BAI M. GBALA, SR. ON SOCAL DEVELOPMENT
Senior Citizen & Chairman, Board of Trustees
Grand Gedeh County Community College
The Annual Meeting of Grand Gedeh County Planning & Development Council
Zwedru, April 4-7, 2015
Honorable Peter L. Solo
Superintendent, Grand Gedeh County
Honorable Abraham Gbeway
Assistant Superintendent for Development
Hon. Senator G. Alphonso Gaye
Chairman and Members of Grand Gedeh County Legislative Caucus
Paramount, Clan & Town Chiefs, & Officials of this great County
Elders, Traditional Leaders, Distinguished Guests, Fellow Grand Gedeans
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Indeed, it is our honor, privilege and opportunity to be here and to participate in this important meeting. We come not to preach the virtues or vices of anyone; not to criticize or to score and gain political points; but we are here to listen, advise & counsel as an “elder” who, according to the wisdom of our Krahn forefathers, “when under the palm wine tree with the young, the wine-tapping knife will not be lost”.
We have come, accordingly, Ladies and Gentlemen, to share our thoughts or “rap” with you in a give-and-take on the issues of Development - Social, Economic & Political.
Social, Economic and Political Development of any political community is the primary responsibility of the government of that political community which, in our case, is the Government of Grand Gedeh County. It is for this reason that taxes are levied and collections lib
The awesome but pleasing and rewarding Responsibility for Social, economic and political development begins with Transport/Communications in the effort to Inform and Educate the citizens of that political community, the Grand Gedeh County. Therefore, Transport/communications and Information/education are social benefits, because they accrue to all members of the Grand Gedeh County society.
What, then, are the elements of such developments?
1.Transport/Communications affords mobility or movement
a)To Locate and build schools, clinics, hospitals, etc. in villages and towns, the County must, at first, get there. Getting there requires safe, efficient/effective transport/communications. Therefore, county-wide, in Grand Gedeh County, requires, there must be, safe, efficient/effective, all-weather roads to facilitate not only convenient, mass movement of people, but also to link all county trade, productive and commercial centers to one another; to facilitate the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services (cassava, plantain, eddoes, rice, palm oil, etc., etc); and to facilitate inter-intra county, national and international trade and commerce.
b)Particularly and specifically, in this respect, there must be efficient/effective, safe network of roads/highways between Zwedru, the socio-cultural, economic and political capital of the County, and the following locations:
1.River Gee County Border, with a bridge over the Duobeh River, immediately after the Town of Gidi Gwlor, Konobo Chiefdom.
2.Blayee Jeddah Bli, after the fabled, legendary Gedeh Troe (Mountain) in Putu Chiefdom, Konobo District.
3.The Cestos River Bridge, boundary between Grand Gedeh and Nimba Counties.
4.Towns & Villages of Suah Bli, Gleplay Bli, Beh Bli, Togbeidee Bli and Monswa Bli, on the Cavalla Riowver in Tchien Zonnie. This road will provide trade and commercial contact with La Cote d’Ivoire (City of Guiglo, predominantly Krahn).
5.Town of Jahnzon in Niao Chiefdom.
6.Cestos City, River Cess County, through Gbarzon District, with a bridge over the Cestos River, south.
7.It is important to note that no prudent investment promoter will consider location in a community or nation in which safe, efficient/effective transport/communications are not available.
a)Regarding Schools – Elementary, Middle, High and Vocational; and now College, the County Community College, for “higher education book knowledge” for all citizens. Fellow Grand Gedeans, it is needless for us to burden you with academic, intellectual, historical and philosophical arguments, arguments with which you are experienced and familiar, that Education is the indispensable backbone of society, indeed, Grand Gedeh County; that all modern conveniences – instant air transport, motor vehicle, the computer, information technology, etc.; and all of that which benefit society today – socio-economic and political - flow from knowledge gained from education.
