By: Alfred P.B. Kiadii
Building a successful middle class is the newest mantra on the lips of policy makers and would be policy makers, but whether the framework to do so has been devised is a question we can ponder over. One knows in time like these good intensions do not address the imploding challenges that are pivoting the masses in the abyss.
Often time when policy makers make these flowering articulations void of any workable methodologies to address the scourge of poverty and unemployment in a country whose people are pondering over solution that will resonate with their plights, the people loose confidence in the government and thus seek refuge in the thereafter as a way of not suffering from the pang of frustration.
The Liberian dream is a monumental failure and a dreadful nightmare owing to the duplicity of our political class and those who control the means of production of the state. Our political class is fixated on building its wealth and privilege from the labor of our people. Thus the people have been transformed into the appendages of machine and “expendable canon” fodder.” Poverty, diseases and ignorance are the insignias that define the people economic status.
Instinct gratification and the scramble for material possession to the detriment of the masses of the people continue to be in full swing by the status quo. As if this is a revenge mission, corruption is unbridled in a country whose people are living below the equator of poverty. But such state of affairs is symptomatic of the fact that our state has been hijacked by individuals who only reason for ascending to state power is to pander to instincts that depict moral deficit and leadership bankruptcy.
While the livelihood of the common man remains undefined and their future is blurred due to the lack of opportunities in the republic, others who have an affinity to the status quo continue to benefit from the largesse of the state due to the enthronement of patronage, rent-seeking, clientelism and prebendalism as the rule rather than the exception.
Misrule continue to move unfettered while the people are experiencing a free fall in their economic status. They have been consigned to the basement of the economic ladder while a cliquish minority continues to climb at the summit of the economy of the state. The essence of governance has been eroded by the status quo because it takes the interest of the masses of our people as a least priority and while tax break is being given to businesses that are owned by the political class.
Achieving economic prosperity in a government where the status quo does things that are inimical to economic prosperity speaks more to the pronouncement of the government as a wishful thinking that cannot be attained. The pronouncement is intended to keep the hope of a wailing people who are craving for a prescription that can quench their poverty.
When President Sirleaf was given the mantle of authority to the steer the state of affairs of the country in 2005, the people were confident that their standard of living would have tremendously improved. The people taught that the president who was a crusader for change would have provided affordable housing facilities, create opportunities, provide free education, and provide safety nets for workers. The spillover of poverty in every nook and cranny of the state leaves the people to wonder whether they are children of a lesser God.
Even though this government has launched cosmetic policy prescriptions to remedy the economic paralysis of the homeland, these prescriptions have fallen flat of realizing the desirable result, owing to the fact that the prescriptions are totally diametrical to the benign problem that is continually wrecking the state.
The Interim Poverty reduction strategy, the Poverty Strategy, and the 150 days Deliverables were all economic malapropisms that floundered the people in the cesspool of backwardness. These policies were aimed at impressing development partners to give aid and grant to the status quo. Such attitude of the government has enthroned a dangerous mindset in our governmental architecture, that is, the status quo is more accountable to the donor community than the people that elected it. It is this mindset that makes Liberia to lag behind while its mates in the sub-region and beyond are making a quantum leap in the right direction.
After the implementation of these policies, the government scored itself with high mark thus showcasing that it has performed par excellence in the economy, even though the grimaces on the faces of the people coupled with empirical objective data say the contrary. Shamelessly the myrmidons of the status quo have always launched a verbal assault in the media in the form of public relations stunts to contradict the reality and inject into the minds of the masses obese falsehood. These element believe that the people are so unsophisticated to buy into the claptrap being spewed by them. Little did they know that a people who have tasted the bad meal of war and other forms of indignities have transcended the acceptance of theatric as truth. In other words, suffice this to mean that the consciousness of the people is not so low that they cannot see beyond the scheme and lie of the political class.
We have realized that the entire Poverty reduction strategy regenerated poverty for the masses, but elevated official of the government from poverty, owing to the huge compensation being paid to presidential appointees and elected officials of government. That distortion of a policy only compounded the woes of the people and relapsed their backward condition.
For a country that is wretched in poverty to dish out huge remunerations to state officials only shows the level of cruelty of the elements that manage the status quo. For them, it is about living above the people, not living with the people. They see public life as a way of acquiring wealth instantly. The arrogance with which they have contempt for the people is ballooning on a quotidian basis.
