The phenomenon of President George Weah remarkable election and inauguration in the global arena is quite significant and presents opportunities and challenges to post war Liberia socio-economic, governance and industrialization, but in the context of the criticism and self-criticism about the misery surrounding the reported “disappearance” of Sixteen Billion Liberian Dollar (LRD16,000,000,000), what does it denotes for the nation’s image internationally since no country in international politics is an island. There is a saying that the ocean is vast because it admits all rivers while delicious soup is made by combining different ingredients.
The expectations of Weah’s leadership are sky-high among Liberians especially the youthful population who have faith and trust in the Weah’s leadership and positively recognize that the president will deliver on the people centered pro-poor project and improve living standard of poverty-stricken population, but the misery surrounding the LRD16,000,000,000 poses a serious challenge to the government’s status and the nation’s image internationally.
The LRD16 billion is converted to US$ and multiply by the current exchange rate at US$1 toLRD150 the equivalent will be about US$125 million which represent five percent of Liberia’s GDP and 19 percent of the national budget. For instance, the amount if managed properly you could buy 2085 30-seated buys or could buy two planes of 300-seated, or pave the Gnata-Zwedru highway.
Besides, according to research, if you had 16 billion dollars, you could buy 533,333 bicycle at LRD30,000/each while for travel: If you were to travel 16 billion miles, you could fly around the world 642,544 times or take a round trip to the moon 33,487 times. Savings: If you could save LRD100, 000/year, it would take you 160,000 years to save 16 billion dollars. If you could save $10,000 every single day, then it would only take you 4,384 years to save 16 billion. Living: If you could live for 16 billion minutes, you would live until you were 30,441 years old.
The world is changing and it is the world in which new innovations and challenges keep emerging; a world in which the international system and international orders are going through a profound steadily adjustment and a world in which the balance of international forces favor economic discipline and respect for global governance. But in recent times the global media’s attention have been shifted towards Liberia due to wrong reason while the world’s economic powers and multilateral financial institutions pay keen attention.
It is clear fact that Liberia constitutes one of the poorest countries in the world and is mostly in recent time been negative portrait and is predominantly portrayed negatively” by the Western media, despite of the numerous gains the country has made over the last 12 years to pick up the pieces from war to peace.
History is very vivid on corruption’ hullabaloos of allegations, accusations specifically driven by mistrust and confidence crises which with all due respect for honor, decency and sustained kudos of civilization; and the survivability of the tenets of good governance, new scenarios and equations arise regarding the missing billion is not healthy for Liberia international relations and Liberia’s international stature and standing among the comity of nations.
In the past especially during the 14-year dark days of the nation unfortunate era, the country was view by the outside world as a failed state while the global media portrayed the country negatively, but with the extraordinary display of diplomatic modus operandi and positive leadership for respect for international system and democracy, Liberia has since regained its status among the comity of nations, with the international media predominantly portraying Liberia positively.
But the situation back home regarding the accusations and counter-accusations presents a conflicting and appalling picture of the entire country and its populace. For the past four weeks or more Liberia’s international images have been under serious question owing to countless banner headlines in both the local and global media about the misery surrounding the reported disappearance of LRD16,000,000,000. The complexity of the growing trend toward the missing Billion in such a multipolar world, without doubt have tarnished the good image of the country and its people.
But the biggest opportunity to reinvest this lost image internationally and restore domestic confidence lies in how public officials maintain the right tone in all aspects of publicity, how they discipline their words and deed when addressing the missing LD16,000,000,000 saga; they should be aware that criticism and self-criticism will do the nation no good, instead they should find the balance and communicate effectively since clarity is very essential in communication.
From the initial stage to present, there have been inconsistent regarding information dissemination on the local and international fronts. Positive publicity should be attractive and appealing; truth and accuracy are the lifeblood of information dissemination.
Therefore public officials trusted with the national task to thoroughly investigate the missing money should strengthen their ability to effectively communicate with international audience, and have a stronger voice and properly coordinate information reaching the domestic audience. The Central Bank of Liberia, Ministries of Justice, Information and Finance, and Development planning have been giving conflicting information and contradicted each other about the missing money saga
President Weah’s administration should be fully alert to the grave nature of international actors and Liberia’s development partners and creditors especially the World Bank, International Monitory Fund and Paris Club concerns over the missing money situation. Therefore the government shouldn’t treat the money situation flippantly, but must be aware that the ocean is vast because it admits all rivers while delicious soup is made by combining different ingredients.
Let reflect on the words of a Dutch’s philosopher called Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “The best government is that which teaches us to govern ourselves and there is nothing in the world more shameful than establishing one’s self on lies and false, and said: “Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one’s thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world”. While George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel has said: “We do not need to be shoemakers to know if our shoes fit, and just as little have we any need to be professional to acquire knowledge of matters of universal interests.”
Without doubts, while the world attention has been shifted to Washington and Beijing going trade war between President Donald Trump and President Xi Jinping, the world is closely monitoring the missing money saga in the country. This growing political situation has being followed by Liberia traditional alley, America while China is also paying keen attention especially in the wake of startling allegation that portion of the missing money was illegally printed in China. Diplomatically, Beijing will definite protest and would request details from the government.