Today, the nation and our county are fortunate to have the public policy of an Annual Social Development Grant from the National Government. This grant imposes, also, the rewarding responsibility to disburse the proceeds of the grant to satisfy the County’s Social Needs. We, of the County, are fortunate, again, with the Gedeh-Putu Mountain Investment, the major source of the grant for social development.
Regarding this investment, the County Government and the County Legislative Caucus, in their wisdom, appointed an MDA Review Committee (of which we are honored to be member/advisor) to study the 166-page document and report results to the County Government and the County Legislative Caucus, in the effort to maximize our benefits from the investment. We welcome the decision because it is reasonable, legal, appropriate and timely. For, those who crafted this 166-page document are some of the best minds in the business – Law, Mining Engineering, Geology, Executive Management, Politics, Macro/Microeconomics, etc. – concerned with investment/exploitation of our naturally-endowed asset, the Gedeh Mountain. However, Ladies and Gentlemen, among the professionals who wrote this massive document, there was no Grand Gedean!!
Finally, as indicated earlier, we come to listen, advise and counsel, as an Elder under the palm wine tree with you, the young, so that the wine-tapping knife should not, will not be lost.
Accordingly, we invite your attention to the following key provisions of the MDA document, on the “Annual Social Contribution”, the major reason for this, our gathering.
Section 8.2 Community Funding Obligation
According to this section of the massive Mining Development Agreement (MDA) by and between the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the Putu Iron Ore Mining, Inc. et al (hereinafter referred to as “The Company”) for the exploitation of Grand Gedeh County’s Gedeh-Putu Mountain, dated September 2, 2010 provides that:
a)“The Company shall pay an annual social contribution (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Annual Social Contribution’) as provided in this Section (to Grand Gedeh County by and through the GOL). Commencing on the Effective Date (2010) and thereafter on each anniversary of the Effective Date through 2017, the Company shall make the following payments:
1.US $500,000.00 on the Effective Date, 2010;
2.US $500,000.00 in 2011;
3.US $1.25 million in 2012
4.US $1.5 million in 2013
5.US $3.0 million in 2014, a total of US $6.75 million received
6.US $3.0 million in 2015
7.US $3.0 million in 2016
8.US $3.0 million in 2017
Commencing in 2018 through the Term, on each anniversary of the Effective date and through the GOL) equal to the greater of US $3million (adjusted annually for inflation in the manner provided for in Section 8.2(b) and 0.5% of taxable income for the prior year . . .”.
a)“Commencing with the Annual Social Contribution due in 2018, the amount of the Annual Social Contribution shall subject to adjustment in accordance with the Deflator”.
b)The Annual Social Contribution and utilization of such funds for specific projects shall be managed by a dedicated committee (the ‘Committee’) in accordance with structures established by the Government in consultation with the Committee from time to time provided that in all cases:
1.The Company shall, at all times, have, at least, one representative on the Committee;
2.Structures and processes will be established to provide for the participation (in a decision-making of advisory capacity as the government shall determine from time to time) of officials, businesses and residents from the affected counties in the identification and selection of projects to be supported with funds from the Annual Social Contribution;
3.No funds shall be dispersed from the Annual Social Contribution, if, in the Company’s view, the disbursement of the funds or the project supported by the funds would cause the Company to be in violation of applicable law, including any applicable anti-corruption laws;
4.Funds from the Annual Social Contribution may be disbursed only for direct delivery of services and community infrastructure improvements, and not to fund the general work program of administrative offices or officials . . . except as provided in Exhibit 6 . . . Projects supported with funds from the Annual Social Contribution and the actual disbursements from the Annual Social Contribution shall be publicly disclosed and shall be subject to the same audit procedure provided for expenditures by government of Liberia . . . Periodic reports and audit reports shall be made available to the Company and the public . . .”.
Thank you so very much for the opportunity to be heard.
BY BAI M. GBALA, SR.