By J. Yanqui Zaza
August 15, 2011
Surely, Liberia would have had manufacturing jobs if our negotiators including prior negotiators such as William V.S. Tubman, William R. Tolbert, etc; and, now our current negotiator, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had not awarded investors the privilege to export the country’s raw minerals such as diamonds, gold, iron ore, oil palm, logs, rubber, fisheries, etc. without added values. The economic activity of adding value to natural resources would have created an environment conducive for investors to manufacture goods. For example, why not build a factory to make timber and furniture from our trees; why not build a factory to make products such as steel rods from our iron ore; why not build a factory to cut our diamonds or wash our gold or why not build a factory to make rubber/plastic products from our latex, etc?
So, why do our negotiators fail to include job provisions within our concession agreements? Is it just because they receive kickbacks in exchange for minimal taxes to be remitted by investors; or do our negotiators understand the economic benefits that would accrue to Liberia; do our negotiators experience the ravages of poverty; do our negotiators have the passion to reduce poverty; or do our negotiators have the political will to articulate the gumption to defend the working poor with the same ferocity with which Monrovia-landlords and profiteers protect multinational corporations?
More so, are our leaders prepared to boldly ask profiteers for a fair share of the dividends of our resources whom John Perkins considered to be merciless in pursuit of profits? He stated in his book called “Economic Hit Man,” that profiteers are aggressive in search of profits, as evidenced by economic strangulation instituted by W/B, IMF, WTO, Arbitration Panel, etc and/or by gunboat diplomacy and “cruel invasions” by NATO to remove nationalist leaders in Haiti, Iraq, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Libya, Ivory Coast, etc. Being aware of these cruelly brutal realities, which of the candidates would dare to question inhumane policies perpetrated as good policies by profiteers?
So, the million-dollar question is, will a nationalist, progressive leadership emerge to concretely institute job-creating policies within Liberia’s concession portfolios after voters cast their ballots in October 2011? The issue of high rate of unemployment is a global problem. Yet, countries such as China and Germany have 4.1% and 7.6% rates of unemployment respectively. In Africa, Libya didn’t only have a low rate of unemployment, but the country imported, as many as 2.5 million migrants, making it one of the biggest importers of labor in the region. (Hannah Gurman, FPIF, March 23, 2011).
Why, for instance, these three countries have low rate of unemployment? The answer is manufacturing activities. America’s unemployment (9.2%) problem, although nowhere compared to Liberia (75%), is also related to the limited number of manufacturing activities. America has a reduced manufacturing sector because domestic corporations as well as U.S. municipalities are searching for profits on the backs of the poor. For example, San Francisco City of California State, instead of contracting the building of the San Francisco Bay Bridge to corporations in the U.S., has contracted Chinese to build the Bridge in China, which will be shipped to the United States. (David Barboza,NY Times, 6/26/11). Barboza said also that New York City has contracted the Chinese to renovate subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and build a new Metro-North train Platform near Yankee Stadium.
To create manufacturing activities, in the case of Liberia, it needs job-creating concession agreements as well as re-negotiating current concession agreements.
However, any attempt to re-negotiate concession agreements that were renegotiated by the current Sirleaf government will be difficult. The renewal of contractual agreements with multinational corporations is difficult. Many countries are trying with mixed results. President Sirleaf said that she got good deals from both renegotiated agreements and new agreements. Is her claim true? No. In fact, because of Firestone’s insistence, China’s request to use latex of Liberian companies other than that of Firestone to build a tire factory in Bong County was denied by the Sirleaf government.
For some countries in South America, the attempt to renegotiate concession agreements was not only denied, but the efforts resulted into each country paying huge fines. For example, in the case of Ecuador, Chevron, the oil giant that has signed Liberia’s latest concession agreement, was awarded $700 million in a dispute with Ecuador, a South American country. (Randal C. Archibold, NY Times, 6/26/11). An arbitration panel, an international Institution that does investigate renegotiated concession agreements, stated that Ecuador should pay Chevron the $700 million because its environmental lawsuit against Chevron did delay Chevron’s operation, even though the government won the environmental lawsuit in Ecuador’s Courts against Chevron. In Chile, Archibold added that the same arbitration panel also asked officials of Chile to pay $10.8 million dollars to a firm called MTD because government officials opposed an agreement between MTD and Chile.
