By: Ivor S. Moore
Apologists of economic liberalism in Liberia continue to argue that there is no problem with this system, that had it not been for this system our resources like iron ore, diamond and gold would remain untouched while the nation and its people perish out of financial and technical inabilities to extract them, that Liberia only needs to fight against corruption to propel its development and prosperity.
These squealers have succeeded in manipulating the mass media in getting across the propaganda that the government should lest interfere in directing the economy of the state, using that ever since dismissed argument that the market possesses inherent ability to solve its own problems through the efficient market hypothesis.
Certainly, some points like battling corruption and the inability to extract the nation’s natural wealth bear some iota of truth. But it is in the nature of sophists to present some truth to hide the big lies. They would not justify why corruption is deeply rooted in such a system. They would not speak about the several bad concessions which continue to rob the state in unimaginable sum for the several years under the terms of concession entered into in the name of open market, sourcing of financial and technical supports for extraction, job creation and revenue generation. They will not mention about the fact that the economy of the state is controlled by foreigners while Liberians are either the gatekeepers, store boys etc.; many are street vendors in their own country. Do they ever give explanation on why the country’s revenue cannot fund its budget despite supposedly huge FDI’s in the tune of 16 billion and that it has to become aid dependent on the countries whose industries are kept alive by it raw material.
Fascinatingly, these advocates are either members of the bourgeoisie who make up the minority class who in their unholy matrimony with their foreign concessionaires and entrepreneurs, share in the exploitation of the country’s wealth and the marginalization of its people, or are stooges of the bourgeoisie, ignorant of the reality, who are on pay to defend the system by saying what their masters tell them. They would obviously defend their ‘chopping spots’ as it is said in Liberian parlance. However, every attempt by them unveils the system naked face to the public: The chief instigator of the Liberian problem.
For decades now the rise of democracy around the world is accompanied with the rise of liberalism in the political and economic spheres. Liberal democracy is championed as the best form of democracy. How liberal a country’s political and economic systems are is a determinant of whether that country is on the path of social justice and prosperity.
The triumph of the West in the Cold War has exacerbated the antagonism toward any socioeconomic system with elements considered to be similar to the Soviet communist type of the planned economy. In fact, a government which attempts to regulate its economy is libeled as reactionary and communistic and stands to face grave consequences from the West.
The struggle for liberalism, especially economic liberalism, has reached a level beyond the propaganda of Western media. It is a major project of the International Community under its New World Order. Through the Breton Woods institutions, the World Bank and the International Monitoring Funds (IMF), Third World countries, among other things, are compelled to turn their economies to laissez-fairism for the easy entry of foreign companies as a bargain of financial support.
The advent of post-colonialism is the point of departure of liberalism in Africa. As is the nature of life and history where the oppressed demand change rather than get it freely from the oppressor, the stampede of the African Liberation struggle was a lethal attacked against the colonialists which forced them to relinquish political sovereignty to their colonies, thereby bringing to an end the direct exploitation of the resources of the continent.
But the colonialists would not let go of their exploitation which they depended on for their development, prosperity and survival. They would not allow their industries to die and trigger crisis due to unemployment and breakdown of their economies. Thus, the open market was pushed as a medium for subtle exploitation. Despite adopting huge Foreign Direct Investment, most of Africa if not all, languish in poverty and underdevelopment and survive at the mercy of their former colonialists now turned neocolonialists, in the words of Nkrumah.
Roots in Liberia: Expressed in the Open Door Policy
The Open Door Policy of Tubman, which was an earlier recommendation of the imperialists backed Christy Commission, became the gateway to economic growth with little development and a massive spree of wealth exploitation. Becoming a leading producer of iron ore in the world, Liberia was said to have been on par with Japan in terms of economic growth while economic development was far lagging. What a contradiction?
After all the years, all evidence has shown that the foreign concessionaires became richer while the nation and its people were shortchanged and remained poor in the name of open and unhindered market. How could a barely regulated market benefit the republic when it is the foundation for exploitation?