While on the other hand, China’s strategy for conducting its foreign relations is tailored to the specific circumstances of countries or regions with which it wishes to do business or … a foreign policy that does not frighten neighboring nations or the world’s great economic and military powers, most notably the United States and that of other global powers. Power shifts have brought into sharp focus the significance of the U.S.–China relationship in the early twenty-first century, both need each other and currently they are at each other throat with trade war.
Therefore President Weah administration need to exercise all precautionary measures to win the aspirations of Liberian development partners especially the USA, China, European Union, World Bank and IMF in the wake of the reported disappearing of L$16Billion (US$120 Million). If nothing is done to institute the necessary action to shame and bring to book the alleged perpetrators, the whole saga will stain the nation’s international image and muddle the gains made over the years since 2005 elections. All should be done to win back the nation’s lost reputation as a result of the alleged missing money.
This I believe will pave the way for adequate foreign aid assistance to enable toe CDC led-government to achieve its people centered pro poor policy to reduce poverty and construct roads across the country; this money situation has the propensity to pose an obstacle to President Weah’s dream for a prospect Liberia. There should be no room for a zero sum game in the missing L$16billion saga.
Significantly president Weah’s government should play its cards very well, critically evaluate statements or speeches to avoid diplomatic suicide (meaning disheartenment Liberia interest with China and the USA). Although at present, public statement should consider a balance with the two countries national interests, and not statements that would perhaps drag the Weah’s government into a state of strategically vulnerability.
Meanwhile Africa nowadays has become a continent of strategic importance for the two opposing world blocs –USA and China, for several reasons; many scholars and political pundits believed that the new U.S., China’s growing affection for Africa go with a deep interest to hunt for Africa’s riches, using several strategies and tactics to ensure and expand their influences.
The two opposing world blocs use tools of soft power in different ways to their benefits and with varying effects. Many experts argue that China‘s policies of non-interference and no political attached strings‘ have resonated so strongly among African countries which have become so wearied of those sanctimonious clichés about democracy, human rights, and good governance being proposed by the United States and its western partners, while the USA attached specific strings to aid .
Keeping a balance with Washington and Beijing will reinforce Liberia’s domestic policies and programs that fortify the bedrock of prosperity and stability will also enhance domestic control and its influence home and overcoming the primarily economic vulnerability that the government, state and people of Liberia are faced.
Although the President Weah recently met both Trum and Jinping in an international gathering in China and New York, the President need to cement the relations further to a new level by undertaking an official trip to Washington and Beijing for a one-on-one discussion to strengthen diplomatic ties with American and Chinese leaderships, to reiterate and assure Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping of the CDC led-government commitment for Liberia-USA and Liberia-China bilateral ties, since diplomacy today is an appropriate instrument to attract investments and businesses back home, and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to all governments, states and people.
Liberian embassies and diplomatic missions and diplomats in the USA, China and Euro Zone need to be very visible and proactive and not react to push President Weah’s pro poor agenda since it is impossible for President Weah to be present at every international forum or gathering while these diplomatic missions and diplomats financially should be support to facilitate their responsibility.
Meritoriously, the Sino-Liberia and U.S. Liberia ties rapprochement will definite helped to create the unique conditions that led to the limited apprehensions but contributed and move the exiting relations to another levels of exceptionality. Liberia’s balance ties with America and China perhaps most important, will be a great help strengthening the Weah’s regime domestic sources of national control in several vital areas especially human capital development, quality education, job creation, recognized health delivery system, pave roads, efficiency political system, research and development.
President Weah administration need to effectively exercise what I described as “diplomatic equilibrium” in its dealings with the two rival world blocs to avoid being seemed as weighting heavily towards one bloc. In this case, the government should move faster and put its diplomats to work, define China and USA interests and use the country’s bilateral ties to the advantage of the government.
The Weah’s regime should solemnly understand the new level of diplomatic maneuvering across the globe as relative Beijing and Washington. China views development and foreign aid as practical policy instruments to promote political friendship and economic cooperation, and only tied aid to one China policy while the U.S. attaches clearly stated goals, stringent conditions, and strict criteria including democracy, respect for rule of law, human rights, and good governance, to its development programs
But Beijing’s amazing aggregation of national power over the past 40 years has been a basis of wonderment among major state actors and non-state actors in the international system, as political experts are at a loss to expound the persistence of Communist Party rule despite its more open market order while economists have been astonished by China’s steadily high rate of progress while historians have describe China’s spectacular rise as unprecedented.
Nevertheless, there are other concerns especially the one coming from the United States of America regarding China’s emerging influence in the world especially its dealing with third world African states. But to the U.S. national security community, China’s rapid ascent up the global power ladder has been a source less of amazement than of cumulative unease.
