Liberian Government Must Take Action for “Growth with Development”

A ‘State of the People’ message to Liberians


By: Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
March 18, 2014



Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh

Editor's Note:
On February 3rd, Dr. Togba-Nah Tipoteh, founding leader of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) and Presidential Candidate in Liberia’s 2011 Elections, delivered his annual ‘State of the People’ message to Liberians at an event organized by the Fiamah Future Intellectual Discourse Center. Delivered a week after President Sirleaf’s 2014 Annual Message to the nation, Dr. Tipoteh’s speech clearly outlined the serious economic problems (particularly the deepening mass poverty) plaguing the people of Liberia. A development economist by training, professor Tipoteh explains that contrary to what the President declared in her annual message, Liberia “is not stronger, safer, securer and steadier than in the past”. Liberians, he notes, are still trapped in a “growth without development” syndrome or nightmare, mainly because of a chronic lack of commitment on the part of the present and previous Liberian governments to take action for “growth with development”. Below is the full text of Dr. Tipoteh’s speech, which demonstrates his classic style of elegant simplicity of language.

People of Liberia and Friends of Liberia:

Let me thank the officers and members of the Fiamah Future Intellectual Discourse Center for making it possible to have the Annual Message on the State of the People delivered here today.

This Annual Message is dedicated to the World Leader Madiba Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and Liberian Leader Michael Kpakala Francis.  May I begin this Annual Message by extending New Year Greetings to the people of Liberia:

Rivercess County - Ah po Glaypor Zuo Zeh diaye jaye

River Gee County – Jolo jah jloh eh-chuhn

Grand Kru - Sohn day- day ah Sankan

Gbarpolu County - Ahlaseh gola nelhn - na mahn-nee-mahn; kunaneenehn

Bomi County - Seh dwakeh yor

Grand Cape Mount County - Kamba ehyeryee sanama mayun

Maryland County - Jolo jah jloh eh-chuhn

Sinoe County -  Sohnday-day ah sankan; ah po Nyihnswa troh daysuh-
day kpahnnn
Margibi County - Ahlaseh gola nelhn na mahn-nee- mahn; Ah po Glaypor
zuo zohn diaye jaye

Grand Gedeh County - Ah po Nylhuswa troh day-suhn-day kpahnnn
Grand Bassa County - Ah po Glaypor Zou zohn diaye jaye

Bong County - Ahlaseh gola nelhn-na mahn-nee-mahn

Lofa County - Kunaneenehn; fowonee - nalhn wohelhnnelhn
Yaye-Jor wor-zio sen-neih yor

Nimba County - Kwa kweh dor yo-o; kwa keh deh guelor; sankula
kaila Allah dee ahma

Montserrado County - Happy New Year

We are here today to talk about the most important problem that the people of Liberia continue to face. We are here today to help more and more Liberians to understand better where their main problem comes from and how we as a people can work together to end the problem in the shortest possible time in a way that the problem will not come back. This main problem facing the people of Liberia is mass poverty. Nearly all
Liberians continue to be poor.

In the 2014 Annual Message of the President of Liberia, it is declared conclusively that "our Republic of Liberia is stronger, safer, securer and steadier than it has been in many years". The government of Liberia's own facts show that the Republic is not stronger, safer, securer and steadier than in the past. The Republic is the people and it is not possible for the Republic to be making progress when the people are not making progress. Let us use the government's own facts, some of which are in the President's Annual Message to make this point convincing.

The Annual Progress Report of the Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy says that 64 percent or nearly two out of every three Liberians were very poor in 2006. The President's 2014 Annual Message says that 77.9 percent or almost eight out of every ten Liberians in need of income-earning work cannot find work and they cannot manage to live under the present economic conditions In Liberia. It is this very high vulnerable unemployment situation that made United Nations Secretary General to say thatthe very high unemployment in Liberia means that national security inLiberia is fragile or shaky or not stable or weak or nothing to depend on.The World Bank, the main international economic partner of thegovernment, says that nearly 9 out of 10 Liberians in need of income earningwork cannot find work to do and this is what makes themunemployed. According to the World Bank, Liberians living on less thanUSD 2 a day are 95 percent of Liberia's population, while Liberians living onless than USD 1.25 a day are 83 percent of the population and Liberiansliving on less than a 1US dollar a day are 63.8 percent of the population.

But the government of Liberia and the World Bank with its twin, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), continue to make a big mistake by saying that there is progress in the Liberian economy because of the high growth of the economy. The President's 2014 Annual Message reports that the average economic growth rate a year for 2006 to 2013 is 8 percent.  The government, The World Bank and the IMF are still making the gross mistake by saying that Liberia is experiencing progress because the economic growth rate per capita or per person is rising. Let us consider a situation where there are 10 persons in a group but only one of them is employed, with an income of 10,000 dollars a year. Although the average income of the group of 10 persons is 1,000 dollars a year, only one person earns any money while 9 persons remain unemployed. Therefore, it is absolutely wrong to use the income per person amount to say anything about the economic condition of the 9 unemployed persons in the group.

