Cry as hard and loudly as they like against the predatory APM Terminals Concession Agreement, members of the House of Representatives will soon realize that all things being constant, there is virtually nothing they (House of Representatives) can do about that agreement. That is if membership rules in the World Trade Organization are anything to go by.
True indeed, the Liberian people are suffering as a result of charges imposed by APM however, members of the House or of the Legislature have themselves to blame for passing into law a predatory concession agreement that bore no promise, empty promises only for the Liberian people.
According to Legislative sources, members of that body had travelled to Ghana to observe and compare APM Terminals operations in that country to that of Liberia. The outcome of that visit, however, remains unclear.
But what is of burning concern to lawmakers and probably other officials as well is what appears to be the huge profits the APM Terminals is making at the expense of the National Port Authority (NPA). And their argument does appear to make a lot of sense.
Speaking to the issue, Rep. Matthew Joe of Grand Bassa District #3 had this to say:
“It will interest you to know that APM Terminals has financially benefited more than the Republic of Liberia. According to APM Terminals financial report, which was also accentuated by the Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway, the company made a windfall profit of [US$45.7 million] in 2018.”
“Of this amount, the government of Liberia received US$7,950,212) as a remittance. If you subtract what the Government of Liberia received, you will realize that APM Terminals walked away with a whopping US$37.8 million in 2018.”
And apparently it is now beginning to dawn on law and policy makers alike that the APM Terminals Concession Agreement is indeed predatory in nature. Suggestions that it ought to be amended or change it entirely sounds appealing but, in the face of WTO rules, this may prove to be a very uphill task.
Several current and former employees of the NPA have told this newspaper that promises by APM to build a very modern port and container park was nothing more than empty promises. They further maintain that the APM Terminals have not introduced any modern equipment for use at the Port.
In years gone by, meaning before the outbreak of civil war in 1990 the NPA had a rail mounted shore crane with very heavy lifting capacity that facilitated easy and fast offloading of containers from ships docking at the Port. This is no longer the case, they sadly lament.
But aside from the APM Terminals Agreement which appears indistinguishable from an albatross around the neck of the NPA, there may yet be more vexatious moments for members of both Houses because sooner or later, the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) scheme operated by the NPA will be drawn into their crosshairs.
It is at the point the public will see what all this huffing, puffing and posturing will amount to. According to analysts, that will determine in large measure whether lawmakers will focus their attention on the 64 flawed concession agreements signed under the watch of former President Sirleaf.
As the saying goes, “it takes two to tango”. Both the Executive and Legislature bear direct responsibility for passing into law flawed concession agreements that are now being questioned by members of that very body.
However, to effect any meaningful change in this direction, both the Legislature and the Executive have to be on the same page.
And they should work in tandem diligently and conscientiously. The caveat is this- success cannot be achieved by a leadership seen or perceived to be mired in corruption.
President Weah has to get this message clearly and succinctly if at all he intends to succeed in turning things around for the better.