By: J. Yanqui Zaza
|Charles W. Brumskine|
Former Presidential candidate, Counselor Charles Brumskine and his Liberty Party have accused President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Unity Party for failing to address “Gross Income Inequality,” according to an article carried by FrontPage Africa, a Liberian Web Site. So, can a new leader such as one of Liberia’s best lawyers, Charles Brumskine, who embraces the same economic system that the current President has instituted, find the trick and spur prosperity within this war-weary country?
Income inequality, this old-age issue, is back on stage again. Unlike a series of debates that occurred primarily among academicians in the past centuries, nowadays, everyone is involved. More so, prominent personalities, including Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor during President William Clinton; Joseph E. Stieglitz, former World Bank official; Pope Francis etc. are lamenting that capitalism is the culprit of income inequality.
Interestingly, some US lawmakers who legislate corporate well-fare, but at the same time denounce the idea of assisting the poor, for example, did not only frown at income inequality, but have welcomed Pope Francis’ criticism of capitalism as an unfair economic system. For example, Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, a potential presidential candidate and, or Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker and now a co-host at CNN’s Crossfire,” did embrace Pope Francis criticism, and added we should not live on a planet with billionaires and with people who do not have any food.
Pope Francis stated that, “…the “crude and naïve trust in the goodness” of the minority to trickledown some of their surpluses, which will inevitably bring about economic growth along with greater “justice and inclusiveness has never been confirmed by the facts…” of capitalism. (The Washington Post Newspaper, 11/23/2013).
Yes, few facts. The World Bank (lender/consultant) makes billions in profits, while its clients (poor countries) go bankrupt. Wall Street went bankrupt, Detroit (the City of the US car industry) went bankrupt or US owes trillions in debts, etc.
What is capitalism? Chris Harman, in his article called “The rise of Capitalism,” defines capitalism this way. He explains that the presence of competition and the actions of consumers as well as government’s role usually try to reduce the excess of capitalism; the compulsive desire of a minority section of society to accumulate wealth does encourage them into grabbing the surpluses created by the toil of the rest of the world.
In Liberia, the accumulation of wealth by a minority of the population resulted into the deaths of over 250,000 people during the civil war. Yet, such a horrific lesson has not influenced the desires of local capitalists (Monrovia-landlords) and foreign capitalists (slave-wage investors) from grabbing 90% of the dividends of Liberia’s natural resources. In fact, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the Legislative Branch, with feeble protest from the public, continue to sell cheap Liberia's natural resources to slave-wage-investors, all because of the capitalistic principles.
Now, Charles Brumskine, a lawyer, who has and continues to benefit from the spoils of capitalism, and is a prominent stakeholder, is accusing President Sirleaf for implementing his choice of economic philosophy, capitalism. He shamed President Sirleaf for failing to address the "Gross Income Inequalities" in Liberia, according to Front-page Web Site. Additionally, he was quoting as saying, "This nation cannot enjoy long-term peace and prosperity with only 7% of its population owing 90% of the wealth and 70% of the Liberian people living on less than US $1.25 per day," he added. Further, he stated that President Sirleaf, has failed to enforce policies that would employ technical Liberians, but has allowed investors to bring their own technical staff, use their own outside suppliers, pay revenue abroad, etc.
Amidst many recommendations, the Liberty Party presidential candidate, according to Front-page, offered the following: that investors should plant one tree in surrounding communities for every tree planted for making money; that the concessionaire must commit to providing technical assistance; that Liberians should become shareholders; that Liberians should have access to land, affordable housing and new market opportunities, etc.
Are Counselor Charles Brumskine and the Liberty Party serious and ready to fight and reduce “gross income inequality” or are the observations and recommendations part of the 2017 presidential campaign? However, where was one of Liberia’s brilliant lawyers, who has the expertise in writing concessionary agreements, when President Sirleaf allowed the World Bank to write sweet heart deals for slave-wage investors? Will his law firm represent slave-wage investors who would file lawsuits against the Liberian government for trying to re-negotiate concessionary agreements that have gone through the second-round of re-negotiation?
Was it not Fonati Kofa, the Liberty Party Chairman, and with the blessing of the Party’s financier, Charles Brumskine, who insisted that corruption was not an impeachable offense, contrary to Article 63 (B) of the 1986 Constitution, which states that “…a presidency can become vacant by reasons of (1) death, (2) resignation, (3) impeachment and (4) incapacitation. By inference of the Liberty Party, D. Tweh was wrong for calling for the resignation of Tubman; MOJA and PAL were wrong for calling for the resignation of Tolbert; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was wrong for calling for the resignation of Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor; and Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe was wrong for calling for the resignation of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. (J. K.K Peah, New Dispensation)
Okay, let us forget about the past activities of counselor Brumskine and the chairman of Liberty Party and look into their philosophy of economic theory. In the same article, Liberty Party appears to disagree with Pope Francis’ view of the effects of trickledown theory. Counselor Brumskine suggests that all will go fine if petty corruption issue such as the mismanagement of the County Development Fund is addressed. He did not address the big corruption practice, including the practice the World Bank (agent of big business) writing sweet heart deals for big business, according to Robert Sirleaf, son of President Sirleaf. That Brumskine and Liberty Party do embrace unfettered capitalism (free market), meaning that government will award lucrative assets to profiteers, because he believes that some portion of the dividends of big business will trickledown and reduce income inequality.
Counselor Brumskine should be aware that awarding lucrative assets to profiteers does increase corruption, all because profiteers usually seek higher profits. More so, a fully embraced “free market” does not allow interference from a minority shareholder and, or non-shareholders, be it a government that has formed a partnership relationship with slave-wage investors. Most importantly, a minority shareholder status does not create an opportunity for a government to review assumptions, questionable expense, short-term and long-term projects or business transactions between a slave-wage investor and its foreign parent, etc.
Counselor Brumskine, remember, majority shareholder(s) dictate the policy of business.
A cursory review of budgetary documents of Ghana, to Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Guinea, etc. would reveal why non-shareholder status has coerced each government to impose higher taxes on imports. Taxes imposed on imports generate about 50% of government revenue, while taxes received from natural resources is minimal.
Now since Ghana is the new success story of capitalism after Liberia in the 1970’s and Kenya in 2000’s, let us review its budgetary document to understand why Pope Francis said capitalism is an unfair economic system. Ghana in 2013 had estimated total revenue of seventeen billion (17,255,000,000) in Ghanaian currency, which includes eight billion (8,236,000,000) or forty-eight percent (47.73%) representing tax imposed on import. With minimal revenue, Ghana did increase its total debt to eighteen billion (18,827,000,000) in 2012 from eleven billion (11,937,000,000) in 2010, an increase of six billion (6,800,000,000). Its interest payment, excluding principal, was three billion (3,194,000,000) or (15.52%) of total expenditure of twenty billion 20,581,000,000.
Oaky, Liberia might not be in a position to collect reasonable taxes from slave-wage investors. But can the government use portion of the rental payments allotted for government offices, for example, to invest into, building affordable housing, food production, diamond-cutting factory or machinery to add values to our logs?
Tempering with capitalism, which has compelled the United States government to borrow $15 trillions, including $2 trillions from socialist China, coupled with the high rate of unemployment and an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, is not going to reduce poverty. A sound economic policy is required, which will allow government to institute mechanism that will prevent De facto owners of our resources from creating false assumptions and questionable expenses to reduce taxable income, techniques profiteers use to lower government revenue.