By J. Yanqui Zaza
Minister Konneh and President Sirleaf
Diamonds, gold, etc., resources needed for prosperity, are in abundance in Liberia, specifically, and in general, in Africa. Investors, invited or not, are in every country in Africa. Also, the “dividend trickle-down” economic system, propagated as the weapon to defeat corruption and inefficiency, is embraced by many Africans. But instead of prosperity as promised by the World Bank, inequality and corruption are in abundance in Liberia, and in Africa.
Trying to identify the source of the harsh economic condition inflicted upon Liberians, some advocates and the news media, especially FrontPage Africa and The Perspective, once again, do focus on the flawed concessionary agreements signed by the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Echoing allegations by Global Witness, they claimed that multinational companies did receive sweet heart deals at the expense of Liberia.
The criticism is similar to the complaints detailed in the Study conducted by African Union. In 2014, the African Union Committee on “Tackling illicit financial outflows and inequality in Africa” reported that multinational companies account for 60% of the illicit financial outflows from Africa. Mr. Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa and current chairman of the Committee, quoting from the Study, stated that Africa couldn’t fund investment because multinational companies siphon $50 billion out of Africa yearly.
Fifty billion fleecing from Africa yearly doesn’t only stifle economic development, it does also increase Africa’s inequality. And, by extension, anarchy, civil war, famine, poverty, etc. become inevitable. Why so? This is because, in the absence of economic development, conflict and insecurity abound, notes Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank. In essence, society does construct the bricks of prosperity when it invests in good-paying job creation, education, infrastructure, healthcare, etc.
The million-dollar question is how does Liberia reduce corruption or how does Africa discourage companies from siphoning $50 billion yearly from Africa? Certainly, promoting democratic tendencies is necessary. However, many democratic countries that adopt capitalistic economic system have failed to ameliorate harsh economic conditions, stated Pope Francis in November 2013. In fact, multinational companies do find it easier to exploit resources in countries that institute the economy of the invisible hands or market forces.
How do multinational companies exploit resources in advanced or underdeveloped countries? First and foremost, they successfully encourage the country to institute capitalistic economic system. Once the laws are instituted, permitting investors to own and, or manage lucrative resources, investors do search for candidates. For example, Liberia’s current President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was supported by big business during the 2006 elections and 2011 elections. Using the market economic system, President Sirleaf government has and continues to sell on the cheap Liberia’s resources to big business.
Contrarily, investors would not have made campaign contribution to Candidate Sirleaf if Liberian laws had prohibited the transfer of ownership of resources to profiteers. However, when there is a prospect that an individual will own or manage a lucrative asset, for example, he or she will lobby and, or gain access to people in position of influence. And, thereafter, they will continue to bribe in order to make profits at the expense of society.
Bribing public officials in Africa and or in the United States is how companies or individuals earn high profits at the expense of society. Mr. Le Dtrutman stated in his article called “A Better Way to Reign in Lobbying” that profiteers spend $2.6 billion yearly to buy U.S. political candidates. In Africa, the amount is unknown, but the results are similar. Consequently, as it is in Africa where $50 billion is siphoned yearly, the United States receives minuscule royalties and taxes because profiteers own and, or manage America’s natural resources.
The non-African articles below illustrate how society suffers when individuals, rather than communities own and, or manage lucrative assets/services.
The first article called “Sales of U.S. Arms Fuels The Wars of Arab States”, written by Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper, explains why the armament industry, searching for profits, is fueling wars in the Middle East. It stated that in last year alone, Saudi Arabia spent $80B; the Emirates spent $23B, and Qatar will spend $11B. Predictably, if the U.S., the mediator between Israel and the Arab countries, were manufacturing the armaments, Arab countries wouldn’t have had the weapons to start a military offensive in the first place.
The second article called “Serving All Your Heroin Needs” written by Sam Quinones explains that doctors, from 1990, in search for higher profits, abandoned a more holistic approach to combat heroin addiction, which include eating better, exercising more, instead sold opioid painkillers. Through deceptive marketing techniques, sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010 because salesman pitch “…made ordering drugs as easy and convenient as ordering pizza…” Also, physicians impressed patients that doctors would perform the same way as car mechanics do; doctors are endowed with the powers to fix everything and at anytime. Now, data indicate, “…fatalities from heroin overdoses in America have almost tripled in three years.”
The third article called “World Bank Projects Leave Trial Of Misery Around Globe” written by Mr. J. Kushner and others explains that the World Bank has failed to aid poor countries. Analyzing the loan policy, for example, the World Bank has lent $590 B as compared to $690 B the Chinese State-owned Bank has lent in the last two years. The World Bank, established 1930s, make profits, while its rival focuses less on profits.
Mr. Nicholas Kristof, commenting on the crisis of inequality in Baltimore, Maryland quoted the Noble Price-wining economist, Mr. Joseph Stiglitz, by saying, “inequality is Not Inevitable” and “Inequality Is a Choice.” So, if we are to institute laws that bestow the right upon investors (both local and foreign) to own lucrative resources and not the community, which has interest in peace and stability, then corruption and inequality will be our choice.