By: J. Yanqui Zaza
The phrase “Chicken Comes Home to Roost” uttered by the U.S. black advocate, the late Malcolm X, in referring to the mafia-type assignation in Dallas of U.S. sitting president, Texas, the late John F. Kennedy, has caught up with the first female President of Africa. Malcolm X was saying that the U.S. government’s use of violence (i.e., bad policy) to silence anyone who dare to question anti-people’s policy created an environment for someone to kill the president of the U. S. Similarly, the late Malcolm X would have reminded President Sirleaf that the consequences of her bad economic policy have paralyzed the government and confused the citizens; hence, the Ebola crisis has reached ‘catastrophic’ levels, according to Doctors Without Borders.
Why would a non-airborne-contagious disease pose so much trouble for a country (Liberia) that has been in existence since 1847? Surely, the impact of the civil war that ended in 2003 cannot be underestimated. However, in response to the calamities of the civil war, our international partners provided generous assistance. The United States took the lead and also negotiated the bridge loan of $1.5 billion as part of the $4.5 billion debt that was cancelled.
Is there any evidence of failure? President Sirleaf does not only see any sign of failure, but she has accused her critics as well as the international media for using the Ebola crisis to score a point. But the August 29, 2014 NY Times front-page story did summarize Liberia’s poor management of Ebola crisis among the countries affected; from ill-advised administrative policy, to shoot to kill blunder, to ill-equip healthcare system or to a higher number of Ebola deaths.
Another evidence of poor management by the Sirleaf government was presented by Dr. Amos Sawyer, the former Interim President and, currently the chairman of the Good Governance Commission during a teleconference held on 8/30/14. He stated that the Health System is not alone, and that the Liberia educational system would also have collapsed if it had encountered the same kind of Ebola crisis. More troubling for him, the collapse of the governing system was predicted and communicated to the President, Legislature and heads of the Health Ministry and Ministry of Education about four months ago. Yet, the Health system collapsed.
The 71% drop in revenue collection is another evidence of failure. The Minister was quoted as saying that the Ministry collected $433,000 per day and not the $1.5 million, due to the Ebola crisis.
So, why did Liberia perform poorly during the Ebola crisis, even though experts of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have continued to give high marks to our first female president as Africa best reformer? Is the failure due to incompetence on the part of bureaucrats? Or, is the failure due to downsizing, privatizing, selling natural resources to the highest givers of bribes in exchange for flawed concessionary agreements?
From the get go, President Sirleaf did and continues to embrace the World Bank’s Blueprint that big government is dangerous as free-market theorists think of the economic policy of President Francois Hollande of France. I guess, subsequently, she promised to disassociate her government from any program or gift from any country that practices or institutes the idea of big government. With this belief, she rejected medical doctors offered by Cuba; turned down offer from China to electrify Monrovia and its environs; rejected an Ebola Treatment Camp Center offered by Russia; rejected an oil contract with a Russian company, which included a promise to electricity Monrovia and its environs; and rejected a Chinese offer to build an administrative building complex that would have hosted almost or all of government employees. The Sirleaf government did not only reject offers from these countries, she abandoned the rice project in Lofa, which was financed by Libya’s former head of state, Muammar Kaddafi. She turned down suggestions such the idea of government partnering with investors to dig diamonds and gold or cut big trees and produce timbers/planks for sale.
So, how did the institutionalization of the policies of small government impact Sirleaf government performance during the Ebola disease? Let us review a few examples. When a government downsizes, privatizes or sells natural resources to the highest givers of bribes in exchange for flawed concessionary agreements, the citizens become disillusioned. When the government, because of the idea of instituting the policy of small government, does not invest into creating diamond cutting jobs, gold polishing jobs or food producing jobs, many of the unemployed citizens do feel that they have no stake in society. When the government does not accept the offer made by a country to build a complex of government offices, because of the influence of real estate tycoon, cost of housing does go up. And because of the government’s desire to privatize utility entities, such as electricity, and failed to accept the offer made by a country to electrify Monrovia and its environs, the cost of living does not only go up, but doctors and nurses work in darkness at hospitals.
From the prospective of profiteers, earning higher profits is their concern, and not the increase in cost of living or the increase in the rate of unemployment. Monrovia landlords, for example, would have lost their rental income from government, had the government accepted the Chinese offer to build administrative complex of office buildings. Or had the government accepted doctors from Cuba, Liberian private physicians would have lost on fees from patients. Similarly, if the government gets involved in rice production or diamond digging, rice importers and private diamond investors would have lost revenue from these businesses.
If there is any doubt about Sirleaf’s commitment to small government, revisit her views that explicitly state that small government is free-corruption and efficient. She expressed such views in France in 2009 at a time European leaders were trying to reign in the American-type capitalism. Or read her views she delivered at a press conference held in Washington D.C. in May of 2013, when she invited investors into Liberia, and her comment about the vast opportunities available for investors to earn profit from selling power/electricity. Better yet, please just read the blueprint from the World Bank that President Sirleaf government continues to follow.
So, folks, let us not focus on the individual, rather let us review the economic policy that is dictated by the World Bank as the primary culprit for the failure in effectively managing the Ebola crisis. And, as long Liberia continues with such an economic policy, insurmountable problem such as Tonado, Hurricane, Flood or Earthquake might become more difficult to manage.
About the author: J. Yanqui Zaza can be reached at: email@example.com