On the occasion of the 166th birth anniversary of our Glorious Land of Liberty, I join hundreds of thousands of my fellow compatriots, business enterprises and foreign nationals resident in our great Country, in wishing and extending a Big Thank you to Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Mrs.), President, His Excellency, Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Vice President, respectively, of the Republic of Liberia and the corps of fellow citizens, for the dedicated, diligent leadership of this land of ours for the past 8 years of these turbulent, critical years. This day, July 26 of every year, is a day on which Liberians of all walks of life, with family members, extended relatives and friends gather, together and celebrate, make merry and give thank and praise to the Almighty God for another year of survival and life of happiness.
However, today, July 26, 2013 and all the “twenty-sixes” after our national tragedy of the civil war, the average Liberian – men, women and children – the majority of the nation’s population, have nothing for which to celebrate and make merry, because:
1. The turbulent, critical challenges of socio-economic and political development that we faced in the past have grown worse and appear un-surmountable.
2. The gap between the average Liberian on the one hand and the emerged/emerging political class and government officials on the other hand or the proverbial “rich and poor” has widened and continues to grow wider exponetially. Poverty, discontent, no-where-to-turn, helplessness and anger have become the order of the day. Almost all of the young, including 4-5 year-olds (the nation’s future leaders), go to bed on empty stomachs – hunger and our medical facilities are very, very poor, with JFK Memorial Hospital described by a visiting, US medical delegation as “a place one goes to die”.
3. Our Nation has been around for 166 years, yet we had not, and have not, prioritized national, economic development policy – all-weather roads/highways. One cannot travel comfortably between Monrovia and Voinjama, Lofa County; Saniquellie, Nimba County; Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; and Harper, Maryland County.
4. The unprecedented exodus of refugees from all over the nation into the Capital City of Monrovia, the-then only safe haven from the brutalities of the civil war, compounded not only the socio-economic constipation of the city, but also rendered it extremely over-crowded, congested by population increase that is far greater than the city can hold, safely and economically.
5. Making matters worse are the city streets and roads built, paved and unpaved, some 40-45 years ago that cannot, now, hold nor facilitate efficient, smooth, safe and orderly flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic, due to the increased number of automobiles, much more than the volume of traffic for which the streets/roads were designed. Apparently, all the motor vehicles imported to Liberia are in the Monrovia area, with no roads to ply.
Indeed, I am aware of the nature of our “resource-squeeze” as a strong impediment in pursuing, actively, all of these, very needy, development challenges. Add to this that which has emerged as Corruption, Inc. on the national scene.
In this scheme of things socio-economic and political, corruption, Inc. has come to be a potent force in Liberian society such that many public officials, led by the current President of the Nation, refer to it, inevitably, as “Liberia’s public enemy No.1”, because of its incidence, with negative impact, on the social, economic and political development of the Liberian nation. Now, corruption has been developed, by a corps of highly-placed government officials, into a big business that may be likened to the Mafia. Corruption has captured control of the corridors of state power and has become a major, dominant political force.
However, it has been shown that corruption can be controlled, minimized and eventually, eradicated. But, this effort requires rational public policy development/prescription, the political will and the commitment/dedication for diligent application/enforcement.
The major source of Corruption, Inc. is the abuse of the lawful public policy of Salary/wage Allowance system. This system of salary/wage allowance has been and is extended into such unexplained categories as the following:
- General Allowance
- Special Allowance
- Salary Allowance
- Travel Allowance (Domestic & Foreign)
- Personal, Un-explained Allocations
- Rental Expense
- Fuel –Vehicles
- Fuel – Generator
- Special Services
- Operational Expense
- Local Scholarship Give-away
Recipients of these dubious allowances are all ministers, their deputies, executives of state enterprises, justices of the Supreme Court, and members of the National Legislature. There may be more.
It is very important to note that the hundreds of millions of US dollars, spent in this way (unexplained, operational expense, special service expense, local scholarship giveaways, newspaper purchase, in addition to all the other dubious allocations) end up in foreign bank accounts held by many of the “allowance” recipients who are, highly, likely to be, US or citizens of other, foreign countries.
Other payments, in billions of US dollars, made to the dealers for these generators, fuel, spare parts and service, including the popular SUVs, parts, service and fuel, also end up, but as revenues (and out of Liberia) to the foreign business organizations operating in Liberia.
In other words, this is enormous sums of money out of the Liberian economy and out of resource source necessary for national development. It is time to review this scheme in the effort to cut out the fat. After the Holidays, I will present a comprehensive proposal towards this objective. Stay tuned.