Why the ‘Open Door Policy’ nomenclature is not in used today, the state of the economy suggests its presence in a higher form. Today, the people are told that it would scare investors away to enter concessions in terms of securing more benefits for the nation.
Like during the introduction of the Open Door Policy under Tubman which was actually a recommendation of the Christy Commission, the present assent of foreign multinational behemoths to Liberia’s extractive industry and its attraction of huge foreign direct investment was expected to take the post-war country from underdevelopment and abject poverty of the masses of its citizens to unprecedented heights of national development and socioeconomic prosperity for all.
For ten years since the country’s first post-war democratic elections, these foreign companies have taken roots in the economy especially in the mining, agriculture and oil and gas sectors. The means of production is foreign controlled. With the national budget rising from eighty million up to over half billion, pro government media have not ceased to herald the ‘dawning of a new day’ in the history of Liberia. But, the reality only proves this to be illusory.
The republic is aid dependent. This is evident from the fact that despite all the foreign investment in the country and the ‘big mouth’ of a Liberian Renascence, revenue collection has been unable to fund the national budget. Aid dependency is the order of the day. The country’s debt is increasing by quantum. Liberia is what someone termed as a nation on the Clift of hell.
The Way Out
History has proven times without number that developing nations with their emerging markets who adopt economic liberalism to achieving middle income status will remain far from this end. Open markets especially for developing countries stand the chance to be exploited by imperial powers who do not miss out on opportunities to exploit the barely regulated markets of developing nations to fuel their industries, provide employment for their citizens and stabilize their economies, leaving the exploited nations in poverty and wanting.
Zambian Economist Dambisa Moyo and many others are arguing that emerging markets like Liberia can only do well by following a trend similar to the Chinese model of socioeconomic transformation. The state of the international politics and economics where exploitation of weaker nations by stronger ones is prevalent makes it difficult for any country to get out of its third world status.
The Chinese realized this early and adopted a model of economic protectionism which propelled its economic prosperity in few decades. It increased control of its means of production without uprooting foreign investment. Today, China has taken millions out of poverty despite its huge population. It is a major player on the world stage, second to America economically.
The logic behind China’s success story is that, according to Moyo, economic prosperity is the determining factor for genuine democracy. This implies regulating the economy in the manner that will promote economic diversification, wealth redistribution to promote socioeconomic egality, protectionism for national entrepreneurs to dominate their market, and nationalization of major means of production for more revenue generation to break the yoke of aid dependency and provide basic social services and fund other development projects. China was able to get prosperity in few years as opposed to the long years it took western countries despite the benefits they gained from slavery and colonialism.
Liberia today enjoys considerable political rights thanks to the many advocacies for social justice championed by the Progressive Forces. Political rights, unfortunately, are doing little to secure economy prosperity for the country.
From across the Liberian panorama, students, marketers, civil servants, young and old are all tire with this system which denies them control of their economic and destinies. Their aspirations seen lost under a system inherent with the nation’s attainment of socioeconomic prosperity and equality for the majority of its people.
Unarguably, the cord of economic liberalism must be broken from the republic if it should progress to middle income status. A system which gives power to government to direct the economy of the state for the benefit of its people is the best alternative for achieving the aspirations of the people. History has justified the truism of this shift in the social system in countries like Singapore, Chile, China and many other countries.
Why the adoption of economic liberalism as the socioeconomic system should be somehow appreciated for attracting investment for Africa’s first independent state battling against poverty, disease and ignorance for the betterment of its people, on the overall, it must be rightly stated, given its nature and modus operandi, that this system provides the very reasons for which it should be condemned and abandoned if this republic must rise out of its long history of backwardness and forge a new nationalism based on the progressive ideas of economic equality and prosperity for all. Here stands Liberia chance to progress or stagnate!
Author's Statement:: Ivor S. Moore is the Co-Chair for Operations and Acting Chairman of the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA), a revolutionary Pan Africanist movement seeking change in the present social system of Liberia in order to achieve a new nationalism and a progressive Liberia in the spirit of solidarity for all. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.