Liberians, rightly so, are reacting to the comment made by Ms. Christine Elder, the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia. Ms. Elder had asked political leaders to abandon the legal proceedings of electoral irregularities of the October 10, 2017 Presidential elections and move on to the run-off.
Liberia should move on to the run-off since international observers did not report any significant irregularities that would impact the results of the 10/10/2017 elections, and that the main complainant got only 9% of the total votes, she added.
There are quite a few Liberians who share similar views of the U.S. Ambassador, arguing that Liberia does not have the money to finance a re-run of the Presidential and general elections.
Still, other Liberians argue that the issue of money should not outweigh the importance of credibly free, fair and transparent elections, and upholding the constitution of Liberia.
They add that the National Elections Commission (NEC), acting against the advice written by one of the its Commissioners, provided two separate voter’s Final Registration Rolls (FRR), which had created the environment conducive for some NEC officers to have suppressed or denied 500,000 voters, according to a local newspaper ((Hot Pepper) story published on November 16, 2017.
Without vetting the FRR before the run-off, some NEC officers would, once again, determine the winner against the wishes of the voters.
The debate about the re-run and/or run-off is fine; however, some Liberians are calling upon non-Liberians not to dictate the destiny of Liberians. Amid many views, the Daily Observer, a Liberian local newspaper, stated that Liberia is not a colony of the U.S.; hence, the U.S. Ambassador has no right to state that Liberia should abandon the legal process and continue with the run-off.
If, after 300 years, “…the USA is still renewing and perfecting its democracy… that Liberia…should be left alone to...” strengthen its democracy.
I understand the rationale why Liberians are asking Americans, whose government might have to finance the re-run, to keep their advice to themselves. This is because many Liberians, I guess, believe that Americans have and continue to support anti-people’s policies in the country.
And since it is the electoral process which voters use to elect leaders and produce policies, investors, represented by American officials, are doing everything to manipulate the process.
More so, this 2017 is not just about instituting new policies, but how best to guide policies that have failed or have created adverse conditions in the country. Also, the election should produce a corrupt leader who will present the outgoing President as a reformist for other leaders to emulate.
Now let us review some of Sirleaf’s decisions to understand why investors have continued and continue to prefer the President and want someone with similar character to replace her.
Sirleaf government awarded 62 sweetheart deals to big business; allowed 58 gold mining companies to report 9,000 ounces of gold in 2015; reduced real estate taxes and also allowed Monrovia-landlords to charge exorbitant rent for shelters; paid excessive salaries to a few advisers, while at the same time fired US$100 per month employees; committed the country to pay US $80 million to contractors for road projects without budgetary allocations; and misused money donated to produce rice in Lofa County.
In the world of business, profiteers make more money when bribe-offering is rampant, when a country is cash-trapped, which requires government, consumers, etc. to pay high prices or when the leadership is weak, undisciplined, or liable to corruption.
Therefore, when President Sirleaf awarded 62 sweetheart deals, her government did not only borrow money to replace the lost revenue, but subordinates, new profiteers and consumers also felt that bribe-offering was a better way to do business.
When her government ended the rice production in Lofa, government was not only discouraged from trying to produce cassava, potato, pepper, fish, rocks, timbers, gold ounces or diamond carats, but trade deficits increase, importers made profits, and dealers smuggled lucrative assets.
Moving forward, not prosecuting corrupt officials did not only allow investors to maximize their profits, but it also helped and continues to help President Sirleaf to cover up her involvement or awareness of corruption.
For instance, was she not aware that her Unity Party received and spent US$200,000 as bribes in exchange for the sweetheart deals to investors interested in Wologisi Mountain, part of the evidence her government filed with the Courts?
Also, does she not know that state-owned entities are having financial difficulties, including the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) that has not accounted for US $148 million, which she openly took responsibility for? Why did the National Social Security & Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP) invest US$11 million (63% of retirement investment fund) into real estate, but then rents the building to a bankrupt tenant (i.e., the Liberian government via the Liberia Revenue Authority)?
Bankruptcy has made it difficult for the NASSCORP to receive US $52.08 million from the government, pension retirement money government collected from its employees.
Further, can the Sirleaf’s government account for the US $400 million budgeted for each of the twelve years, since our International Partners also spent US$400 million per year? More so, the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) balance is now US$22 million, all because her government borrowed US $677 million from the SDR, according to the 11/13/2017 International Monetary Report 17/348.
Additionally, can her government account for US $79 million that she borrowed from the Central Bank of Liberia [CBL] (i.e., $79 million debt is equal to $245 million owed in 2016 minus $166 million owed in 2006)?
Furthermore, no wonder the International Bank (IB), formerly International Trust Company (ITC) acquired by a consortium of shareholders led by Pan African Capital Group (PACG) in 2006 had received US $45 million (LD$4,531,817,079) deposits in 2016, while the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), being in existence since the early 70’s and still thriving as the only Liberian-owned commercial bank, received US$21 Million (LD$2,139,519,344) deposits in 2016.
Interestingly, owners of PACG are Stephen Cashin, longtime American business partner of President Sirleaf, George Kofi-Atta, Finance Minister of Ghana and longtime business partner of President Sirleaf and Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf herself. PACG owns Data Bank of Ghana and boasts on its website of performing consulting services in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Liberia as a major client.
Common sense indicates that big business is obliged to protect profits. Therefore, since corrupt leaders will create the environment for profiteers to make huge profits, Liberians should understand that profiteers are not in the business of instituting democracy or electing leaders who will institute policies that will reduce the propensity for profits of investors because they have to maintain the status quo.
Yanqui Zaza, Contributing Writer