Executive Governor Milton Weeks of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) last week reassured an important international forum of CBL’s continued commitment to “financial inclusion” among the Liberian people.
He gave this reassurance in Nadi, Fiji, a tiny island state in the Pacific Ocean, when he participated in the eighth Global Forum of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFL). The forum was held under the theme “Building the Pillars of Sustainable Inclusion.”
This yearly global policy forum, according to a CBL release, highlighted global efforts in promoting financial inclusion as “a cardinal pillar of inclusive economic growth and development.”
The forum recognized the importance of financial inclusion as a key tool for sustainable development as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Addis Ababa Acting Agenda on Financial Development (AAAFD). “Of the 17 goals,” said the CBL release, seven give specific recognition to financial inclusion as “a powerful enabler of the development process.”
CBL Governor Weeks reemphasized the Bank’s commitment to private financial inclusion when he met Alfred Hannig, External Director of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion. Weeks told Hannig that financial inclusion was “one of the key pillars of CBL’s new strategic plan.”
We believe we are sure that Governor Weeks, who returned to his country after spending nearly two decades in high level positions in international banking, notably in Nigeria and South Africa, Africa’s two largest economies, was not merely re-echoing Hamlet’s “Words, words, words.”
This business of financial inclusion is the most serious problem in Liberia. Why? Because you only have to look around Monrovia and you will see that there is anything but financial inclusion here. The entire economy is in the hands of foreigners, especially Lebanese businessmen. These people do not hold a single position in government, but that does not matter at all. Why? Because they control everything else. They call the shots almost everywhere—in the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
Many Lebanese “boys,” meaning insignificant employees working for big companies, boast to poor, hapless Liberians, whom they abuse and mistreat, “You can carry me anywhere and nothing will come out of it. We have the Liberian government in our pockets!”
Have they not? We all remember what happened to the Lebanese rapists and human traffickers convicted two years ago by Liberian courts. But after spending a few weeks in jail they were summarily released by Criminal ‘C’ Court Judge Ceanne Clinton Johnson. They were immediately sent back to Lebanon, on vacation!
When later the courts ordered the ring leader, Abbas El Debes, rearrested to face trial, the case was transferred to a hideaway court in Bomi, where the judge threw it out because he claimed that the government prosecutors “had no license to practice law in Liberia!” All of this has, unfortunately, happened under the watch of Chief Justice Francis Korpkor and his four Associate Justices.
Earlier this year, a multi-million-dollar contract was awarded to the Lebanese-owned Mamba Point Hotel, and another Lebanese construction company to undertake hotel management and construction at the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant. In a minor way they also involved a Liberian architectural firm to join in the deal. The main problem is that the foreigners know Liberia: they know that Liberian officials will not complain if the lion’s share of any contract is given to foreigners.
Liberian women, Liberian hoteliers, we are sorry for you! Our women are the best cooks in West Africa, yet you were not considered to organize catering to feed the hydro workers. Was there really no Liberian-owned construction firm to undertake that work? Why had the contract been combined— architectural, catering and construction? Only by design, to ensure that it was given to foreign contractors, who got the lion’s share of the loot. The foreigners who drew up the contract said, “Don’t worry, the Liberians WILL NOT complain!”
Where, Governor Weeks, is the financial inclusion? Your government always awards the most lucrative contracts to foreigners to make tons of money and ship it out to rebuild war-torn Lebanon. And what of war-torn Liberia? They can wait and bask in their poverty.
The Executive Governor, like his predecessor, Dr. J. Mills Jones, has a tough task on his hands, proving to their government and to the great economist and United Nations Development expert, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that the ONLY way forward in Liberia is financial inclusion.
Governor Weeks must now show us not only the details of CBL’s “strategic plan” to enhance financial inclusion in Liberia, but, in addition, HOW it can and will be achieved.
Good luck, Milton! We at the Daily Observer are here to encourage and back you and your team, just as we did J. Mills Jones.