Taxation which is a tool to generate resources in order to finance public projects that lead to the improvement of the standard of living of the people have been used to line the pockets of kingpins of the status quo. So, there is a sense in which the mantra that engendered the American Revolution— “No taxation without representation’’ is alive and well in our country. Microeconomic stability coupled with “balance growth path’’ are wild dreams that will not be achieved during the lifespan of this government due to its policy of using the people as against working for the people.
Inequality is alarming in the world’s Fourth poorest country to the extent that there is a huge disparity between the income of civil servants and that of appointed officials of government. Most of our civil servant make starvation income while their bosses wallow in wealth, pomp and pageantry. In recent time, appeal for the increment of civil servants salary has been greeted with lousy excuses, but the President has no problem with taking responsibility for the bankruptcy of the national Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) which wreckage was presided over by her son.
Political will to fight corruption is missing because the leadership wants to appear to be fighting corruption rather than fighting corruption. As a result of this, the culture of impunity is amok in a country whose peace is fragile due to factors such as corruption, unemployment, inflation, food shortage, overreliance on the extractive sector. Warning sign of such does not bother our political class because they think that the people will remain in docility and lethargy forever.
The root causes of corruption in the homeland is intrinsically link to the enthronement of patronage, the spoil system, nepotism, cronyism, etc. in the affairs of the state. I dare say most of the imported bureaucrats who are employed in this government come to public life with a gluttonous appetite for wealth and material possession. As a result, they are not fixated on delivering public utility for the people, but aligning their pockets with the resources of the state.
Currently, the overreliance of the Liberian economic on the extractive sector does not augurs well for us. It is tantamount to using the wrong panacea for a putrid illness, or ascribing a wrong policy prescription to remedy a fundamentally structural challenge. Most concessions in our country use the surplus stock of resources from the extractive sector to service the engine of the manufacturing industries in the West, thereby continuing the worldwide capitalist agenda of domination and exploitation.
Accordingly, the ruling class has a very backward understanding about the formation of state and its obligation to the people. Somewhat, they believe that the fundamental function of this republic is to provide peaceful climate which will necessitate the profiteering of western capital at the expense of the masses of the people. This is evident due to the granting of tax holiday and tax break to corporations that have vestiges of western leaning, coupled with the institution of a liberal investment code here.
These “false bourgeoisies” believe by granting these extra privileges to these corporations will guarantee the stability of tenure and their perpetuity at the helm of power in the homeland. This mindset is informed by the fact that the West will aid them (the ruling class) in frustrating the efforts of progressive movement that will rise as a result of social contradiction in the society. Their conclusion is rife especially when we look back at our history and learn how progressives’ movements such as MOJA, PAL, SUZUKU, etc. were suppressed and marginalized simply because those movements were explaining and interpreting the contradictions of the society to the peasant masses of the people, against the interest of western imperialism and their agents.
The peasants who are laboring in the extractive sector are bedevil by the enigma of starvation income, even though the profit margin of these concessions skyrocket on a quotidian basis. Even the irony is, with all of the huge profit generated by these concessions, they are not prepared to reinvest in our economy through the building of manufacturing factories for the purpose of transforming the raw materials into finished product, that to do so will be a break with their modus operandi and thus thwart the capitalist agenda.
Nations are built not for personal purposes but for altruistic one. The convocation of government is not to exploit the state to the detriment of the people, but to seek the welfare of the people through the enhancement of basic social amenities in order to engender societal growth and transformation. It is on this understanding that everyone decides to vest their authority in the pool of people to steer the affairs of the state. On this understanding, the government governs based on the interest of the collectivity of the people.
The masses should stop electing people on the basis of their ethnic affinity or depth of their pocket. Election should not be an opportunity for the purpose of merriment, but should be used to evaluate candidates on the strength of their character, competence, and suitability. Moreover, individuals should be voted for on the basis of their understanding of the Liberian dilemma. The dilemma of economic backwardness: the overreliance on the extractive sector, and the under consumption of our labor force, due to the lack of innovation in the sector.
In spite of these daunting challenges, the people must muster the courage to traverse this trajectory that is imploding the nation and stagnating them in the abyss. When the people become consciously aware that Liberia is rich, but poorly managed. That the problem of Liberia is fundamentally a problem of leadership. Then they should strive to elect a pro poor government, a government that will seek their welfare. Suffice it to mean that the people should undergo a Pauline conversion and elect a radically conscious leadership that subscribes to the concept of Pan Africanism, and the politics of working with them (the people) to elevate their standard of living.