Today, December 7, 2015, I am mailing a letter to our President, Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, wishing her and her family Merry Christmas and a Prosperous Happy New Year from me and my family as well as from the many good Liberians that want to see a better Liberia with great future and prosperity for all.
It is my sincere hope that God will lead and protect our President as well as give her the wisdom, strength, ability and willingness to put the things of God first as we move into 2016. While it is true that I do have policies and governance-operational differences with the President and her administration, I also do understand that she is our leader and so at this time of the year and considering the challenges that our nation faces, it is fitting to pray for and with the President as well as wish her well for some of the good things she has done as President of the Republic of Liberia.
That said I am calling on all Liberians, politicians and non-politicians alike, activists, ordinary citizens and the residents of the country to join me in praying for our country and our President so that 2016 will be different and better than all the other years of hardship, missed opportunities and chaos in our land. It is my earnest belief that President Sirleaf will consider 2016 a year of renewal, a year of oneness and a year of progress that benefits all Liberians irrespective of race, tribe, social status, gender, and sexual orientation. I also urge all Liberians to let go the past, do away with the criticisms and politics and let us give our President a renew opportunity in 2016 to fulfill her solemn obligation to lead us all to the final end of her term with peace and economic prosperity.
Moreover, I urge all those in President Sirleaf's administration to please do the President a favor and give the Liberian people the opportunity we all need as a nation. They can do this by not undermining our President through continuous acts of corruption. Let us all make sure that our first and Africa's first female national leader ends her presidency with real pride and profound dignity. This is my wish and prayer and this, I believe is the wish of most, if not all, Liberians.
President Sirleaf's presidency means a lot to me because I champion women's right and women's capacity to lead and in changing our world. It also means a lot to mean because my mother, though uneducated but very smart and morally strong, made me to believe that women are the source of a good family, a vibrant society and the pillars of economic progress and social equality. It especially means a lot to me because I have two young daughters who embody everything—-from intelligence, kindness and good work ethics —-that proves my mother's point. Also, because I want to see my two young daughters grow up and achieve whatever they want without the ill-male social bias against women. In symbolic terms, President Sirleaf's success will be the success for all Liberian and African women. This is why I want her to succeed. This is why sometimes I criticize her policies and the corruption under her administration, but I also do so with love, care and respect for her as a person and as our President. I don't criticize her because I want a job or because I dislike her, and she knows that about me. I do so because I respect her and value her so much as a person that can do far better that we see and know. Like most of us do, I also have no doubt that President Sirleaf loves Liberia more than anything she has ever known. However, we are all compelled to put our love of country in action and the President, I strongly believe, is prepared to do this beginning January 1, 2016.
Now going forward as we advance into 2016, I am again urging the President that we, as a country, focus on eliminating (I don't mean reduce), I mean that we halt corruption by all and every means possible, even if it means executing corrupt officials, seizing their properties and flocking them publicly in the streets of Monrovia, let us do so,Madam President.
Reasons being corruption is killing thousands of Liberians every year. It is also ruining our country's future in ways that will make us to be unable to ever repair our nation. Unless we do something realistic,practical and tangible, there will be no more Liberia as we know it just because of corruption. The biggest national security and existential threat to Liberia is corruption propelled by insatiable greed of a few. It must be stopped or else it will kill us all before we know it.
That said I am proposing to the President the following to move Liberia forward in 2016:
1. Focus on job creation – I can help the government in this area free of charge by providing my expertise as an unpaid consultant. We can create 50,000 new jobs within a year or two if the President agrees with this proposal. To begin, the President must establish a Workforce Development Commission which will focus on job creation strategies as well as work with all government agencies in conjunction with the private sector. This commission should include members of the legislature and the judiciary but should not be subject to legislative processes to take politics and corruption out of it.
2. Focus on national reconciliation and peace-building – starting from every village and town to the cities. To begin, the President must restructure the existing commission on peace and support the establishment of national peace and reconciliation task force. I can also help with this free of charge. I will be able to bring along Bishop T.D. Jakes, Reverend Louise Farakkah (religious balance purposes) as well as enlist the entire Liberian clergy – Christians and Muslims- to join in this process.
3. Establish a governance barometer (an office that will collect performance stats on government agencies) by which the monthly performance, I mean tangible performance, of bureaucrats are checked through an institutional process within the Office of the President. This office should be able to randomly collect data from government agencies on their capacity in dealing with national issues that fall within the purview of their individual agencies. For example, as President, our leader should be able to know from her health ministry how many kids are vaccinated every month, how many receive primary care and which parts of the country were or are lacking in public health awareness etc. She should also be able to know from her education ministry the school enrollment numbers of kids nationwide, which schools are performing well, which schools lack material and equipment or teachers, how many teachers are untrained, etc. Again, I can help with this process free of charge.
4. Map out a sound collective national security policy and program. Security is paramount to every and all forms of governance. To begin, let us prioritize community policing by getting the communities, at rural and urban levels, fully involved. Let the Liberian national police team up and work with communities by setting up watch dog groups in each community. These watch dog groups should be given incentives and rated on their performance. There should be a special division created within the national police force to be named "division of community relations and protection" that will work directly with the watchdog groups. Also, I can help with this process free of charge.
5. Lastly, the President must put in place a small but effective governance structure going forward. The Liberian government is too big. Reduce the size of the government, Madam President. There are too many deputy and assistant ministers as well as too many deputy and assistant directors. The number of board of directors are too many as well and no one man or woman, it does not matter which agency he or she heads, should chair more than one board simultaneously. More board of directors must be chaired by people in the private sector, not ministers. This is the sign of corruption too for ministers to chair boards when they have statutory oversight responsibilities by virtue of being ministers in the first place.
Cut down these government positions to perhaps just one deputy minister and two assistant ministers per ministry. Same at the director level for autonomous agencies. it is not the role of government to create jobs by giving jobs (especially positions that do the same things) to people in Government through a political accommodation process. The main function of government is to create an environment where the private sector can create good and well paying jobs. To begin, reduce taxes and tariff, give more incentives to large and small businesses; encourage Liberians and help them set up businesses; reduce salaries of people in government and increase the earnings of nurses, teachers, engineers, agriculturalists and all technical people. Ensure that government contracts in maintenance and local procurement are only given to Liberians. And that foreign contractors have compulsory 30% share allocated to Liberian ownership.
In addition, ensure that all small business operations are only meant for Liberians. Foreign investors must come to Liberia to invest in industrial development, tourism, leisure and major hospitality such as building and owning five star hotels and resorts. Building and owning factories and major dealership. This is what happens in Ghana where all our ministers and lawmakers run to keep money or attend to major activities. In Ghana, even Africans from our countries are not allowed to own certain businesses. Same in a number of other African nations. There are businesses meant for the citizens of those countries. Liberia alone cannot be the free for all state, Madam President. No need for a foreigner to own a convenient store, ice cream shop, barbershop, internet center, taxi cab business etc. These take away small business opportunities for Liberians. I see no reason why foreign business people should sell sand and pepper, tomatoes and chicken soup as well as open community grocery stores throughout Liberia. How will Liberians be empowered in becoming the bedrock of our nation's private sector? This is one reason why our government is the largest employer and another reason why poverty is too much in our land.
There are a lot of things we can do to put Liberia in shape within a year. I can help, again free of charge. All these are less than 1% of the things we can do in less than two years to change Liberia from a third world and undeveloped country to a first world and developed nation.
The ball is in the court of our President, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I hope she will not listen to the greedy people around her, many of whom don't want new ideas so that the situation can remain the same. Happy New Year President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and may God bless all Liberians and our country Liberia.
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.