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Beyond GDP Myth: Was Taylor Actually Better Than Sirleaf’s Administration?

Latest economic data published by a US-based Liberian group rates the regime of ex-president Charles Taylor as recording the highest growth or GDP of 106.28% with an average of 39.76% against five successive administrations, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

The report published by the Liberia Institute of Public Integrity or LIPI for short, was compiled by a group of controversial individuals, including Liberia’s ex-Auditor General John Morlu, his former media officer Ernest Maximore, Aloysius Toe, Dan Saryee, former TRC Commissioner Massa Washington and former TRC Chairperson Cllr. Jerome Viedier, among others. It detailed that Liberia’s GDP grew annually under the Taylor regime by 106.28 from December 1997 to 31.89% in December 2002, ranking as the highest economic performer ever in the history of the country from the Tubman administration to present.

Comparatively, it revealed that Liberia’s annual GDP rate under Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf grew by 7.80% in December 2006 to 7.20% by December 2013 with an annual rate of 7.16% far below the Taylor regime. The report has created room for debate, giving the characters involved in its compilation and the circumstances and period in which the various administrations served, including the current President.

John Morlu, whose work at the General Auditing Commission left much to be desire in terms of professional standards and best practices, eventually became a bitter political enemy of President Sirleaf, taking on the government in the press, generalizing that the Sirleaf administration was 10 times corrupt as then ex-interim chairman Charles Gyude Bryant few days after he took over as Liberia’s Auditor General.

Paradoxically, Aloysius Toe was a leading critic of the Taylor regime, accusing the government of corruption, lack of accountability, human rights abuse and bad governance, among others. Yet he is part of a report that has graded the same regime as the best economic performer in the history of Liberia. How possible was this when the Taylor regime was characterized by war-MODEL, ULIMO, and LURD; civil servants salary was less than US$20, while infrastructure development was abandoned for resource exploitation and merry-making.

Additionally, the Taylor regime saw no significant investment, as compare to the present administration which has recorded at least over US10 billion in investment, with an annual budget now over half a billion United States Dollar against Taylor’s less than US100 million.

Lest we should forget, statistical data can become confusing and meaningless unless one understands the sample space from which conclusions are derived. The economy under Taylor as most Liberians are aware, including Toe himself, was singlehandedly directed from ‘white flower’ with foreign business cronies serving as benefactors at the detriment of the common people. Taylor placed the people under the illusion that with free and cheap food Liberia was socially and economically better. But in reality, the people were held in poverty and bondage, with prostitution taking over the society.

Perhaps what the report failed to capture is that unlike under the Taylor fiefdom when Liberia was treated as a personal property, the picture under Madam Sirleaf has widened with socio-economic development as top priority over personal luxury. Taylor never thought of repairing hydro, providing pipe borne water or paving roads and building bridges and health institutions, key priorities which when placed on the national development agenda of any nation, make growth to appear as insignificant.

We at the New Dawn believe that the authors this report should take a relook at the figures and redo the data and come up with a report that would reflect the reality taking into account factors add up to economic growth.

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