Boston, Massachusetts-What if governments and philanthropists who are currently investing in refugee resettlement in western countries also consider a proactive investment in a reverse refugee resettlement pilot project voluntarily sending refugees back from the west to the post-conflict African countries they once fled? What if the returning refugees are given access to resources and economic incentives such as visa waivers, zero interest loans, duty free privileges, tax breaks and waivers of business registration fees by a collaboration of both the host government and the western nations in which refugees were exiled with the aim of a refugee-led revitalization of the private sector, promoting reconciliation and democratic change?
What if western taxpayers rethink foreign aid, aiming to produce economic growth by tapping into the patriotism, family connections and entrepreneurial spirit of refugees in western countries? What if?For nearly half a century, investments in peacekeeping, refugee resettlement and foreign aid to war ravaged African countries have not resulted in stable democracies and thriving economies. For example, despite the huge decade-long investments of international partners in Liberia, the country is still dangerously volatile economically and democratically. The Liberian economy is a mess with three competing currencies (two sets of legal tender Liberian dollar and one set of US Dollars bills) and out of control inflation that has forced government to unilaterally take 25% of remittances sent to families through Money Gram and Western Union and convert it to local currency.
While unfairly taking foreign currency away from citizens, government pays teachers and other employees in local Liberian currency but charges all taxes, duties and fees only in US Dollars. Application one page form for marriage license costs US75 plus additional US$75 marriage license fee (US$150) putting marriage, a basic human right out of the reach of most citizens for no justifiable reasons. The people are angry!
The current President of Liberia appoints all governors of all political subdivisions, cabinet ministers, heads of public corporations, board members of public corporations, supreme court justices, all traditional chiefs and all mayors of all cities across Liberia! Because of the paralyzing outcome of this ridiculously centralized system, corruption is endemic and Liberia is a time bomb! The Liberian president, a Nobel Laureate, comfortably, and with international praises welds more powers than President Obama, the Pope and Queen Elizabeth!
Without democracy, post-conflict countries often become magnets for terrorism. In Africa, war ravaged countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia look great on paper but they are real time bombs and tunnels to utter disaster waiting to happen. Meanwhile, western taxpayers dollars are being funneled through foreign aid to enrich the corrupt ruling elites in these eternally poor countries.
Isn’t the time ripe for the world to open the floodgates of innovation in waging peace, promoting democracy and reinventing foreign aid by tapping into the potentials of resilient refugees in western nations?
There are millions of culturally competent former refugees in western nations who are yearning to return to their native post conflict countries! Investing in this hidden treasure and real ‘peace corps’ of refugees repatriated to their native countries to engage in the revitalization of the private sector is a timely and worthy social experiment.
The experiment of investing in refugee resettlement has proven to pay off in western nations where refugees resettle. According to Chmura Economics and Analytics, refugee service agencies in Cleveland, Ohio invested about 4.8 million dollars in refugee resettlement. In return, Cleveland netted a 48-million-dollar return from their investment as entrepreneurial refugees engaged in successful business ventures.
If investment in refugee resettlement pays off in America, why not conduct a similar social experiment in Africa , given the potential for world peace a positive result may yield?
The world is already making enormous investments with corrupt governments in post conflict African countries without engaging strategically with the refugee communities in western nations. For example, the United States gave Liberia US$247 million in 2012. With a GDP of US790 and the FY2016 budget of US550 million dollars, top Liberian politicians see foreign aid as a substitute for government’s obligation to its citizens.
While foreign aid tackles development, the Liberian government use the national revenue not for basic services but for setting excessive salaries and benefits which range from US$193,416.00 yearly to US$482,203.00 just for lawmakers. Can you imagine the excessive salaries and benefits in the administration? Winning a nine-year term Liberian senate seat means US$4,339,827.00 investment in one person’s salary with zero return on investment in one election cycle. Why are America and European Diplomats mute on such massive squandering of taxpayers money?
Compare the American taxpayers subsidized Liberian politician salaries and benefits to salaries of public servants in the USA, a country with a higher cost of living. With a US$3.65 Trillion Dollars budget in 2017, two year termed members of Congress make US$174,000 yearly.
At the state level, a US$40 billion dollars state budget, Massachusetts lawmakers earn about US$60,000.00 yearly while the Governor of Massachusetts earns US$150,800.00. The excessive salaries and benefits and endemic corruption perpetuates conflicts and exacerbates the global refugee crisis.
More talented, culturally competent, highly educated, skilled and motivated former refugees in western nations are eager to return to our native countries.
International partners must seize on this opportunity immediately because war ravaged countries like Liberia cannot indefinitely rely on their extractive economies or endless handouts in foreign aid from international partners.
Countries with or without large refugee communities such as Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the European Union and even the Trump Administration of the United States of America must seize the opportunity of returning refugees from the western countries. This solution is much cheaper than sending troops or peacekeeping missions in years to come when countries blow up! Doubtless, this initiative would bring economic growth, stability, democracy and self-reliance to aid dependent war ravaged countries that peacekeeping and foreign aid cannot achieve.