The Great Contradiction: Liberian Business People Facing a Reluctant Government

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This newspaper following the tradition of its key mentor, Albert Porte, has repeatedly expressed the hope that the Liberian Government would at last rise up to the sacred challenge of empowering Liberians in business.

Why sacred? Because this is the only way to end poverty in Liberia. The Daily Observer has over many years and with great fervency urged that so long as our economy remains dominated by foreigners, so long, will Liberians remain in abject poverty.

Yet, when we consider the critical and compelling symbiosis between the people’s economic empowerment and peace, we have no choice but to continue pleading with, urging, prevailing upon, even begging the Liberian Government to see the need to change the macroeconomic paradigm in the country by ensuring that Liberians share a greater stake in the national economy.

And why does this newspaper continue to hope that the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Government will listen to this plea? Why continuously follow the tradition of Albert Porte? Because, he always considered himself “an eternal optimist”. That is why his nephew Kenneth Y. Best titled his biography of Mr. Porte as “A Lifetime Trying to Save Liberia”.

According to Mr. Best, Albert Porte, from the young age of 23 in 1929, started challenging corruption and other serious malpractices in the Liberian government. It was Mr. Porte and his brother-in-law, George S. Best, whose Crozierville Observer persistently published excerpts of the report of the International Commission on the Fernando Po Crisis in 1930. The Crozierville Observer also followed and reported on the political reactions, especially of the people of Montserrado County. They held a series of anti-government meetings and demonstrations.

The final one was held on September 30, 1930, the day President C.D.B King delivered his final Annual message to the Joint Session of the Legislature. When he announced that his government should adopt all the recommendations of the International Commission, he was jeered by the demonstrators. On Tuesday December 2, Vice President Allen Yancy resigned his position. The following day, December 3, 1930, President King’s Aide de Camp submitted the President’s letter of resignation. With the Speaker of the House, J.N. Lewis in Sinoe and unable to get to Monrovia quickly, the Legislature swore in Secretary of State Edwin J. Barclay as the 18th President of Liberia.

Despite the great persecution he was to suffer through the Tubman, Tolbert and Doe years, Albert Porte continued his indomitable crusade for better governance in Liberia. Always calling himself the “eternal optimist”, he never gave up.

So are we the Daily Observer in our crusade to plead with the GoL to take concrete measures to empower Liberians in business. The Observer Publisher, Kenneth Y. Best, in his commencement address at Cuttington University on December 12, 2012, urged the GoL to take a giant step to see to it that all foreign owned businesses in Liberia with investments of US$50,000 and above shall have a Liberian partner. Mr. Best knew that there would be a tall order for the government whose leader, President Sirleaf, once told him that there were certain foreign businesses here that were “untouchable”.

More beside, there are people close to the administration that are decidedly on the side of foreign business, determined to maintain the status quo of foreign economic domination, which status they know fully well would perpetuate poverty in Liberia.

These are people who seem determined that lasting peace will continue to elude Liberia, and that the country will perpetually live in a fragile peace.

Yet we remain optimistic that somehow President Sirleaf in the two years she has left will muster the courage and determination to do what is needed to change the economic paradigm in Liberia. Liberians must be encouraged through training and financial stimuli to play a greater role in the economy.

Our farmers should also be encouraged to grow more food especially vegetables, fruits, tubers, coffee, cocoa and rice, toward moving Liberia to food self-sufficiency. This will at last lift them out of subsistence farming and empower them to provide better education for their children, build modern homes, be able to afford modern healthcare and lift their standard of living.

This leadership by government would end once and for all the great contradiction that the people continue to face in their government’s reluctance to come on their side and help empower them in business.

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