The Liberian economy has been in the hands of foreigners, especially the Lebanese and Indians, since President William V. S. Tubman made his Open Door Policy declaration in 1944.
Foreigners, with the support and backing of successive governments, have since dominated the economy thereby keeping the Liberian masses helpless and perpetually impoverished. But the Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader, Mr. Alexander Cummings, says the status quo has to change if the masses have to be lifted out of their precarious living conditions.
The Open Door Policy was a bid to attract foreign capital from many sources for a wide range of projects that would allow the economy to become more diversified. However many believe that for Tubman, that economic strategy was a device for accomplishing political aims—a situation that is still hampering the development of the country
Liberians need to be rescued from the perennial problems of being slaves and beggars in their own country as Lebanese and Indians amass wealth and Mr. Cummings says an elected ANC under him would work to change that age old suppression.
Mr. Cummings was responding to reporters’ questions during an exclusive interview at the Daily Observer office near ELWA Junction.
“One of the biggest businesses as a sector in Liberia today is the import-export business. We import everything we consume: rice, furniture, shoes, clothes and everything and this is where the foreigners are dominating. (This is) something Liberians can do that does not even require a college degree, but the space has not been created for them,” Cummings observed, adding that the Liberianization Policy will be a mantra for an elected ANC.
The ANC political leader argued that the Import-Export Business is not rocket science and Liberians can do it. “Liberians can do import-export business, (but) we have to give them access to the financing, we have to give them access to build the appropriate relationships with the people they will take these goods from, but we have to hold them accountable so that we don’t have shortages and (poor) quality of stuff they import,” he maintained.
He said the government must put certain demands on Liberians who will be involved in the business. “We can say we will help you get in business, but you must employ your fellow Liberians and give them good wages. You must also invest back in their communities and you can make a profit and should make a profit. We have to do that,” he insisted.
So until we can start manufacturing, and minimize importation, Cummings said Liberians need to control that sector of the economy and government needs to be a part of that happening.
This is not something that will happen overnight, he said, but it can change. “We need to do that and we need to own the economy, although there will be hiccups along the way as we make that transition.”
He said Liberians need to focus on entrepreneurship, and “We as a government, will encourage and facilitate Liberians going into businesses.”
He observed that most of the people who are in business, especially the Import-export business, do not have a high school education. “So the question is why can’t we facilitate and encourage Liberians to venture into that business? Until we can do it ourselves nobody will do it for us,” he emphasized.
“We are resolved to encourage that and support that happening and this could be one of the strongest parts of the change process,” declared Cummings.
He said an ANC government would highly consider the question of Liberianization. “This is something we need to strongly support.”
“We will make choices and focus on priorities and in some places we might not just get there and people will be upset, but we have to make choices as we cannot do it all at once. I also say that we can’t change Liberia overnight and it is going to take a while,” admonished Cummings.
He said Liberians need to focus on what is feasible or practically available to improve its development and should stop thinking about those things that will be difficult to do. He said for example, “We cannot think about manufacturing unless you can produce power and water massively at a low cost because that is what is required.”
Mr. Cummings recalled that “somebody produced a brochure which said we are going to manufacture steel in Liberia from iron ore. And I said not unless you have the power to support the industry because steel consumes a lot of power and water to cool the thermals. So let us not even talk about it because it is a fallacy.”
He said he feels Liberians have an idealized notion of where they actually are and the ANC will design programs for idealized notions.
Mr. Cummings is convinced that as long as the country’s economy is in the hands of foreigners, Liberians will remain poor. “The power is in the business sector and if somebody else is controlling that sector than we are at threat. How can we change it because if we don’t change it, I agree with you, we will remain poor and being poor is a threat to the country’s peace and security,” declared Mr. Cummings.