In the 2014 Annual Message, the President says that although there is progress, "we must collectively do more, as the public fight against corruption, abuses of power and the misuse of government resources is being emboldened and intensified". In this public fight, the government has its agents, the Governance Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the General Auditing Commission. With the government showing a lack of commitment to establishing good governance and ending corruption, there is most urgent need for the emergence of good leadership to establish good governance and end corruption for Liberia to be a better place for all Liberians.

Good leadership in Liberia calls for a leader to take peaceful action with as many persons as possible to prevent the suffering of at least most Liberians. When the suffering already exists, good leadership calls for a leader to take peaceful action with as many persons as possible to end the suffering in a way that it will not happen again. When we speak about the suffering of the people of Liberia, we are speaking about the poverty of the people of Liberia. When we speak about poverty, we are speaking about the people of Liberia who have less than 80 Liberian dollars or 1 United States dollar a day to use for one person.

There was too much poverty in Liberia to the point that some Liberians and their foreign friends who wanted to take over the government used violent ways to overthrow the government, telling the Liberian people and the rest of the world that the new government was necessary to end the suffering of the people of Liberia. The overthrow of the government by the civil war used poverty as the main excuse for the overthrow. Therefore, good leadership calls for talking peaceful action with as many persons as possible to end the poverty of the people of Liberia and to prevent it from happening again.

Progress in any country means that change is taking place that brings down the level of poverty in the country. It is not possible for any person or government to talk credibly about progress in any country when the person or government does not tell the truth that shows the level of poverty going down. When a baby is dying from malaria, no one can say credibly that the baby is doing well by showing new clothes for the baby. To say credibly that the baby is doing well, the truth about the ending of the malaria in the baby has to be presented. For over fifty years, governments of Liberia, including the present government of Liberia, say that there is progress in Liberia when the facts showing the truth tell us that the main way in which government takes action for the production and distribution of goods and services is what brings suffering, poverty to the people of Liberia. The truth about this relationship between the main way of production and distribution and the poverty in Liberia has been openly known to the government of Liberia since 1960, based on the examination of the facts of the economy of Liberia throughout 1950s.

Despite all this talk about Liberia being founded on a religious foundation, the truth is that the government of Liberia does not value highly what God has given to Liberia. For example, the government of Liberia continues to preside over an economy owned by foreigners because the government continues to allow foreigners to take Liberia's natural resources like iron ore, rubber and logs into their foreign countries without having factories in Liberia to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and ownership for Liberians by producing steel rods, rubber products and furniture in Liberia. The Liberian economy could be growing with more revenue coming in but most Liberians would not benefit because the rights of the people continue to be given to foreigners. As we are now assembled here, there are thousands of foreigners in jobs and doing business that Liberians, especially the youth, can do and should be doing according to the Constitution of Liberia. Liberia continues to produce what Liberians do not consume and continues to consume what foreigners produce. The main reason why the Liberian dollar loses value is that the government places much more value on what is foreign than what is Liberian. This longstanding bad situation dominates the economy of Liberia and it is called "economic growth without economic development" or "growth without development" for short.

No country in this world has experienced progress, the sustained Improvement in the living conditions of its citizens, by using the way to manage the economy that the government of Liberia continues to use. This reality should be easy to understand because if any country were to allow another country to do what the country can do for itself, then the other country would benefit from what is done at the expense of the country that gives away Its rights to other countries.

The people of Liberia know this reality. But the government of Liberia is not promoting the addition of value to Liberia's natural resources. Over hundreds of years, villages in the geographical space called Liberia have been using iron ore to make their farm tools. This is why every village has a blacksmith facility that produces farm tools. During the 1990s, former LAMCO machine shop workers, with former combatants and displaced Liberians used scrap metal to produce internationally marketable farm tools under the sponsorship of Susukuu, the 43 years old Liberian poverty reduction organization. Susukuu, an NGO, also organized and supported
former combatants to use logs thrown away to produce furniture for the Liberian market, while the government of Liberia continues to spend hundreds of millions of dollars buying foreign furniture.

The government of Liberia continues to show its lack of commitment to end mass poverty and corruption. From the re-monopolization of the rice market in early 2006 to the legislative buying of votes in the speakership elections, to the Acelor-Mittal donation of 100 vehicles to the National Legislature through the sponsorship of the Presidency, to the mismanagement of the county development fund, the Poverty Reduction Strategy and the National Vision 2030, to the attempt to reintroduce the hut tax, the most inhumane poverty increasing government practice in the history of Liberia, to the malaise on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, to the closure of the Price Commission Report, to the second place status of the Independent Human Rights Commission, to the lack of prosecution powers for the Anti-Corruption Commission and to the flow of the People's money into the hands of government officials who mismanage the people's money, the present government of Liberia has provided sufficient evidence pointing to its lack of preparation and its lack of commitment to end mass poverty and corruption and work for justice that brings peace.

