Economic hardship like the ones that gave birth to democracy in America, Great Britain, France and the European Union is knocking at Liberia’s door. Widespread poverty under Harvard Economist, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf forced hundreds of Liberian traders to desert their businesses and organize a three-day strike demanding lower taxes and tariffs. If the marketers aim at terminating the source of the economic hardships and not the symptoms, they are the leaders and mothers who will go down in history as the ones who give birth to true democracy in Liberia.
I whole heartedly support the Liberian business community. However, their petition and solution seeking only lowering of taxes and tariffs cannot cure the cancer that created the problem. In fact, the excessive salaries and benefits of Liberian politicians are clearly the problem because they rob citizens in the poverty-stricken country. The high tariffs and taxes are only the symptoms.
The system of governance in Liberia is broken and corrupt to the core because politicians enter public service only to enrich themselves, not to serve the public.
Every mansion our representatives and ministers build robs Liberian youths of libraries and better schools. The thousands of dollars they consume in allowances to travel overseas rob nurses of life saving medical equipment, thus forcing our Lawmakers to seek medical care in Ghana. Their 500-gallon gas slips and new cars have robbed people in Lofa, Nimba and southeastern Liberia of paved roads for 170 years. It’s not just the marketers’ problems.
To fix this problem, Liberia doesn’t need to wait for elections in October or a new politician to steer the corrupt system designed by the political elites to get rich. Liberia needs a new system designed by ordinary people like the marketers from Red Light.
With the current broken and corrupt system, elections cannot change Liberia. 170 years of elections in Liberia’s corrupt system yielded nothing. For nearly 12 years, a very smart president with an economics degree from one of the best universities in the world decided to fix Liberia. She employed the best educated politicians and paid them more money than salaries of public servants in America, the richest nation on earth. Her team fielded three competing currencies in the market. They raised taxes, increased tariffs on imported goods, demanded US dollars from citizens who earn Liberian dollars and arbitrarily changed 25 percent of US dollars from struggling families. Still, people are crying from hardships.
Without democracy, we can lower taxes, lower tariffs and the problem continues unabated because the cancer of the old corrupt and broken system is still intact:
Without democracy, politicians elected to serve the public will continue to build their mansions with public funds. With a $555 million budget, they make higher salaries than American congressmen and even the President of the United States of America, with $4.2 trillion-dollar FY-2017 budget.
The international partners will continue to give foreign aid and loans to Liberian politicians who will continue to build more mansions at home and abroad, leaving huge debts that crush future generations.
Elections will continue to be won just as it has been since 1847. Politicians who have enriched themselves in the past as senators and vice presidents will continue to rule.
The Liberian marketers’ action is similar to how democracy was born when ordinary Americans demanded freedom from higher taxes imposed by the King; French citizens demanded freedom after higher taxes were imposed on June 29, 1789; the European Union in November 1993.
Still, some may argue that Liberian marketers are not educated enough to lead democratic change. The truth is democracy is about the will of a human being, not about one’s grade sheet. If the rule of highly educated people from Europe and America brought democratic solutions, colonialism would have solved Africa’s problems. European imperialists like Rhodes were highly educated – even so, colonialism failed.
The Liberian business community must escalate their demands from the symptoms of high taxes to a demand for participatory democracy, where the voters who elect also set the salaries of their public servants. All Liberian citizens must join the peaceful actions until the political elites yield to democracy.
The marketers, not the AU, EU or USA took the first bold step toward sustainable development and democracy.
Article I of the Liberian Constitution is clear on who is the master and the servant.
If the political elites were smart, they wouldn’t have waited for marketers to tell them what to do. They are servants. Jesus said. “The servants cannot be greater than the master.” If citizens do not join the marketers to treat elected officials as servants, these servants won’t know what to do with our country.
Finally, the prophecy of Fredrick Douglass is the best reason for all Liberians to join the marketers: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”