Liberia lacks a sound economic and public policy team

Famous New York’s U.S. senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said: everyone is entitled to their opinion, but not everyone is entitled to the facts. The fact of the matter is Liberian lawmakers are useless because they see no real leadership in the country. Age-old Liberian opposition groups are joining the bandwagon of uselessness because they are emulating what the current leadership in power is doing––condoning widespread corruption and public theft.  Moreover, everyone knows that the credibility of the entire Liberian legislature is tainted because there are more bad apples than good ones in their midst. These folks have no clue and most of them are emptied vessels, entrenched in naked greed and short-sighted perspective. Some of them cried against Madam Mary Broh for disciplining Liberian teen prostitutes in the streets when it is the greed, corruption and criminal behaviors the very lawmakers that promote teen prostitution, sodomy, massive unemployment and widespread poverty nationwide.

Instead of our unproductive attention-seeking lawmakers lashing out at Madam Mary Broh, director-general of the General Services Agency, for exposing the effects of corruption in Liberia, while can’t they (futile lawmakers) confront the excessive corruption practices in their own midst? Obviously, the corrupt practices are championed by the lawmakers’ own very respective leaderships––both in the House and Senate. How do they justify the level of greed they pursue to sustain underdevelopment and impose poverty on the people and counties they claim to represent?  It is the uselessness of our lawmakers that made the teens, paraded on Facebook by Madam Broh and corps, to become prostitutes in the first place.  It is also the never-ending dumbness of our lawmakers that Madam Mary Broh sought to expose.

If most of our lawmakers were patriotic, smart, and loyal to our country and the people they claim to represent, we as a country would have had sound policies and good programs that would prevent teen prostitution and the attitude of Mary Broh in the first place.  How dare a bunch of crooks who are no use go after Madam Mary Broh who is by far one of the best and most practical person in that entire administration? Where is Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff when members of the legislature steal or ask for bribes to mortgage Liberia’s resources to foreign criminals who pose as investors? Where has she been when the head of the senate and the Speaker of House are given personal budgets in millions for their offices while our counties have no public libraries, toilets, good clinics or roads? These baseless media-attention speeches by some lawmakers must stop!! If our fellow Liberians, particularly some of our fickle lawmakers who cast blame on Madam Mary Broh, were serious in seeing real change in Liberia they would fight against the corrupt and criminal-minded lawmakers we have so that they can change their phony conduct of greed, chronic corruption and uselessness.

Another major thing our country and the current Liberian administration lack, in addition to having a bunch of useless lawmakers, is a sound economic and public policy team. The folks we have posing as that don’t know what they are doing.  If they knew they would have taken a serious fight to and against the widespread corruption that is sinking the nation.  Instead, they are all in a confused and corrupt state of mind. This brings us to the main point and the real issue at hand: Corruption in Liberia. In order for Liberia to change and chart a better course, we must all stand up and confront the disease of corruption in our nation, even if the President refuses, as usual, to lead the fight against theft of public funds. We can do it by standing up and confronting those who are corrupt, those who facilitate corruption and those who are the beneficiaries of corruption.  Here is why we need to do this: the effect of corruption in Liberia and under the current Liberian administration has many features that are political, economic, social and environmental.

In terms of the political dimension, corruption is impeding our democracy and the rule of law in Liberia, where friends and loyalists of the President (people well-connected to the presidency) as well as the privileged few can steal national wealth and walk free. Matilda Parker and corps, NOCAL ruthless management team and corps, those who stole huge sum of resources from the ministries of public works, foreign affairs, state and presidential affairs, internal affairs so on and so forth. All of these people stole millions and walk free, making our reputable judicial system a mockery. Yet, poor Liberian civil servants at the Liberia Revenue Authority are fired by a closed associate of the President’s inner circle for what the associate termed as “they are involved in corruption”. Besides, this very associate, Madam Elfreda Tolbert-Tamba, considers herself above the laws of Liberia so she refuses to honor a citation from the nation’s Supreme Court. This mindset of being above the law is not just something that is limited to Mrs. Tolbert-Tamba alone, whom I like and respect very much and whose husband, Kollie Tamba, I saw as a mentor growing up; it is a mindset that is entrenched in a small group of privileged Liberians to which the President has an attached social correlation by virtue of upbringing.

In addition, those who have stolen national wealth are the media darlings and the politically viable candidates for elected offices in Liberia just because they can hand out portion of their stolen wealth to the same poor people who they stole from.  Also, in Liberia, our public institutions and offices have lost their legitimacy because of the misuse of power for private interest. One of such institution is the very Liberian national legislature, both the House of Representatives and Senate. The people in there suppose to represent us as their constituents. Instead, they represent themselves, their greed and this is one main reason why we are doomed as a nation.   

The long-term outcome of this is whole corruption empire that they have set up and that is emboldened by the Sirleaf’s indulgence puts our nation on the path to exclusionary political participation, political instability, reduction in political competition, reduction in transparency of political decision making, distortion of political activity based on patronage, clientele and money, etc. In fact, the impact of massive corruption in Liberia is now manifested through political intolerance (complicated and mysterious assassinations as we saw in the murder of whistle-blower Attorney Allison), problems of accountability and transparency to the public (firing of honest officials like former Auditor General John Morlu and others who exposed corruption), low level of informed democratic culture, among others.

