Business’s Bribery Shifts Country Dividends To A Privileged Few



By J. Yanqui Zaza    

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
December 28, 2014

                  



 
The Liberian government paid $31,000, predictably, to each Liberian Senator, to approve an Oil Agreement between Liberia and the Liberty Petroleum Corporation

For big business to get its sweet heart deal, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid $31,000, predictably, to each Liberian Senator, to approve an Oil Agreement between Liberia and the Liberty Petroleum Corporation, an American Company. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, against the advice of Global Witness that Liberia should not negotiate any concessionary agreement from a position of weakness as well as in the midst of the Ebola Crisis, did otherwise. Lawmakers wasted no time in approving President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s request after they received the $31k each. The bribery check issued to Senator Sando D. Johnson reminded me of an earlier big business bribery case, famously known as the Clemenceau Urey bribery case.

In the Urey bribery case, checks were paid to lawmakers in order for them to approve another sweet heart oil agreement awarded to a big business. The Audit Commission Report did discover a photocopy of the bribery check and advise the Executive Branch to prosecute Urey and others in accordance with the Liberian Statutory Law on Bribery. Is the recent bribery payment prosecutable? Better yet, would successful prosecutions of bribery cases inhibit big business from offering bribes as part of business transactions to promote and protect profit-rights? These questions are good issues for another discussion.

But for now, let us review the impact of big business bribery on social and capital investments. Reviewing the budgetary documents of Liberia as well as Ghana, Sierra Leone, Guinea, etc., I did observe several similarities. The different budgets show that these countries received minimal revenue and, or dividends from their natural resources. And consequently, they are compelled to generate significant portion of these revenue from user’s taxes (excise tax, import, value added tax, etc.). And of course, user’s taxes are the primary sources for the continuous increase in the prices of goods and services. Other casualties for the minuscule revenue from natural resources were the limited investment in social and capital investments and excessive borrowing as well as the high cost of indebtedness.   

Besides reading the World Bank’s economic policies such as “Poverty Reduction Strategy” and “Millennium Challenge Goals” within the different budgetary documents, I also read that democratic leaders governed all of these countries. So, why are these countries experiencing deficits year after year, even though they are endowed with abundant and lucrative natural resources, managed by democratic leaders, and supervised by the World Bank? Consequently, the increase in deficit, as well as borrowing, is forcing bureaucrats to shift limited revenue from social programs to pay huge interest expense to lenders such as the World Bank.

If democracy and World Bank’s supervision are not the remedy, what else? What if big business did not offer bribe in exchange of sweet heart deals? What if these countries’ economic policies did stipulate within their laws for the government to receive a reasonable share of the dividends and, or profits from the management of these resources? Or more so, why is it that the democratic system has instituted economic policies that shift the country’s resources dividends to a privileged few?

 In a paper called “Democracy Dividends, Not Democracy” delivered in 2012 by Sylvster Odion Akhaine, the failure of democratic policies was presented. He said the universal question is whether Democracy can deliver “Dividends.” He added, apart from the moral appeal, “Democracy” has yet to put food on the table in Africa, or in other words, has yet to solve the issue of bread and butter.

 

Maybe because of my shortcomings, I did not find within the discussion the issue of how big business’s bribery has a ripple effect on the war against corruption. In fact he kind of indicated that the electorate was partly responsible for the failure of democracy because they were voting with their pockets, but not with their interest. In fairness to Mr. Akhaine, such a view, of shifting the blame to the voters, is widely shared by scholars as well as ordinary citizens.

The Liberian history is replete with prosecuting corrupt officials, yet corruption is rampant. President E. J. Roy was executed for corruption. So were President William R. Tolbert and thirteen other officials in 1980. President Samuel K. Doe was not spare either. President Charles Taylor is in prison for life. Therefore, instituting policies that reduce the profit motive might reduce corruption. For example, if a government were to share in dividends and, or profits, investors might have less incentive to offer bribe. On the other hand, private owners of a lucrative resource will offer the highest bribes in order to earn huge profits at the expense of society.