During his January’s inauguration, President Weah made known his administration foreign policy and domestic agenda constructively as he reached out to friendly countries and Liberia’s international partners especially to Washington, Beijing, European Union, ECOWAS, African Union, United Nations, World Bank International Monetary Fund and Arab League countries, among others. President Weah need to keep to his commitment regarding Liberia-America bilateral ties as he stated in his esteemed speech which touched the relations between Liberia and the United States of America on one hand and Liberia-China productive and mutually rewarding relations.
In order to cement Liberia’s bilateral ties further higher with the current powers in Washington and Beijing, the Weah’s administration should attempted to build close cooperative relations with the two countries using diplomatic, thus keeping a vigorous communication channel with the two economics powers and the rest of the free world to the advantage of the CDC-led government pro-poor agenda, the interest of Liberia above other interests.
However, the diplomatic equilibrium can only be achieved if the rightful individuals assigned at Liberia’s embassies and diplomatic missions abroad are demanded to perform a national duties since the president or the foreign minister cannot be presence every were at once to project the nation’s images. Those currently in the field requires a strong background of a multidisciplinary perspective since diplomacy today is an appropriate instrument to attract investments and businesses back home, and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to Liberia.
The current administration primarily need to focus on economic diplomacy in the formulation of the CDC-led government foreign policy and the practice of international relations with Washington and Beijing on one hand and the West on the other hand especially Europe and Africa.
Those who are given the responsibility to project Liberia’s images in the international system especially countries accredited at the various embassies and diplomatic missions abroad must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing dynamics political and diplomatic issues to drive the desire results back home, and not just sit and wait to be tele-guided (push and start).
They need to understand that diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne, ceremonial dinner and soliciting financial and other hand-outs for personal enrichment. The noble profession which goes with greater demands is not an end but a means; not a purpose but a method. It seeks, by the use of reason, conciliation and the exchange of interests to prevent major conflicts arising between sovereign states and other civil organizations.
But nowadays diplomacy and international relations are wrapped up with domestic policy-making and political demands about governance across an extended spectrum of pressing national issues such as President George M. Weah’s administration pro-poor agenda and jobs creation for the greater population.
For the purpose of efficiency and productivity, the Weah’s administration should institute decisive measures that the serious issue of diplomats negotiating which missions to be assigned should be halted; they should be posted to counties by those with the appointing powers, the president and the foreign minister.
This was one of the major weaknesses of the former Sirleaf’s regime. It was common for these so-called influential diplomats to lobby for posting to “prestigious” diplomatic missions in Europe, Asia, America and multilateral organizations, as greater numbers were not willing to be posted to African missions, especially the underdeveloped ones, while the stayed of a diplomat at one mission in most instances rendered the diplomat or Foreign Service officer inefficient.
Can this administration regularly rotate diplomats every four years, just as hundreds of states continue managed well. For example, nowadays most of the countries from Africa to America and Asia to Europe and South America to Meddle East regularly rotate diplomats; after four years at one diplomatic mission, the individual is brought home to render service at the foreign ministry while his successor move to replace the person; this strategic is intended to ensure effectiveness and not complacency.
While another concern is the existence of too many diplomatic missions abroad, which place a heavy financial burden on the scarce resources of this poor country Liberia, decisively, maintaining more contacts with non-African states. Studies have shown that Washington, Paris, London or Beijing wouldn’t post diplomats to countries of their choice or where diplomats do not have command over the language of the host state or uninformed diplomats to countries of strategic importance in a particular region or continent.
Considering Liberia’s current economic burden and scarce resources, President Weah need to establish a core group of financial, legal, foreign policy and diplomatic experts and political connoisseurs to review the past regime action to maintain existence of too many embassies and diplomatic missions in one region while the country has no embassy or diplomatic mission in other region or continents. For instance, the existed several missions in the Middle East countries including Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, while Liberia has no diplomatic missions or embassy in South America, Central America, Australia, Scandinavia and Oceania regions.
But considering Liberia’s present poor economic situation, economic diplomacy should be given greater priority in our international relations with powerful states and government since economic diplomacy is now key factor in the development of contemporary international politics. It is clear that economic and commercial interests, particularly those related to investment, trade , exports, protection and assistance could be essential aspects of the diplomatic activities of a considerable number of countries.
In the modern world, the issues of economic interests, trade, protection of nationals, and security have become much more difficult, with major challenges affecting the practices of diplomacy being influenced by major actors and powerful states, and some time the continued experiment of global, continental and regional groupings. Other factors such as bad political decisions in domestic politics, economic growth, and technological development
About the Author: Josephus Moses Gbala-hinnih Gray, PhD is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Liberia Graduate Studies Program. He is a native born Liberian, hails from the Southeastern village of Kayken Chiefdom in Barclayville, Grand Kru County. He is an author, professor, diplomat and scholar with a wealth of rich credentials. He has authored two books, published Two Graduate Studies Theses and a 600-page Doctoral Dissertation on the theme: “Geopolitics of African Oil and Energy: China and America New Strategic Interests in Africa”. He has written extensively and published over 60 articles on variety of contemporary issues. He can be contacted at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Josephus M. Gray