Liberia: President Bush Says Sell Strategy Assets, Or No Money

By J. Yanqui Zaza

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 27, 2008


Liberians have opined different reasons as to why President George W. Bush gave penny assistance during his visit to Liberia, and now has assisted Liberia to obtain a loan to finance its infrastructure. The chance of a loan was made possible after the U.S. government, through a Bridge Loan (i.e., a loan, which carries an interest rate ranging from 12 to 15 percent-[Wikipedia]), became our new creditor for the $982 million dollar previously owed to the International Monetary Fund. Some Liberians have argued that America is doing more by becoming our new creditor and providing support to multinational security forces in the Country. Others said Baby Bush kept U.S. tax dollars away from Liberia because U.S. officials suspect President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government to be corrupt. Is corruption really a barrier to getting U.S. grant since Bush is currently giving monies to dictatorial and corrupt regimes?

Although this article focuses on the stiff requirements for poor countries to receive U.S. aid as pronounced by President Bush, does the charge of corruption fit the Sirleaf government? Certainly no leader can reduce corruption, an aged-old problem, overnight. And Liberians do not expect President Sirleaf government to right things in two years of that began since 1847, as argued by A. Duwall, FrontpageAfrica. However her policy has not reduced the level of corruption. For example, by arranging $15,000.00 to $30,000.00 allowances per month for few of her advisors, or by increasing her salary from $36,000.00, per annual (i.e., which is a Constitutional allotment) to $72,000.00, she did encourage civil servants to engage in corruption, according to an assertion made by Robert M. Frank of the New York Times.

He said evidence suggests that higher spending at the top instigates expenditure cascades that pressure middle-income families to spend more. Inferring from this theory, had the “Iron Lady” reduced the excessive allowances, she would have gained the moral authority to reduce the salaries of the members of the Liberian Legislatures. Subsequently, significant number of our civil servants might have accepted the call to sacrifice and desist from seeking illegal means to augment their meager salaries.

Additionally, was it a bad policy when Ma Ellen arranged the economic hardship allowances for Diaspora-Liberians who claimed to own huge stock of cash in banks while at the same time downsizing poor Liberians who lost everything during the war? Or why would a leader ask foreign creditors to cancel 100% of their debts and at the same time pay domestic creditors such as the $210,000.00 and $214,000.00 paid to landlords of Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Justice respectively? Alternatively, such amounts paid to domestic creditors would have been invested in labor-intensive projects, economic activities that would provide employment for some of our unskilled youths.

Coming back to the rigid requirements imposed by President Bush for new U.S. aid, does the relation between Liberia and the U.S. fits the conventional relationship between a philanthropist and a recipient? Not really. In fact many Liberians believe that America directly or indirectly benefited from the failed policies that bred the civil war in Liberia, and, is therefore responsible for portion of the cost of recovery. They claim that the U.S. used Liberia during the cold war. If the late Mrs. Victoria Tolbert (i.e., wife of President Tolbert who was killed on April 12, 1980) and others are right, it was due to the influence of U.S. officials that helped to abort the process of instituting some of the sixteen indicators of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Also, if the U.S government through Jack Ballard and Mitch Gossage had not provided weapons to, and counseled members of the People’s Redemption Council into the idea of killing the first five-military-men and subsequently the thirteen (13) former Liberian officials (“No More Bossman” by Frank P. Catanoso), child soldiers would not have destroyed Liberia. Catanoso stated that Mitch Gossage, disregarding letters from the Amnesty International and concerns from the U.S. Black Congressional Caucasus, concluded that killing few guys would help the People’s Redemption Council instill fear and exert influence onto the likes of Tipotehs, Sawyers, Fahnbullehs, Maysons, Matthews and the remnants of the True Whig Party.

Unfortunately, U.S. officials did not only end the very tenets President George Bush has outlined as prerequisite to receiving U.S. aid from MCC, but also fueled the civil war. For instance, why did papa Bush (former President George Herbert Walker Bush) reject the advice of the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Herman Cohen? Would Liberia be in need of a massive funding had U.S. officials asked their facilitators (President Doe, Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson) to halt the vicious fighting, and fulfill Cohen’s promise by airlifting President Samuel Doe to his new home in Togo? Even if it were necessary to kill President Doe, was Johnson, Doe’s rival, the right assassin? Cohen said in an interview in 2001 that he wanted for America to help end the war by airlifting President Doe to Togo but papa Bush did not approve his recommendation.

If it is okay for U.S. officials to deny America’s share of responsibility for destroying Liberia, what’s the real deal behind the sixteen indicators of MCC? Many experts say the answer is privatization. They argue that President Bush, in order to ensure the continuation of America’s influence in poor countries, has tied America’s aid to privatization as one of the sixteen indicators. And according to Matthew Mclean, vice president of the Development of Congressional and Public Affairs at MCC, countries such as Liberia are far away from receiving U.S. aid because they have not begun the process of market reform, key words for privatization. (William Eagle, Voice of America).

President Bush also indicated that Liberia and America have a new relation based on business-partnership criteria. If so, would Liberia, be free to choose its own economic policies such as associating with China, asked by the Editor of the Analyst, a Liberian Newspaper? And should Liberia adopt a people’s policy and review the circumstances under which U.S. officials and Mittal Steel influenced the outcome of the former LAMCO takeover bidding process and the circumstances under which Firestone won another 36-year concession, the Editor added?

If the idea of a business-partnership relation were the real objectives, and that U.S. officials do not intend to arm-twist countries into privatizing their utilities, why President Bush does not continue to use the current U.S. Agency International Development (USAID) and squash MCC? Besides the new requirement of privatization, are there any indicators that would make MCC different from USAID or the World Bank? Many experts say no. Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of the State of California, one of the members of the U.S. Congress said, “I have severe reservations about…the Millennium Challenge Corporation.” Interestingly, Paul Applegarth, the current chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, stated in a research paper he wrote in 2003, that MCC has the accountability requirement that is similar to the “Structural Adjustment Loan” of the World Bank that has been declared a failure, Chassy said.

He added that in addition to the problems of MCC lacking any remedy in preventing NGOs from using donors’ funds as cash cow, or local bureaucrats from siphoning funds for personal gains, U.S. Congress is a major problem. The cold war mentality and the constitutional power of the U.S. Congress to approve foreign aid make a difficult for MCC to become effective. Coupled with the interference of the U.S. Congress, American corporations usually influence the kinds of projects other than those projects that benefit the recipients. Consequently, any aid from the U.S. would be tied to U.S. foreign policies irrespective of accountability, democratic principles or the rule of law.

Well yes, U.S. officials are aware that MCC is not effective, but USAID or the World Bank lacks the privatization requirement that would help in maintaining U.S. influence in poor countries. They have recognized through experiences from other countries that citizens of many countries have minimal respect for the World Bank, a facilitating agency of America. Poor people advocates see the functions of the World Bank, arguably, as functions similar to those functions of colonial Masters. So MCC was created to help bring countries under the influence of America without relying on elected officials to enact policies favorable to the U.S.

The process works this way. Private investors, the new owners of utility entities will obviously borrow money from lending institutions, thereby making those lending institutions de facto owners. Lending institutions which are part of or connected to Wall Street will be, by remote control, managing our National Port Authority, Liberian Electricity Corporation, etc. Unlike the World Bank is monitored by third parties, lending institutions and stockbrokers, de facto owners of our utility would do everything to maximize profits. The motives of Profiteers are paramount to none, thereby making Liberia’s security interest or poverty issues of concern all but irrelevant. So when President Bush says no U.S. grants without privatization or market reform, he is seeking a new form of colonialism.

© 2008 by The Perspective

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