The concept of government or institution instituting policy to protect its interest is universal. For example, let us look at Liberty Petroleum Corporation, the giver of the bribes in exchange of the recent sweet heart deals. On its web Site a sentence reads, “Over the last ten years Liberty successfully gained direct government grants to ten international petroleum exploration blocks…” http://www.libertypetroleumcorporation.com/properties.html. This statement implies that America institutes laws that allow the government to indirectly participate into the ownership and management of other countries’ natural resources, while it prohibits poor countries from playing the same role.

Centuries ago, when British and other Europeans wanted to discourage India and Egypt from growing food crops to growing cotton, colonial administrators and capitalists cajoled farmers to switch to growing only cotton. To enforce the anti-growing-food growing, capitalists instituted trade policy against growing food, which led to the shortage of food supply. (Vikas Bajaj, NY Times).

Quiet recently in the 70s, Eugenists used laws to prohibit perceived weak citizens, primarily minorities, from having offspring. Currently, the World Bank used programs of “Structural Adjustment,” “Heavily Indebted Poor Countries,” and, or “Millennium Challenge Goals” to shift revenue away from government coffers to its portfolios. In order to generate interest income from lending, World Bank needs insolvent customers to borrow money from its loan program. Were the World Bank to institute prudent economic policies; thereby allowing poor governments to receive reasonable dividends and, or profits from their lucrative resources, it would have had to change its business to survive.

In essence, until Liberia can institute laws that do not allow big business to offer bribes, offering kickbacks to bureaucrats in exchange of sweet heart deals will continue. Consequently, our deficits will increase as well as our debts; a recipe for chaos and disruptions in the lives or both the rich and the poor.

Happy New Year!

Jyanqui@aol.com

                 

koquay
One can only imagine what Sirleaf herself is getting on the back end of this deal.
koquay at 06:18PM, 2014/12/28.
Dan Flomo
Koquay,

It is very easy to estimate what the outgoing President Pro-Temp and President Sirleaf are getting. Multiply the $30,000 by 10 = $300,000 – this amount goes to the President Pro-Temp; Multiply the Pro-temp share by 10, that = $3,000,000. That is the President's estimated signing bonus. It may perhaps be more.
Dan Flomo at 06:55AM, 2014/12/29.
Anthony
Is the bribery issue a serious concern for the citizens of Liberia to request a commission of inquiry into the matter? If so,where are the various interest groups such as:ACLU or political parties blowing a whistle to take the bribery case to court on behalf of the people of Liberia.

We want the empowerment of people pronounce by having them take some action in blatant corrupt issues as these.

The complacency of the people is the reason for the Liberian poverty and abused by corrupt officials of the government.This is a Liberian problem and we are the ones who must deal with it.

Our patience and desire for peace have been tested over and over by this administration disregard for good governance.

As the nation resources are divided to the lowest bidders for peanuts,corrupt officials are amassing wealth for them and their families.We are also seeing our country go down the tubes, leaving Liberia very underdeveloped with no basic structures in place.

Where is the Governance Commission? Why they have not taken some action by exposing the various issues that are bottlenecks in the system causing the setback for the government to make progress.Where is their allegiance? is it fear,money, individual or to the people of Liberia.
Anthony at 07:46AM, 2014/12/30.
guawon siasia
Guys,I have never been a president of a country and I don't think I will become one because one; I don't have the pre-requisites and two; it is a very tough job. A president may want to do good things and development his/her country but those working with him/her do the most damage.

Think about this, was Tolbert a very bad president? Some may say yes but I think he was one of the best presidents Liberia ever had. What about Doe? You may have many things to say about Doe. My only problem with Doe is that his takeover of Liberia started with many deaths and ended with even more deaths. But one good thing he did in my opinion is that he changed the currency which somehow slow down capital flights? You either do some development in the country or keep your Doe's coin in your ceiling.

Liberia's problem is Liberians themselves. We sit on the internet and able to pinpoint everything that is wrong with our country's leadership and how the issues can be fixed. But wait until you are awarded a position in the government; you will begin to sing a different song.

