Former Central Bank Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones has called on Liberians to welcome the train, identified as the Movement for Economic Empowerment that has already left the station and is on its way filled with hope, endurance, justice, opportunity, unity and inclusiveness.
Speaking at the induction ceremony of the Cuttington University Students Union last weekend, Dr. Jones said “Change is coming and I have a simple appeal to Liberians: Get on board.”
The man described as “poverty doctor,” told a large body of students “You don’t need any baggage, only a ticket of patriotism written on a paper called Liberia,” to get on board and be part of the movement.
He spoke about a better tomorrow from God, “If only we are prepared to pursue it with the right leadership; a leadership that will effectively lead and motivate us, work to create an enabling environment for all Liberians and will challenge us to climb the ladder of success and prosperity.”
Dr. Jones said Liberians need a leadership that will work tirelessly to ensure that Liberians have their basic needs met after 169 years as an independent nation that must have better healthcare, safe drinking water, improved access to electricity, a good educational system, and the opportunity to continuously raise their standard of living.
“That’s what we mean when we talk about the new Liberia, a nation on the path of inclusive development which is within our grasp and the future of our children,” he stated.
Describing 2017 as another critical hour of decision, Dr. Jones said “It is not about who steps into the shoes of the presidency; but about the type of leadership we want at the helm of the nation.”
He said it matters for a country that for so long seems unable to extricate itself from the scourge of widespread poverty and underdevelopment. “Since independence we have had our share of the leadership letdown, leadership that had eyes but did not see, ears but did not hear, leadership charged with the primary responsibility to care for the people but did not care much.”
Dr. Jones said around the world people are tired of the same-old politicians, and while commending United States President-elect Donald Trump, who defied conventional wisdom and got elected without the blessing of the status quo, said it is clear that “When you speak to the needs of the poor and act accordingly, the people will listen.”
He explained at least five important areas that his administration, if elected, would work to complete the change he said is coming. Firstly, Dr. Jones said Liberia spends US$200m annually on the importation of rice and technology, which should change as Liberia has the climate to become self-sufficient in food.
Secondly, he said his administration will ensure that over 3,000 carpenters are mobilized to produce furniture and other products from Liberian wood, including rubber wood, at reasonable cost, along with jobs and its multiplier effects of generating and saving foreign exchange for the country.
Thirdly, Dr. Jones said his administration will invest in both the public and private sectors to provide low cost housing for the people, and this comes with direct and indirect job creation.
Fourthly, he said research has indicated that access to finance is critical for building a domestic entrepreneurial class and while the so-called free market is unlikely to bring about the desired allocation of financing, Liberians can no longer wait; and so his administration will give priority to financial inclusion and expand access to finance for Liberian businesses, including ‘little businesses’ in rural areas.
The final area of change, he said, is strengthening the National Investment Commission (NIC) by changing it into a Private Sector Development Authority that would revise investment incentives and broaden beneficiaries. “Attention should also be given to policies that will encourage Liberians in the
Diaspora to invest in the country including, possibly, through Diaspora Bonds.”
Dr. Jones also mentioned mobilizing domestic resources to improve the country’s financial landscape, along with investment in infrastructure and prioritizing the original mandate of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).
“We want to be clear that a vibrant, inclusive and diversified economy is key to stability and to creating conditions for Liberia being at peace with itself. And when it comes to the economy, Liberia needs a leadership that is prepared to hit the ground running,” Dr. Jones said, adding that “Voting is the weapon to bring the change that is in our interest and the interest of the country.” Therefore, he wants Liberians to “register to vote and then go to the polls on Election Day. Don’t vote for tribe, or county, or just for party, but for the person who has shown you that they care for you and for our country, Liberia.”