LIBERIA FIRST

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The Global Organization for a Better and Accountable Liberia (GLOBAL) founded over two years ago by a group of Liberians in the Diaspora is an organization that leverages research, analyzes issues, and performs advocacy concerning social policy, political and economic development strategy, education, healthcare, technology, innovation, management, and leadership. The central tenet is to help Liberia transition from a poor, corrupt, undermanaged and underdeveloped society to a middle income economy that is competent, accountable, and high-performing. GLOBAL core principles are centered on making a difference and creating value for the Liberian people.

As Barbara Mikulski, a current United States senator from the State of Maryland is quoted as saying: “Each one of us can make a difference. Together we make change.”

Making a difference from a visionary leadership perspective is about stimulating dreams, ideals and hopes about the Liberia we all like to see. From a GLOBAL perspective making a difference is doing the following:

A. Putting people first. Liberian people should be considered front and foremost of any development efforts. This means building community, creating opportunity and demanding responsibility. Investments must be people-centered and immediate impact created that benefit the people such as access to good paying jobs, low levels of unemployment, and improved wages to benefit everyone.

B. Respecting our laws. Liberia has no shortage of laws. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitution must be enforced. No one should be above the law. The culture of impunity must cease. We are aware that respecting the laws does not always entail complying with it as argued by Ivan Hoffman. It means doing something positive rather than negative (Hoffman, n.d.).

C. Being patriotic. Patriotism has become such a confused term in Liberia. Being patriotic is defined as enthusiastic support for one’s country. Today, the concept has been linked to sacrifice. The negative implication is that sacrifices have killed the country because of greed by those who think they are its savior, especially some of our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora who return home. Patriotism has also been confused with loyalty. While it is honorable to show loyalty to one’s leader, blind loyalty for one’s leader in the face of corruption, inefficiency, ineptitude, impunity, selective justice, and indifference to the suffering of the mass of the people is not patriotism. Think about the lives shattered, the parents who cannot afford to send their children to school, and the child who dies because of poor access to healthcare. The Liberian people deserve better. We can argue, debate, and differ but we must reconcile to build Liberia and move our country forward.

As Robert Louis Stevenson wrote “To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life.” For too long our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers have been dealt an unfair hand. Wealth inequality exists in all areas of the country. The failed economic model of leveraging concession agreements as the primary mode of economic development has not created value but served as a channel for personal gains. Thus, the impact in terms of poverty has been tragic. In essence, such economic policies have benefitted the influential and elites on the backs of the poor.

Indeed, the socio-economic and psychological cost is alarming. The effects on the youth population have been disastrous and particularly harmful in terms of lack of meaningful education and gainful employment, hopelessness, and precipitous increase in the crime rate. The youths are Liberia’s future. They must not be neglected. Let us create the incentives for young men to choose education and entrepreneurship over lawlessness and crime; for our young women to choose education over prostitution and hopelessness.

Indeed, all of this cannot happen unless there is economic growth that benefits everyone. A good way to start is with the strategy of growth based transformation. That is, identifying a unique national potential that can be leveraged. If you ask any
Liberian what the country is good at, providing an answer will be difficult. Is it Agriculture? Is it the Service Industry? What is it? Identifying a nationalized capability will allow Liberia to reinvent itself and strengthen its image globally. For example, India has developed enormously because of dynamic capabilities in Science and Technology. The norm of leveraging foreign aid has not worked. It only increases dependency on others and makes Liberia a benefit seeking society.

The mere idea that a country that gained its independence in 1847 with billions of dollars invested is still ranked one of four poorest countries in the world (See Global Finance Magazine, GFM, 2015) is infamy and beyond understanding. The root causes are corruption, lack of capacity, distortion, personal gains, and poor leadership. The problem has magnified itself in an overburdened healthcare delivery system for one of Africa’s oldest democracies.

Similarly, the educational system is listed as one of the worst in the world. The president has earlier described it a mess. While it is true that the educational system may have been impacted by a prolong period of unrest, taking ten years to develop and articulate a clear strategy is troubling. It is a no brainer that expanding access to, and improving the quality of schooling should be a national imperative. Yet, most ideas proposed are political rhetoric and imprudent reactions without viable and concrete solutions. Under this administration, Liberia has produced more ‘PEM-PEM’ (motorcycle drivers) than engineers, teachers, and doctors.