Until we ordinary citizens change our mindset about how dearly the livelihood of all citizens of Liberia is paramount to a wholesome functioning society as Tolbert said, we will recycle and re-recycle our so-called Liberian leaders and will always end up with the same result. Privilege for a chosen few and hell with the rests culminating into even mass corruption that we can imagine.

In short, it is not the leaders, it is us. We will have to change on many levels. Think about it.
guawon siasia at 04:20PM, 2014/12/30.
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoejallah
Now, here again is another area where this Togba Nah Tipoteh - a verteran economist pretends not to know such a wicked and corrupt act goes on only because he receives his share! Now Mr. J.Kpanneh Doe etc. etc., weren´t this the very government carrying out such evil and unspeakably corrupt act which Tipoteh campaigned throughout Liberia to put in place? WHY CAN´T TIPOTEH SPEAK OUT AGAINST SUCH INJUSTICES AND HE CALLS HIMSELF A MOJA LIFETIME KING?
Kandajaba Zoebohn Zoejallah at 03:50AM, 2015/01/02.
Jay Wehtee Wion
They did not learn any hard lessons from the Doe - led1980 mmilitary coup and the 14-year bloody civil war. People Power revolt will soon catch them. And wait till the people administer jungle justice against them..Congua, native lackeys/collaborators...it is coming. We are fed up with this licensed criminality disguised as a democracy. Those who refuse to get out now will feel the wrath of the poor masses. To hell with Liberian democracy. Is this why Ellen sponsored the war? She and her regime collaborators will answer to the Liberian people one day. Mad as hell...he'll yes we are mad as hell.
Jay Wehtee Wion at 06:22AM, 2015/08/18.
Jay Wehtee Wion
They did not learn any hard lessons from the Doe - led1980 mmilitary coup and the 14-year bloody civil war. People Power revolt will soon catch them. And wait till the people administer jungle justice against them..Congua, native lackeys/collaborators...it is coming. We are fed up with this licensed criminality disguised as a democracy. Those who refuse to get out now will feel the wrath of the poor masses. To hell with Liberian democracy. Is this why Ellen sponsored the war? She and her regime collaborators will answer to the Liberian people one day. Mad as hell...he'll yes we are mad as hell.
Jay Wehtee Wion at 06:23AM, 2015/08/18.
Jay Wehtee Wion
They did not learn any hard lessons from the Doe - led1980 mmilitary coup and the 14-year bloody civil war. People Power revolt will soon catch them. And wait till the people administer jungle justice against them..Congua, native lackeys/collaborators...it is coming. We are fed up with this licensed criminality disguised as a democracy. Those who refuse to get out now will feel the wrath of the poor masses. To hell with Liberian democracy. Is this why Ellen sponsored the war? She and her regime collaborators will answer to the Liberian people one day. Mad as hell...he'll yes we are mad as hell.
Jay Wehtee Wion at 06:23AM, 2015/08/18.
Jay Wehtee Wion
They did not learn any hard lessons from the Doe - led1980 mmilitary coup and the 14-year bloody civil war. People Power revolt will soon catch them. And wait till the people administer jungle justice against them..Congua, native lackeys/collaborators...it is coming. We are fed up with this licensed criminality disguised as a democracy. Those who refuse to get out now will feel the wrath of the poor masses. To hell with Liberian democracy. Is this why Ellen sponsored the war? She and her regime collaborators will answer to the Liberian people one day. Mad as hell...he'll yes we are mad as hell.
Jay Wehtee Wion at 06:23AM, 2015/08/18.
Jay Wehtee Wion
They did not learn any hard lessons from the Doe - led1980 mmilitary coup and the 14-year bloody civil war. People Power revolt will soon catch them. And wait till the people administer jungle justice against them..Congua, native lackeys/collaborators...it is coming. We are fed up with this licensed criminality disguised as a democracy. Those who refuse to get out now will feel the wrath of the poor masses. To hell with Liberian democracy. Is this why Ellen sponsored the war? She and her regime collaborators will answer to the Liberian people one day. Mad as hell...he'll yes we are mad as hell.
Jay Wehtee Wion at 06:23AM, 2015/08/18.
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