This lack of preparedness and commitment on the part of the present government of Liberia to take action for "growth with development" and for justice and peace means that it is the people of Liberia who must take action to make Liberia a better place for all Liberians. From the action of January 10, 1997 on disarmament that registered the most democratic event in the history of Liberia when over one million Liberians in Monrovia
voted for disarmament by staying home for one day, to the prevention of war over the past 10 years, to the stopping of the government's attempt to reintroduce the hut tax in 2011, to the peaceful people's action on government entering into concession agreements, taking away farm land for food production while trampling upon cultural rights without the participation of the people and to the removal of nearly all members of the 52nd legislature seeking reelection through the 2011 elections, the people of Liberia are demonstrating their preparedness and commitment for working together to end mass poverty and corruption.

All of the Annual Messages, including the one delivered one week ago, by the present President of Liberia, keep Liberia within the "growth without development" syndrome or nightmare. The way to get out of this nightmare and prevent violence, instability and insecurity in Liberia is for the people of Liberia to push peacefully for a fair electoral process that can produce a national leadership with a publicly known commitment to the "growth with development" strategy that can end the mass poverty in Liberia within one Presidential term of office; and that is possible. In terms of the electoral process, as senatorial elections are due this year. It is most important to reorganize immediately the National Elections Commission (NEC) to enable it to conduct fair elections. Civil society and religious community Involvement In this reorganization is necessary. NEC has exhibited its inability to conduct fair elections when in 2011 it placed deliberately the wrong last name of a presidential candidate on the ballot paper and refused to correct it when informed about the mistake which could have caused considerable unrest and instability. The recent media revelation about the presence in the Commission, as a Commissioner, of a citizen of the United States of America must be investigated immediately prior to the full commencement of the present civil education drive. The present way of running Liberia, as in the past, benefits mainly a few persons at the expense of the people of Liberia. There is a way through fair elections to get a better way of running Liberia, a way that benefits at least most Liberians and Liberia's foreign friends who have the people of Liberia at heart. It is only the people of Liberia who can change the running of Liberia for the better by not putting money first during elections and giving first place to record or performance by electing persons who are honest with a publicly known record of being on the side of the poor people of Liberia. If the people of Liberia do not come together to end the suffering and save Liberia, then the people have only themselves to blame for their continuous suffering.

The people of Liberia remain united more than ever before on the choice of peace over war. This is why the people of Liberia are still saying clearly and loudly: WE WANT PEACE, NO MORE WAR! For hundreds of years, the people of Liberia have known that It is only justice that brings peace and this is why the people of Liberia support the struggle for justice when they say Gweh Feh Kpei, Kpelle for "The Struggle continues".

The fact that the government of Liberia continues to ignore the mandate of the people of Liberia for justice as the way to peace by insisting that there is peace without justice means that the government is not prepared to build democratic institutions and that the government is not ready to work for peace. Instead of celebrating 10 years of peace which does not exist, the government should be celebrating 10 years of the absence of war. Peace comes not from the absence of war but from the presence of justice. So, the people of Liberia are still saying "Gweh Feh Kpei," the struggle continues. 

This insensitivity of the government to the mandate of the people of Liberia for justice to get peace is clearly seen in the government's disregard for the mandate of the people on value addition, as reflected in the cry of the 17 years old child from Crozerville, Montserrado County, who said: God has given Liberia iron ore, why don't we make steel rods?

When the people of Liberia have personal health problems, they get a medical doctor or some health worker to help them get better health. Now, as the health of Liberia is terrible, with poverty and corruption, let us express the hope that the people of Liberia will find a people's doctor or a health worker who is honest and has a good record of working with the people to provide leadership to end Liberia's health problems of mass poverty and corruption.

Let me bring this Annual Message to a closure by expressing confidence in the people of Liberia that the people working together will take action urgently now to empower the Youth of Liberia. This action is urgent because the Unity Party Youth demonstrated their frustration a year ago with the Unity Party led government by calling upon its Political Leader to step down from the Presidency on account of the Party's failure to keep promises made to the Youth.

Let us all commit ourselves to telling the truth in ways that bring peaceful change to end mass poverty by improving the living conditions of at least most Liberians. We must always remember that failure to tell the truth about Liberia is bad for Liberia, because it prevents the taking of action to end the suffering in Liberia. It is this failure to tell the truth that prevented action to stop the Civil War from taking place. Now, let the people elect the kind of leadership that will appreciate truth telling to end mass poverty and corruption, the evil in the Liberian society that can bring another Civil War.

Let us be confident that the people of Liberia will not make the same mistakes over as the government does, let the people of Liberia begin now to elect good leaders, leaders who can unite Liberians to work to end mass poverty and corruption to bring justice for peace that makes Liberia a better country for all of the people of Liberia.

Baika - way
La balika yor
Eseh emama
Enaykay, kobaleka
Aa troh
Ah-troh -wa
Eh kon bislaye
My people, thank you plenty for listening.

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