging in Liberia. Far from it, said Mr. Karnwea, logging is ongoing. In interviews with this newspaper, he named several logging companies engaged in Liberia. The Daily Observer then asked what was the status of GOL’s agreement with Norway. It is due to take effect this year, with Liberia standing to gain US$150 million for preserving its forestry reserves and promoting the campaign against carbon omissions. That agreement is on course and comes into effect this year. Mr. Karnwea then gave some details on the country’s forestry reserves. The largest is the SAPO National Reserve; then the East Nimba, between Nimba and Gedeh Counties; Lake Piso in Grand Cape Mount; and the Gola Forest between Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu.Mr. Karnwea further stated that the FDA is working on legislation for other forest reserves—the Wani Gizi in Lofa, the Grebo Forest in Grand Gedeh and River Gee Counties, the Kpelleh Forest between Gbarpolu and Bong Counties and the Sanquin in Grand Kru and Sinoe Counties, etc. It is a fact that Liberia is rich in forest reserves, which are thankfully in place. Several of them still have elephants and other wildlife, enhancing Liberia’s vast tourism potential. Hopefully soon, the President will find someone who can successfully organize tourism and Liberia would finally be on its way to reap its long delayed tourism bonanza. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

US Ambassador appeals to PSC to help Govt fight corruption

first_imgA section of the gathering at the AGM on FridayAs the executive members of the Private Sector Commission (PSC) met on Friday afternoon for its Annual General Meeting (AGM), US Ambassador to Guyana Sarah-Ann Lynch called on the Commission to play its role in the fight against corruption; as Guyana was recently ranked number 134 of 190 countries in the World Bank’s report on ease of doing business.The Ambassador pointed out that the World Bank’s 2018 report on ease of doing business reflected a drop in ranking from number 126 in 2017 to number 134 in 2018, out of 190 countries.  Places like Iran, the West Bank, and Gaza ranked better than Guyana.She explained that this was linked to the fact that Guyana has high rates of taxation, energy, corruption and lack of transparency, coupled by a number of others.“In addition, the duties imposed on many imported items can be substantial, driving costs up beyond competitiveness.  I don’t need to tell you that the cost of electricity is one of the highest in the region, at more than 35 cents per kilowatt hour.  The power grid system is antiquated, resulting in regular power outage, forcing companies… to install their own power generation systems to cope with the blackouts,” the Ambassador said.On another note, she expressed concern over the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) legislation, which caters for artistes and others. According to her, this legislation ought to match the advancements in technology. In fact, she warned that some companies may even avoid investing in the country if it’s without a stronger IPR legislation.The IPR legislation allows creators to safeguard their work through patents, trademarks and copyrights, resulting in prevention of plagiarism.Ambassador Lynch cautioned during her remarks that they did not intend to frighten investors away from the country, but to let them know they play a pivotal role in resolving such issues.“These issues are raised not to scare away investment, but to show that each one can be resolved over time and with the proper resources,” she noted.On this note, the US Ambassador explained that the PSC can play a role in affecting a change by offering guidance to the Government in shaping legislation. Further, it can review policies by the administration and recommend changes.The PSC can also serve as an example of transparency and ethical behaviour to the rest of the business community. She added that internally, it can encourage all its member-companies to pay taxes in a timely manner and as prescribed by law. This, she added, will boost the Guyana Revenue Authority in its tax collecting ventures, hire more staff, and provide additional training to better handle the upcoming oil sector.In the past, the coalition Government had been blasted by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo for several acts of corruption.In fact, the US State Department had highlighted Guyana as corrupt, owing to a number of irregularities within various Government ministries.According to the State Department in its assessment of the situation, allegations of corruption continue to trouble Guyana. It cited the Transparency International (TI) 2017 Corruption Perception Index, which ranked Guyana at 91 out of 180 countries. To make matters worse, Guyana has since dropped to 93rd position in TI’s latest report.The index placed Guyana’s corruption perception score at 37 to tie with Gambia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Mongolia and Panama.Last year, Guyana scored 38 when it ranked 91 out of all the countries reviewed. The index came at a time when much was said about the Auditor General’s 2017 report and the sole sourcing of contracts.This included the Public Procurement Commission investigating and red flagging the sole sourcing of the Demerara river bridge feasibility study. The contract in question was awarded to Dutch company, LievenseCSO, for a feasibility study into the new Demerara river bridge crossing.US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch sharing remarks at PSC’s AGMlast_img read more