Revisit All Concession Agreements
By: Josiah S. Hallie
Given the past record of our existence as a state, there had been a lot of occurrences in which contracts and concession agreements were signed against the interest of the vast majority. Liberia was among the few countries in the world that actually bumped into buoyant economic age especially in the then 1950s and 60s. This happened by the coming in of multinational companies like the LMC, LNIOC, LAMCO and Bong Mines into the country to exploit the natural resources, mainly the iron ore. What many thought was a blessing for the country turned to be a curse as most of these multinational companies operated at the detriment of majority Liberians with the acquiescence of few that were in power.
The coming in of these companies, many observed, would have served as a cliff-hanger to the nation’s development agenda program if things were put into proper perspective. But this never happened. The contracts or concession agreements benefited the minority and the concessionaires. This is why the Liberian economy was described by the American development economist (Clower et al; 1966) as “Growth Without Development.” According to this report, Liberia was among the high achievers in terms of economic growth performance. In 1950s, Clower, et al;1966 Report indicated that Liberia ranked second to Japan in income growth registering 12%, that was by using 1954 as a base year. Liberia’s real Gross National Product GNP (aggregate monetary value of goods and services produced in a year) growth index for 1960 was 175, while that of Japan was 180.
According to the UNDP Human Development Report on Liberia 1999, which also took cue from Clower, et al; 1966 Report, the strong growth performance was fuelled principally by the buoyant world market prices of the country’s principal exports: iron ore, rubber, forestry products, cocoa and coffee. This was however engineered by the “Open Door” policy adopted by President William V.S. Tubman to encourage external investment by bringing in considerable foreign investments. The change in the Liberia’s economic growth occurred during the post World War II period as a result of rise and fall of private, foreign investments based production of raw materials for exports.
In the document, it is further stated that from 1955 to 1965, private foreign investment in Liberian economy increased by 800%, rising from US$60 million to nearly 500 million. For instance, by the end of 1963, there was a single private foreign firm, Liberia American-Swedish Company (LAMCO) investing more than 200 million dollars.
With all these economic variables, Liberia’s domestic policy did not prepare the economy through diversification and competitiveness to weather the global recession of the 1970s. Based on the UNDP Human Development Report on Liberia 1999, an analysis of Liberia’s income distribution clearly indicated a prolonged period of inequitable income distribution. Although Liberian economy experienced double-digit growth rates in the period 1950 to 60, only small minority of Liberians benefited from that growth. This remains the crux of the matter that culminated into lack of development for the country.
There are some politicians who are today perambulating the Liberian political corridor failing to accept the reality of their parents’ misdeed or misrule which is one of the factors that brought about today’s social and political upheaval. This is where I sometimes feel flabbergasted when people make some political statements against particular individuals about the consequences that pushed us into the 14-year-old imbroglio, causing nirvana on our people.
Perhaps we should be tracing the root cause or causes of this whole civil debacle and begin to formulate the ideas of having short and long-range plans to restore the country’s lost image. No wonder, given the country’s economic growth in the past, Liberia would have hit the jackpot in development by mid 70s. But this was not visualized by our leaders as personal aggrandizement became the order of the day.
One important thing for any rational person to know is that any legacy put in place by the leadership of the country whether good or bad will be practiced or followed by the succeeding generations. This is where Liberia is being lurked into the act of corruption by people who always sit at the helm of leadership. Interestingly, for anyone to come and change the orientation of the people it becomes problematic for you as an individual- where you might likely become a victim of circumstances if not careful.
The inbreed egotistic nature in some government officials, especially those who served under President Tubman was so high to the extent that the reform envisioned by President William R. Tolbert became a problem for them. This is how Tolbert started having his problem with them. He was a reformer and these “old order” guys did not like the idea thus forming a counter-valence force against him. Based on this, Tolbert became a victim of circumstances.
The unequal distribution of the country’s resources is always the
key issue development economists or social scientists refer to as something
that brings about social political upheaval. Once the masses express dissatisfaction
over the manner in which their resources are handled by the government of
the day they are bound to revolt. If people are living in abject poverty
seeing these government officials and their children living luxurious life,
there is a tendency for social uprising.
The abuse of our natural resources by the past administrations has given rise for ordinary Liberians to call for a period of renaissance in the utilization and the administration of their resources. One thing remains certain, despite the political uproars going on as politicians continue to present their individual platforms if the resources are not properly managed international donors will not be willing assist Liberia. TO BE CONTINUED.