.... "Liberia has the mineral resources, and huge agricultural possibilities but, unfortunately, corruption has put you backward."
The US Ambassador to Liberia, Michael McCarthy, has said that it is sickening to know that the country remains one of the poorest in the world despite its wealth potential to become successful.
The US diplomat, who has been vocal on the issue of corruption, noted that Liberia is blessed with mineral resources, a huge coastline, and agriculture potential but decades of corruption means the country has remained backward due to “rampant corruption. Amb. McCarthy explained that countries that he had previously faced problems with corruption had taken steps to address it, but Liberia has done nothing to tackle corruption since 1822 – leaving it poor.
"It's been a problem for Liberia for 200 years and other countries that have a similar problem -- at some point realized that corruption was a problem at the time and decided that this was no longer acceptable. For whoever receives a bribe someone paid the bribe,” Ambassador McCarthy added.
“Some people ask why am I so focused on corruption and I think the best answer is with all the resources that Liberia has, the mineral resources, your huge coastline, the number of ports you have, the agriculture possibilities, the dependable rains, all of that pretends to a very, very wealthy successful country but unfortunately corruption has put you backward. There is so much potential and I see it just furthered away through rampant corruption. It’s sickening."
The US diplomat noted corruption leads to citizen frustration and has destabilizing effects on countries -- posing significant risks to peace and democracy. He added as such it is his responsibility to speak on the issue since the United States provides funding for the social-economic development of Liberia is not used for its intended purposes.
“On the other hand, it’s also not good to use taxpayer funds that were donated. This money was taken from Americans and people who are working for a living. The manner in which it was taken, if they do not pay their taxes, they are breaking the laws. So I have a responsibility if I see that the taxes are not spent properly.”
The US ambassador's frustration about the high rate of corruption in Liberia is just one of many remarks he has on the matter. Just last year, he warned that the US government was getting tired of Liberia's corruption and instead wants to see results, and improvements in education, health, and better quality of life for citizens.
Am. McCarthy went on noting that his government was very discouraged to see that Liberia was not making any serious progress relating to the fight against corruption. He noted that corruption has seriously impeded the country's social-economic growth, he said. The United States wants to see change and improvement in education, health, and other areas.
The comments from Ambassador McCarthy are similar to the senior aide to United States President Joe Biden that one of the reasons for Liberia’s backwardness is that leaders choose their short-term gain over the long-term benefit of their country.
And in an Op-Ed recently, the US diplomat reiterated Uncle Sam's concern about corruption in Liberia and warned that it might be forced to sanction individuals. The US diplomat called on the government of Liberia to remember that corruption comes with destabilizing effects.
“Corruption leads to citizen frustration and has had destabilizing effects on countries in the region. It poses significant risks to peace and democracy,” he said in March in an Op-Ed, titled: What Would J.J. Roberts Have to Say about Liberia Today?
Amb. McCarthy's latest outburst reinforced the US government’s concern about corruption in Liberia. In February this year, Dana Banks, who works as a Special Assistant to Biden, and also served as Senior Director for Africa at the National Security Council, said while the United States remains a dedicated partner and friend to Liberia, it has observed that too many of Liberia’s leaders have chosen their short-term gain over the long-term benefit of their country.
This, she said, is an act of robbery — robbing Liberia’s citizens of access to health care, public safety, and education and subverting economic opportunity, exacerbating inequality, and erodes integrity, and eating away at the democracy you have worked so hard to build.
Banks' bold remark was made in front of President George Weah and other officials of government during Liberia's Bicentennial Celebrations in Monrovia, on February 14. The Liberian leader was elected four years ago on a wave of disgust from the public by the Unity Party-led government's extreme greed for wealth. However, with two years left to Weah’s six-year tenure, efforts to bring corruption under control are widely seen as a failure.
President Weah's election in 2017 brought high expectations among the general public that he would take on bureaucratic excess and corruption but he appeared to fail to live up to that expectation. Allegations of corruption stem from numerous public displays of sudden questionable wealth by his government officials. Now, five years into his administration, allegations of corruption stem from numerous public displays of sudden questionable wealth by his government officials.
Meanwhile, Amb. McCarthy has also noted that he is worried for Liberia on the issue of power theft as the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) continues to lose massive amounts of money every day to power theft.
Sadly, he said much is not being done to tackle power theft, which is denying LEC needed resources to provide stable and affordable electricity. He added Liberia needs to take power theft seriously or should not worry about it.
“If power is not taken seriously and if some important decision about infrastructure is not made, I do not understand how LEC will continue to operate. Who are you going to attract into this country if you don’t have dependable, reliable electricity? I do not know. Unfortunately, I think the country needs to redouble its effort and take power theft very seriously. People have to turn the corner -- people need to turn the corner on power theft and that has not happened yet,” he stated.
Power theft has become rampant over the years with many people illegally connecting to the national grid, defrauding the LEC, a public utility company, of much needed revenue — making the distribution of electricity not stable.
Since the US Government and other partners contributed $257 million to Liberia’s Energy Sector to rehabilitate the Mount Coffee Dam and restore power, the challenge of power theft has continued to impede the progress of the LEC, causing the public corporation not to realize any return on investment.
“If power theft and corruption continue in Liberia, the country will lose donors’ support,” said Amb. McCarthy in August 2021. He then described the lack of progress in improving electricity access for millions of people living in and around the capital, despite the US government bankrolling the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Dam.
Over the last five years, according to the diplomat in 2021, the LEC has lost $220 million to technical and commercial losses and unpaid bills, stressing that such a huge amount should have been used to increase the grid to provide electricity access for all.