For nearly eight decades Liberian leaders have highly welcomed and commended foreign businesspeople for their investments in Liberia. In extending that welcome and commendation during that entire period, which is nearly a century, our leaders have ignored the fact that each time they have done this, they have never thought of what they were really doing.
And what was that? The Liberian leaders were further enriching foreign businesspeople and creating a powerful foreign middleclass, putting them totally in charge of the Liberian economy. Last Thursday’s opening of Liberia’s newest resort, the Boulevard Hotel owned by yet another Lebanese businessman, is no exception. Both President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Vice President Joseph N. Boakai were dutifully in attendance to do the honors, along with an array of other government officials.
This new hotel further accentuates the dominance of foreigners in the country’s hotel business industry, as they hold the same sway over most other commercial enterprises in Liberia.
Have our leaders, when they are catering, in high profile fashion, to these foreign businesspeople, ever thought of their fellow Liberians? Probably NEVER! One wonders how our Liberian leaders can feel so comfortable, so good, so pleased giving more and more power to foreign businesspeople, leaving their fellow Liberians totally excluded from our own economy!
Our fellow Africans—especially Nigerians, Ghanaians—must be wondering what kind of people are these Liberians—surrendering EVERYTHING in their country, including their entire economy, into the hands of foreigners and leaving their own Liberians pitifully poor and powerless. How is it possible, our African compatriots must be wondering, that
Liberian leaders will allow foreign businesspeople to engage in every major business in the country WITHOUT ANY LIBERIAN PARTICIPATION?
This newspaper has, since our beginning in 1981, pleaded with successive Liberian administrations to change this dismal (depressing, miserable) status quo because it is a threat to our peace. And the Ellen administration, in power for the past 11 years, has done nothing to address this most dangerous scenario.
Did Ellen—or any other Liberian official—learn anything from Counselor Varney Sherman’s 2013 Independence Day Oration when he said that the one thing, more than ethnicity or anything else, that caused the Liberian civil war was poverty?
Apparently not. Vice President Boakai commended the United Methodist Church for giving away to foreigners a good portion of its prime property to build a structure and a business in which the church perhaps has absolutely no participation! The new Boulevard Hotel is yet a classic example. That property was set aside for the Methodist Girls Hostel, where many outstanding Liberian women got their foundation.
There is only one thing the Daily Observer can do now. That is to lay the case at the feet of two leading Liberian officials whose portfolios are at the center of our economy. These are Finance Minister Boima Kamara and Central Bank Governor Milton Weeks. What can these two officials do? A lot, we think.
First, we call on Messrs. Kamara and Weeks to consider very seriously the marginalization of Liberians from the Liberian economy and DO something to address this malaise, which borders on national tragedy.
Second, these two officials—Finance Minister Kamara and CBL Executive Governor Weeks—should engineer a crash course program to train Liberian entrepreneurs at all levels—primary, secondary and college institutions. In addition, the two officials should raise the financial resources to help get Liberians into business. We are not talking about “consultancies.” We are talking of opening shops—grocery shops, building material stores, cabinet making, carpentry, plumbing, electrical, electronic, cell phone stores, and tourism businesses, etc.
Thirdly, these two officials, Finance Minister Kamara and CBL Executive Governor Weeks, should soberly and seriously consider drafting legislation that will make it mandatory for foreign business enterprises—US$50,000 and above—to secure serious Liberian partners.
We hope, pray and trust that these two Liberian officials—Finance Minister Kamara and CBL Executive Governor Weeks—will take seriously these suggestions, in a bold, determined and patriotic attempt to save Liberia from another conflict by empowering our people economically. We know of nothing more important than this that these two most senior economic and financial Liberian managers have to do. Others, who have held these top economic and financial positions, have done their work and departed and left their fellow Liberians in the exact same desperate and pitiful position—marginalized and poor.
Finance Minister Kamara and CBL Governor Weeks, please make this all important difference happen, and do so without further delay.