Liberians are losing their country to foreigners faster and more irrecoverably than ever before, Daily Observer publisher, Dr. Kenneth Y. Best, told Cuttington University graduates last Saturday.
He warned that the economy is continually being taken over completely by foreigners, who are leaving Liberians impoverished, powerless and vulnerable, existing at the mercy of aliens.
If nothing is done by the government and people to reverse the current trends,” he warned, “the country’s prime property and most of its land will be leased to foreigners, and we will continue to find ourselves tenants in our own town, in search of places to live, farm and do business.”
To put an end to this “dangerous” state of affairs, he said, “Liberians must awake and start working conscientiously, patriotically, smartly and hard to take their country back; otherwise, we will be sowing the seeds of more trouble.”
Dr. Best gave these warnings over the weekend when he delivered the 53rd Commencement Convocation of the Cuttington University in Suakoko, near Gbarnga, Bong County. He spoke on the theme: “Redeeming Liberia for Liberians.”
He observed that some of Liberia’s leading families, as well as not so prominent ones, are leasing their prime properties to foreign business people for 30 to 60 years, mortgaging the future of their posterity for pittance.
“Many of the nation’s assets, including huge tracts of agricultural land, petroleum blocks and mineral deposits, are being assigned to foreign conglomerates with no Liberian participation,” Dr. Best observed.
“In any country around the world,” he said, “these are among their most treasured assets. If the people are not partakers in the benefits of these assets, such countries and peoples are doomed to poverty and inevitable conflict.”
Dr. Best, therefore, called on the Liberian Government to immediately reverse this “disturbing and dangerous trend,” and ensure that the Liberian people take substantial ownership in the nation’s land, mineral, petroleum and other assets.
He further suggested that in order to bring Liberians into the money economy and establish a strong Liberian middle class, every company that is investing in Liberia, from merchandize trading to real estate and industrial enterprises should have at least one “substantive and credible” Liberian partner.
Dr. Best cautioned that the World Bank (WB) and other international financial institutions may advise against this policy, “but Liberians must never forget that when most other African nations were still colonized, Liberia was one of the signatories to the creation of the Brettenwood Institutions, the WB, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).”
“Yet Even in the midst of our agricultural, mineral and now petroleum wealth, Liberia and Liberians are still among the poorest nations and peoples on earth.” The World Bank and IMF need to ask themselves “how come,” the Commencement Speaker insisted.
“The time has come for Liberia as a sovereign nation to make her own decisions about her future and the economic and financial integrity, wellbeing, peace and stability of her people.
“We cannot, and must not continue to allow foreigners to come here with nothing and become rich off our resources, while our people remain perpetually poor, deprived and powerless in their own rich country,” Dr. Best warned.
He then put to the Cuttington grads this question: Who benefitted from the 15,000 highly paid multinational peacekeepers that were assigned to Liberia over the past 11 years, since in 2003? Were the beneficiaries Liberians?” The graduates responded with a resounding “No!”
“You are right,” the speaker told them. “It was foreign business people, who sold UNMIL and other international entities and personnel not only the goods and services, but also housed them in buildings these foreign business people rushed to build on the very lands they had leased from Liberian families and churches.”
But Best, noticed, “many of the families and churches from whom the foreigners leased the lands had enough assets to go themselves to the banks and borrow the money to put up these buildings, but they lacked the vision, creative energy and patriotism to do so.”
He called on the Liberian government to make it mandatory that every foreign business person doing business in Liberia worth US$50,000 and above should have at least one credible Liberian partner. That is one sure way of economically and financially empowering Liberians. But the speaker warned Liberians who come into partnership with foreigners must be honest, dependable, reliable, hardworking and productive, for the good of the business and the economy.
CU’s 53rd Commencement Convocation witnessed the graduation of over 500 students. Of that number, 44 obtained the Master’s degree in Business Administration/Finance; 22 in Business Administration/Management; 12 received the MBA in Accounting; and one earned the MBA in Economics. Fifteen earned Master’s degrees in Public Administration/Public Sector (M.P.A.), while in 38 took the Master’s degree in Public Health/Community Health (M.P.H.); and 36 in Public Health/Epidemiology.
One graduated with a degree in Nursing Administration and one in Nursing Education. Eleven obtained the Master’s degree in Health Care Policy and Management (MPH); and nine persons in Educational Administration and Supervision; one in Higher Education; three in Theology.
From the undergraduate program, 324 students obtained their Bachelor’s degrees in different areas of studies. Twenty-four earned degrees in Public Administration; 16 in Economics; 25 received the Bachelor’s in Accounting; 13 in Business Administration/Management; 18 in Sociology; three in Peace and Development.
Eight received the Bachelor of Arts in Education; 147 earned Bachelor of Science degrees in Nursing; 61 in Agriculture; one in Integrated Development Studies; while two persons received the B.A. in Theology.
Thirty-four (34) earned B.Sc. degrees in Biology; six in Chemistry; while 15 obtained Advanced Certificates in Peace Studies.
As for Cuttington’s Community College in Kakata, Margibi County, 31 received the Associate of Arts degree. Seven were awarded the Associate Arts degree in Public Administration; eight in Accounting; two in Sociology; two in Education; seven in Nursing; four in Agriculture; and one in Biology.
Eight others obtained postgraduates diplomas in Education (PGDE), while 15 obtained the Advanced Certificate in Peace Studies; 31 students from the junior college in Kakata, Margibi County also graduated with Associate degrees in other Nursing and other disciplines.
Cutting University, Best's alma mater, also conferred upon him an honorary doctorate degree at its 53rd commencement, where he served as guest speaker.