Mining Gold, Diamonds: Prez Sirleaf And Secretary Clinton Differ

By: J. Yanqui Zaza

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 2, 2009


The U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton's call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government to follow Botswana's policy on managing natural resources and not Nigeria's was interesting. Secretary Clinton gave the advice at a time numerous accusations indicated that signed concessionary agreements did favor profiteers such as AmLib United Minerals, a gold digging company partly owned by Carney Johnson, a brother of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (FrontpageAfrica)

Regrettably, the debate about President Sirleaf selling resources on the cheap and privatizing utility entities versus government’s role would have been illuminating had Hilary Clinton not only asked Liberia to follow the diamond-policy of Botswana, but also mentioned how U.S. citizens and investors alike benefit from the management of one of the world’s busy airports (John F. Kennedy) and Amtrak by the States of New York and New Jersey and the Federal Government respectively.

Proponents of government’s role believe that certain activities, not limited to charitable organizations and basic services such as light, bridges, water and sewer should be exempt from taxation if majority of the population benefits. Some governments, aware of the fact that profiteers’ ownership of certain tangible and intangible properties usually leads to the concentration of wealth in the hands of a privileged few, have extended such a logic from the management of charitable and utility entities to major economic activities such as natural resources.

As Secretary Clinton recommended, Botswana’s policy on diamond management, unlike Nigeria’s, Liberia’s or Sierra Leone’s, yields more benefits because the operation of diamonds is not left to the whims of profiteers according to Lydia Polgreen of the NY Times. Although Botswana policy is anathema to policies of the World Bank, the presence of bureaucrats helps in reducing investors' chances of smuggling diamonds.

Secretary Clinton’s call for a better economic policy is not new. In fact it was Secretary Clinton’s motherland (USA) that scuttled the Pan African economic, political, and military policies that were envisioned to collectively manage Africa’s resources for the betterment of Africans by using Liberia’s President William V. S. Tubman against the chief architect of an effective policy, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. (Dr. Elwood Dunn, ThePerspective). Also, few days before Clinton’s advice, a Pan Africanist, Dr. Amos Sawyer, while eulogizing Dr. Tajudeem Abdul-Raheem, stated that chaos was inevitable if the country's wealth was not equitably distributed and that government did not prevent remnants of the True Whig Party from selfishly working to restore their treasure. (FrontpageAfrica)

Predictably, did Secretary Clinton’s call for government’s involvement based on evidence or did she act emotionally because of the outcry over rampant corruption within the Sirleaf government? Or did the Congolese students’ questions have an impact on Clinton’s advice? The first question on assassinating a disloyal president might have reminded Clinton that external forces use hard diplomacy to protect profiteers by killing, for example, Lawrence Kabila, who shortchanged American investors or Patrice Lumumba, who sided with the Soviet Union. The second question concerning the policy of the World Bank to discourage poor countries from receiving loans from China might have also reminded Secretary Clinton of the soft diplomacy policy World Bank applies in strangulating poor countries financially.

Not knowing whether the Congolese students’ questions or past histories helped Secretary Clinton to embrace the idea of government’s role in managing resources, her recent interview indicates her awareness of the consequences of government receiving minimal benefits from resources that lie beneath countries. Talking with Mark Landler, she concurred with the argument that poverty also flourishes even under democratically elected government if economic polices are tilted toward profiteers. She added that “Democracy means nothing if the people can’t vote or they can’t get good job with good pay,” which is at the core of human aspiration.

Nowadays, finding good paying jobs has become difficult because profiteers are in control of major economic activities, including natural resources and utility entities, which provide basic services. And unfortunately, many governments have not accepted the argument that certain activities that affect an entire community should be exempt from taxes, nor should similar economic activities fall on the control of profiteers.

Countries in South and Latin Americas have experienced such lessons the hard way according to Tony Phillips of America Program. As experts at the World Bank are now giving similar lectures to President Sirleaf government, they advised leaders in South and Latin Americas to sell natural resources and privatize basic services. Government is inefficient and her involvement is counterproductive, they stated. On the other hand investment brings good paying jobs, technology, and much needed hard currency into investment-starved countries to boost economic activities.

The strategy to financially strangulate those countries did not end at managing natural resources and utility entities. World Bank experts lured leaders into obtaining excessive loans by presenting rosy economic forecasts. Worse, the local investors, through legal manipulation and accounting gimmick, paid minimal taxes the same way U.S. corporations paid $16 billion in taxes instead paying $245 billion in 2007. (J. Yanqui Zaza, The perspective). Short on cash because of minimal taxes paid, many of the countries in South and Latin Americas defaulted on their debts, which allowed venture capitalists to buy their debts and imposed higher interest rates on the defaulted loans. (Tony Phillips, America Program, 4/29/08).

Secretary Clinton might be aware of the narrative above, and maybe President Sirleaf is in the dark. Also, Clinton knows that the World Bank, since 1944, has failed in helping poor countries to provide good-paying jobs, while President Sirleaf is, apparently, following the blue prints of the instructional literatures the World Bank uses to lure its prey.

© 2009 by The Perspective

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