The second serious questions Liberians should ask themselves is which of these candidates President Sirleaf, Cllr. Charles Brumskine, Cllr. Winston Tubman or Prof. Dew Mayson has the political will power and tenacity to resist intimidation, blackmail, etc as stated by John Perkins in his book called “The Economic Hit Man.” Was President Sirleleaf intimidated, blackmailed, etc to have signed $16 billion concession agreements without adding values to our resources? Profiteers didn’t need to because President Sirleaf believes in the “trickle-down economics or the idea, which indicates that, “anything that increases corporate profits is good for the economy.” An example of such a policy is the speculative (gambling) economic policy found on Wall Street.
For example, in 2010, when American workers were being laid off and the budget for education was being cut, also at a time corporations were indebted to U.S. taxpayers, President Sirleaf’s friend, George Soros made billions in compensation along with another Hedge Fund manager, John Paulson who made $4.9 billion in compensation. These Hedge Funds managers plus 23 additional managers made $22 billion in compensation in 2010, of course, with less interest about the stability of America.
What’s about Charles Brumskine? I don’t have any records on him for me to understand his economic philosophy. Yes, I know that he is an excellent corporate lawyer. However, his recent opposition to an economic issue says a lot about his views on adding values to our natural resources before being exported. Recently, he chastised Christopher Neyor, an adviser to a government that continues to institute policies that allow investors to export raw minerals without adding values. The President and CEO of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), Mr. Neyor had “…urged the business community against allowing one country or a particular region of the globe to dominate Liberia’s oil blocks, adding: “Doing so will have long term adverse consequences that are not in our best economic and political interests…” Aspirant Brumskine stated that Mr. Neyor was wrong. The Presidential Aspirant stated that Liberia should continue to give preferential treatment to our old allies, even though our old allies’ economic arrangement does prevent the creation of good-paying jobs. Currently, candidate Brumskine's policy about corruption did focus on government bureaucrats who receive brides, but did fail to mention the role profiteers play in initiating awarding brides to government bureaucrats as John Perkins stated.
Presidential candidate Winston Tubman: He is an excellent corporate lawyer, and has worked with international institutions. His uncle, late President William V.S. Tubman, ruled Liberia for twenty-seven unbroken years at a time foreign investors exploited our country’s natural resources. Certainly, not being held responsible for his uncle’s mismanagement, I have problem with prominent individuals who cannot articulate their philosophy or world view with respect to the direction our country is headed. More so, the fight to reduce profits of powerful investors thereby beneficiating our resources for maximum redistribution of wealth cannot be won by lighthearted politicians. Folks, if a candidate did not know that instituting policies to create good paying jobs would not only reduce corporate profits, but would also benefit the poor workers as well as increase prosperity and sustain stability, will he/she be capable to be effective arbiter between the rich and the poor?
Prof. Dew Tuan-Wleh Mayson: For the professor, his problem is not that he does not understand the issue of poverty and/or does not know the correct economic principle which would create good paying jobs; nor is he afraid of being intimidated or blackmailed by profiteers. In fact, his problem derives from his views as he has re-echoed them in his book called “In The Cause of the People” and numerous speeches. Monrovia-landlords and multinational corporations will do everything to deny him the presidency because they believe that he will institute people's policies which would ultimately reduce profits of big businesses. Unlike his presidential opponents, who benefited from the spoils of the economic system through cozy relationship with multinational corporations and political cronyism, Prof. Mayson’s fight with and for the workers at FIRESTONE, BONG MINES, LAMCO, FREEPORT, ETC as he and his colleagues did prior to 1980 places him in an unenviable league with the downtrodden mass of the Liberian people.
Liberians, your vote will make a difference.