Economically, the effects of corruption in Liberia are even severe. First and foremost, corruption is leading to the depletion of our country’s national wealth and natural resources without any tangible and measurable returns.  Liberians, as a result of corruption, are paying the price in the increased costs of goods and services while their government is funneling the nation’s already scarce public resources to an uneconomically high ‘profile’ intangible projects at the expense of much needed projects such as schools, hospitals and roads, or the supply of potable water.  Moreover, this trend encourages the diversion and miss-allocation of resources, conversion of public wealth into private and personal property; it leads to inflation, imbalanced economic development, weakling work ethics and professionalism, hindrance to the development of fairness in market structures and unhealthy competition, as well as deter competition. In addition, because of corruption, the Liberian economy is hurt and the population as a whole is becoming more and more impoverished.  Yet, our President boosts of bringing in U.S. $3 billion investment to our country!!!

Socially, corruption in Liberia and under the Sirleaf’s administration has and continues to discourage people to work together for the common good of our country.  The sea of corruption under the administration has bred frustration and apathy, which in turn, result in a weak civil society in the country.  The Liberian society as a whole is one in which demanding and paying bribes have become a tradition, such that new employees in government have to go through a period of initiation (rite of passage) by their bosses. Consequently, there is massive social inequality, and a widened gap between the rich and the poor. This manifests itself in increased poverty, civil strives, jealousy, insecurity, hatred, and the lack of basic needs like food, water and drugs.  Worse of all, the poor are marginalized. Thus, this puts the nation on a time-bomb for social unrest.

The actual impact of corruption on the Liberian society and people is unbearable and dangerous in many ways, including the high prices that Liberian consumers pay for goods and services in exchange for the bribes that businesses and entrepreneurs paid before their business documents and permits are issued or signed. Business people and entrepreneurs that want to do the right thing by refusing to pay bribes are subjected to delay and frustration by the administration’s officials in a number of ways. Another effect of corruption in Liberia is that it is leading to reduction in investments, both foreign and local. Investors, particularly foreign investors, shy away from corrupt nations and so many are disinterested in doing business in Liberia and with the Sirleaf’s Administration. The only investors that insist on being in Liberia’s investment climate are criminal ventures whose investments are incapable of producing the necessary goods and services. The result is reduction in our country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This is also compounded by uncontrollable inflation. Since these things are happening, there is a huge reduction in tax revenue. Added to this quagmire is the fact that tax collectors emulate the example of bureaucrats in high places by engaging in corruption because their bosses in senior level positions are stealing unprecedentedly. Proof is the allegation by the Commissioner-General of the Liberia Revenue Authority that more than 40 employees of her agency are engaged in corruption and therefore she fired them. She may be right but what happens to the folks who (like her friends who are part of the President’s orbit) stole millions from the country?  This makes our entire government to be one of hypocrisy and deceit. All these factors put together is one reason why Liberia’s finance ministry always has a budget shortfall in addition to the fact that it is professionally ill-equipped.

The persistence of the Liberian government––which runs no social security or safety net programs to help children in poverty, women and elderly––regular budget lapses year after year is due to revenue shortfalls which results from widespread corruption. Even though our President is a Harvard educated economic workshop attendee and her finance minister did a 12-month preparatory development studies capstone seminar at the Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, our nation’s economic team still cannot get the reality that revenue lapses lead to budget shortfalls and that budget shortfalls lead to an inability to fund and implement meaning social and economic programs, especially when such revenue shortfalls result from theft of public funds for private use.  Added to this, the President continuously refuses good ideas. Like I did in putting together the country’s 2003 national disarmament plan on gratis, I requested to help the President and her failing government by putting in place a national workforce development and job creation plan free of charge but they paid deaf ears simply because they know that my first order of business would be addressing the practice of corruption at every and all levels, ensuring that all those who have served in government are audited and their finances traced worldwide to determine how they got it.

Corruption is endemic in Liberia is much that the country's entire public procurement process stinks. Repeated evidence has shown that under the current Liberian administration public procurement contract have been allocated through corrupt systems and mechanization.  As a result, this has and continues to lead to inferior and sub-standard infrastructure and services being rendered nationwide.  Bureaucrats who are involved in these dealings and wheeling prefer to use cheap and sub-standard material and equipment to carry out major contracts, leaving tax payers and the Liberian public on the hook either in revenue losses or in a bogus loan commitment on the country that future Liberian generation will have to commit to paying.

Corruption is also so pervasive in Liberia and under this current administration that almost all of our so-called newly-bred politicians along with the vast majority of our failed and deceptive politicians “the so-called Progressives” have become depraved malefactors. There is no sense of public service, patriotism and commitment to country.  It is nothing but the “me, I and self” animal farm disorder.  As a result, we have poor maintenance of our public infrastructures.  For instance, in our national legislature, which is the breading ground of the worst form of corruption since Adam and Eve, our corrupt politicians, in particular, the alleged felony-charged ring leaders therein influenced the approval of investments projects including the sale of oil blocks etc. such that the returns, as calculated by cost benefit analysis, cease to be the criterion for the sale or projects in the first place.  The approval of contracts or sales of oil blocks are therefore not done on merits but because most of the criminal-minded folks involved are greedy, dwell on patronage and cronyism.  The consequences are that old and existing projects deteriorate while the commencement of new projects stalled. The prevalence of widespread corruption in Liberia and under this current Liberian administration arguably influences the poor state of the Liberian people and nation.

About the Author:

Williams is a Catholic educated philosopher and an American trained public policy professional. He was instrumental in restoring Liberia from factional conflicts and corruptible wars to a normal functioning society and democratic governance in addition to providing the framework for the country's 2003 -2005 national disarmament process on gratis.  Since 2003, he has been aiding African immigrants around the world and working toward solutions that would enable all Liberian refugees throughout Africa and in the west to return home.  He is the first African and only black person to head the Jewish Family Services International Refugee Program, and is an international advocate on forced migration, refugee flow, food insecurity, and the philosophy of governance. 

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