Equally important, this current government has collected over $1 billion in tax revenues, nonetheless, the impact of monies collected are not felt by a larger segment of the Liberian people. Balanced against more than $3 billion dollars of debt relief, this could have put Liberia on a sustainable development trajectory. Notwithstanding, there are limited evidence tax revenues collected have resulted in improved services. Since a post war public debt low of $511 million in June 2011, the country has increased borrowing and total public debt has increased to $831 Million U.S. dollars as of March 2015 with arguably limited tangible results.

Obviously, GLOBAL recognizes and is grateful for the absence of instability Liberia enjoys today. Thanks to the current administration and the international community for the support. However, the atmosphere of true peace cannot exist if the fundamentals of genuine reform and reconciliation are not addressed. For example, the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRC) was a proposed fix to the armed, sadistic, and vicious conflicts; crimes against humanity; and economic exploitation that plagued Liberia for a long time. The recommendations from this work have not been implemented. Unless this report is exhausted, fixing Liberia remains an elusive and difficult task. Therefore we call on the President to ensure her letter to the
Legislature request the implementation of a war crimes court and full implementation of the TRC recommendations is not a legacy gambit but a true effort to initiate the peace and reconciliation process that have been stagnated for so long.

Unquestionably, corruption is at an all time high. Even the current president characterized it as public enemy number one and most recently as a “vampire,” sucking the blood of the nation. Equally important, illicit financial flows (IFFs) are disturbing.

Documented evidence in a June 2015 report by the Global Financial Integrity (GFI) asserted that IFF’s out of Liberia equates to 257.4 % of its total tax revenue, compared with an estimated 1.2% in Ethiopia (GFI, 2015). The impact of unlawful financial outflows of capital on the poorest societies of the world is well documented. It is common knowledge and an undisputed fact that a direct correlation exists between less domestic spending and the illegal outflow of money.

GLOBAL observes that what is characterized as good governance is theoretical and lacks well-defined strategy for implementation and is not being practiced. In order to institute effective governance, there must be enforcement mechanisms and established metrics to measure the quality of performance of public corporations, government ministries, and agencies. The purpose of a governance structure is to ensure legal, ethical, and functional responsibilities through adequate governance policy development and control. Good governance and the rule of law are opposite sides of the same coin. It is difficult to implement good governance where there is a culture of impunity. For example, appropriate measures should be introduced to address the results of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) reports. Public Corporations should be accountable to the people. Financial controls such as Financial Statement, Balance Sheets, and Statements of Cash Flows should be public instruments to inform the people of the effective use of their resources.

This is why 2017 electoral process is the “Tipping Point” for the right leadership in Liberia. The ‘status quo’ has not worked and never will. We believe that the right leaders are those who can articulate a clear vision for the country; leaders who are creative, innovative and willing to think ‘out of the box’. This type of leadership will do well for the country. The leadership style practiced by this current administration and the ones that preceded it has done very minimal to drive substantive development. Liberians owe it to themselves to not slip-up this time around. It is paramount that the right leader is selected not based on tribal origin or religious affiliation. It is no longer about what an administration can do for me. There is no security in wealth acquired on the backs of the people in an environment of massive impoverishment. “No man can rise above the condition of his people (Louise Farrakhan”). Be mindful of our history. Less than 20 years of induced anarchy completely wiped out a society which by any standard was a paradise for a few yet sustained on inequality, injustice and state sanctioned abuse of the poor. Our collective advancement is the protector of our security. Learning from our history, if we must survive and prosper as a 21st century nation, we must focus on “What is in the best interest of all Liberians?”

The discourse of the Liberia we want to see should start now. The issues listed here are just the tip of the iceberg – but critical challenges needing resolution for a BETTER LIBERIA. If leaders in Liberia want to make a difference and create true and lasting value, then, addressing the concerns outlined in this document should be their targets. The path of a good speech with no outcomes has not worked. Thus, it is time to analyze and vet those elected to serve. Maintaining the ‘status quo’ is a panacea for another civil unrest that will destroy the gains made in 10 years of relative peace.

In conclusion, GLOBAL welcomes the formation of Liberian groups focused on creating and influencing effective policies that will reduce the level of poverty and corruption whileelevating the standard of living of our people. We also support the proliferation of more public civil society organizations that share GLOBAL’s dreams and aspirations of a “BETTER AND PROSPERIOUS LIBERIA!” We encourage all patriotic Liberians to begin to show effective and efficient leadership in all that they do.

“In unity success is sure. With God above our rights to prove, we will over all prevail.”

We welcome everyone encouraged by these statements to join GLOBAL and join the drive at http://www.global-lr.org

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel

Journal from: GLOBAL Organization for a Better and Accountable Liberia (GLOBAL)

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