Independent Senatorial aspirant Miatta Fahnbulleh has said that the new “development strategy” in the form of Social Development Fund (SDF) initiated by the government of Liberia and concessionaires operating in the country are only meant to appease Liberians while the country’s natural resources are plundered and transported overseas.
Aspirant Fahnbulleh indicated that Liberians do not need Social Development Funds before they can feel the impact of development in their counties and communities, if only what are required for one to operate in a particular concessional area are duly given.
Social development funds are financial assistance provided especially by concessionaires to the communities where they operate for small-scale public investments. They are targeted at meeting the needs of poor and vulnerable communities.
Social Funds also contribute to social capital and development at the local level.
In many cases they serve as innovators and demonstrators of new methods of decentralized participatory decision management, and accountability that may be adopted for broader application by public sector organizations.
But the Montserrado County aspirant indicated that the case in Liberia is exploitative as many of the concessionaires and their collaborators in government walk away with huge profits, to the detriment of the Liberian people, specifically those from whose areas the natural resources are extracted.
“We don’t need their social development funds, which are only meant to appease the Liberian people while the concessionaires or companies, many of whom are brought in the country by influential government officials, walk away with good deals while few government officials, instead of the masses, benefit substantially,” Ms. Fahnbulleh noted.
She made these remarks at a debate organized by the Liberia Media Initiative, commonly known as “the Dialogue”, at the Nyehn Town Hall in Todee district, Montserrado County. Three of the seven candidates of the Montserrado County “hot seat” participated in the event. The other two candidates were Christopher Z. Neyor and Nathaniel Blama with John Kollie serving as the usual moderator.
Candidate Fahnbulleh’s statement was prompted by an issue raised by a resident of the township that they do not benefit anything from China Union, an iron ore mining company operating in Bong County, though the train track that the company is using to convey its ore to the Free Port of Monrovia passes through their area.
The concerned resident indicated that though the township is contributing to the operations of the company, and at times residents are even killed by trains transporting the iron ore, they are yet to benefit anything.
He also complained of poor living conditions in spite of such a huge investments operated by a multi-billion company which operates so close by. He however inquired as to what any of the candidates would do for the people of Todee in that regard if he/she is elected.
“Let our government strike good deals with concessionaires. We don’t want their social development money. What we want is for them give us what belongs to us, our just benefit and when this is done, we can carry on our development,” Ms. Fahnbulleh declared.
“We can build the roads, the schools for the children, the health facilities for our pregnant women, children and men. But they are never willing to this so they appease us with little or nothing terming it as social development funds while they are walking out of this country richer, and leaving us poorer.”
She was also hesitant that when the just benefits where to be provided, if government would sincerely carryout these developments.
Meanwhile, the veteran Liberian musician indicated that since the formation of the Liberian state, the country has always been in the hands of evil leaders.
“When good men stand there and do nothing, evil men always take control and this has always been our problem in this country. Those impoverished villages that I saw on my way here have been there over 100 years. They are the same year in year out without improvement. Our leaders have forgotten our people.
She noted that if people say that the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf led government has failed, then the national legislature should be held responsible to a larger extent for the failure.
“Why should you take a brown envelop to confirm a presidential nominee or before you ratify a concession agreement? You don’t have to do that as a patriotic and responsible lawmaker, but this has been the status quo in our national legislature and we must change this if our country is to progress,” aspirant Fahnbulleh, who is popularly known as Aunty Miatta, said.
She also disclosed that upon the election of President Sirleaf in 2005, she (Fahnbulleh) told the Liberian President that she should appoint all women cabinet ministers, but the Liberian leader refused.
“This is some of the things we were foreseeing that if the government fails they will tell us that we gave you women the chance and you have failed.