The Liberian government has announced that it is in the final stages of securing a U.S. $1.6 billion Indonesian investment in palm oil production which is expected to create 35,000 jobs.

Richard Tolbert, chairman of the country’s National Investment Commission, told AllAfrica in an interview that the investment, in south-eastern Liberia, will give a major boost to the country’s post-conflict economy.

“The government has about 33,000 persons on its payroll,” he said. “Here we have one company that will provide jobs for about 35,000 persons. These jobs, I believe, will create livelihoods for about 300,000 to 400,000 people.”

The investment deal is with Golden VerOleum, a company headquartered in Indonesia which is a subsidiary of Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), one of the world’s leaders in palm oil production.

Tolbert said when the agreement is concluded, Golden VerOleum will need more than 200,000 hectares for an oil palm plantation in the south-east, a region that is among the country’s poorest. He said in addition to creating jobs and helping to decentralize Liberia’s economy, the company has budgeted about $400 million for palm oil mills and eventually for refineries.

This is a promising move for a nation struggling to rebuild its economy. The key, of course, is that the industry grow in a sustainable manner.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ‘s administration has attracted a number of big investments from multinational companies since her election in 2005, the article says. Arcelor Mittal, one of the world’s largest steel companies, began operations in Liberia in 2007 following a re-negotiation of the terms of an earlier agreement, the article says.

More on the Liberian economy:

Liberia’s economy was virtually shattered by the civil war that ended in 2003. An estimated 80 percent of Liberians were unemployed and the 2005 national budget totaled only $80 million. Taxes on the revenue generated by investments has helped the government to triple its national budget in just a few years, Tolbert said in the interview.

In her book, This Child Will Be Great, President Johnson Sirleaf leaves the door open for a second term, of course. In the aftermath of civil war, however, she says her greater goal is a peaceful, democratic transition to whoever succeeds her as president.

I hope she runs again.