Thanks, Ambassador Elder, For Your Stance; But No To IMF Subservience!

8
548

The attention of the Daily Observer is drawn to the article carried in its May 9, 2019 edition headlined, “U.S. Challenges Weah to Tackle Graft, Social Vices”. According to Daily Observer reporter, Joaquin Sendolo, United States Ambassador Christine Elder, speaking at a program commemorating the 243rd anniversary of the United States independence, observed that unlike before when the country had resilient institutions that could enable it to confront difficult challenges, the country now faces more challenges than before.

Among those challenges she singled out was corruption. She said, “the time is now to reverse corruption and its contagious and corrosive effects.” Amongst other things, she called on the Liberian government to remain loyal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lay the groundwork for economic productivity and prosperity.

The Ambassador’s comments have come at a time when the nation is gripped with tension emanating from pronouncements by a group of citizens (Council of Patriots) and political parties declaring their intent to hold a mass public protest against the Government of Liberia on June 7, 2019.

For a time, it had appeared as though the nation was headed for a showdown between proponents of the planned June 7 protest and supporters of the Weah government — a showdown which by all accounts promised to be a violent encounter between both groups. Not even calls from civil society for calm and restraint as well as engagements between President Weah and former President Sirleaf and former Vice President Joseph Boakai appeared to have made any difference.

But in a rather unusual twist and unprecedented move, Ambassador Christine Elder spoke out raising concerns about vitriolic and inflammatory comments, made on radio and social media by Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon, calling in effect for a war between natives and Congos. And before the nation could digest the full import of Fahngon’s inciting remarks, President Weah made the move to suspend him.

This newspaper is indeed gratified by the timely and positive intervention of the US government in this matter and commends Ambassador Elder on her stance which has led to President Weah’s apparent pull back from the brink.

However, it (Daily Observer) is troubled by Ambassador Elder’s call for the Liberian government to remain loyal to IMF policy diktat. This is naturally because empirical studies have shown that there is a causal link between poverty and IMF prescriptions which have had the effect of deepening poverty levels particularly on health systems in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to researchers Thomas Stubbs and Alexander E. Kentikelenis of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge respectively, “the IMF has deprived West African nations of the policy space to adopt to local exigencies,” noting that “domestic governments are equipped with local knowledge and are better informed on how crises are unfolding on the ground.”

Their research show that the IMF does provide financial assistance to countries facing economic difficulties but, as available facts suggest, spending on public health is discouraged at the IMF’s insistence and resources are diverted instead to repay money owed to creditor western banks.

And because IMF policy reforms (Structural Adjustment) which are a matter of policy, demanded in exchange for loans, the ability of national governments to address historical problems of underdevelopment and inequality which, in turn, have negatively impacted the lives of millions of people, is severely undermined.

Moreover, 13 countries in West Africa with a combined population of more than 330 million have been adversely impacted by IMF policy diktat particularly through its practice of “conditionality”. The IMF, according to the researchers, usually insist that in exchange for loans, African governments are required, as a condition for granting the loan, to adopt policy prescriptions that places emphasis on short term economic objectives over long term investments in health.

The Daily Observer notes that it was largely through the resilience and creative energies of the Liberian people that the deadly Ebola virus disease was halted in its tracks in Liberia, although the Liberian health system was inadequate, largely dysfunctional and severely underfunded, thanks of course to IMF policy prescriptions.

The Daily Observer further notes that, there is little debate over whether the “Trickle Down” development paradigm, a mainstay of IMF policy prescriptions, has wrought any benefit for Liberia despite its bounteous endowment with a wide range of natural resources including gold, iron ore, diamonds, timber, rubber, etc.

That the US Ambassador, while lambasting the ineptitude and corrupt behavior of officials of the Weah government claiming such are undermining productivity but, yet urging slavish adherence to IMF policy prescriptions, which have only served to deepen poverty, increase inequality, particularly income inequality, it leaves one with an unsettling feeling and sense of loss that the future of the nation is indeed imperiled.

The Daily Observer, once again commends Ambassador Elder for her strong stance against the divisive and inciting comments from government officials but is constrained to politely inform that her urging for continued loyalty to IMF diktat holds no promise for Liberia. Once again: thanks, Madame Ambassador, for your stance but no to slavish adherence to IMF diktat.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Daily Observer, the Bible (Proverbs 22:7) says “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender” So, as long as Liberia keep borrowing from the IMF (check out CBL financial statements), it will remain subservient to them (IMF). The message is simple: If you don’t want to be anyone’s slave, don’t borrow from them!

    • Martin – This government has proven fiscally reckless and corrupt so I highly doubt any IMF support can work unless experts came to Liberia to manage those funds. The CDC government morally bankrupt.

  2. But what happened if we don’t borrow from them? The Economic hitman come to overthrow the government? Until nationalistic and patriotic journalism like these call for debate on this subject, we be enslaved. Wake up sleeping Lions!

  3. Until have a sound leader that does not conforms to rules but seek out definite choices that will uplift our country, we will continue to dance to every tone of the IMF however detrimental. We have enough brains to tailor our peculiar path base on our unique challenges, but our Achilles heels has been POOR LEADERSHIP.

  4. Daily Observer, instead of a blanket condemnation of IMF policy prescriptions, isn’t it a wise thing to scrutinize the current recommendations and see whether they have economic benefits for Liberia. For example, the IMF team noted that productive spending in Liberia “is being crowded out by a wage bill, including discretionary allowances, that totals about two-thirds of government-funded expenditure.” Even though the IMF, in your assessment based on research, has been an inadequate partner in poverty reduction in West Africa, its (IMF’s) recent recommendations for Liberia, recommended by Ambassador Elder, could help to gradually turn our economic ship from the raging storm that threatens to sink it.

  5. With $16 billion disappearance you had good leadership with nothing to show for it…Talk and Talk without concrete actions…

Leave a Reply