Korean Elites Thwart Reform; So Do Liberian Real Estate Owners Too?

By J. Yanqui Zaza

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 5, 2017


The rapid increase in rent or mortgage, which makes up a significant portion (45%) of the high cost of living (www.citylab.com), is making life difficult for citizens as well as governments around the world. And the high cost of living, experts complain, creates an unfavorable economic environment for good-paying job-investors. Instead of debating a reform policy in order to reduce the housing cost, politicians look for a scapegoat.

Well, reducing housing cost (i.e., a revenue for real estate tycoons) might be a hot issue for many candidates, who are friends of real estate owners. In any case, a debate of real estate reform might not only reduce cost, it could help owners to understand the impact of the cost of housing and encourage voters to remain engaged within the political process. 

How does the cost of housing increase? Additional cost in housing begins with factors of the economy. However, the practice by private owners to increase rent through an economic policy such as reducing the number of housing units and, or violating pertinent regulations is a key factor. The high rent or mortgage increases cost of doing business as well as food, electricity, healthcare cost, education, etc.

In Liberia, the National Housing Authority (NHA), established to help solve the housing problem of Liberia, had already begun a housing reform in 2011. In its 2011 Report, NHA stated that the Liberian government must increase Liberia’s total housing units from 327,000 (www.unhabitat.org) to 678,000, if the country is to reduce the high cost of living and help become sustainable by 2030. Also, country must construct additional 278,000 units if 2 million additional residents will be added to its current population of 3.4 million, the NHA stated.

Sadly, the NHA 2011 Report also acknowledged a few reasons why Liberia might not build the housing units required by 2030. The government is not committed to the idea. For instance, in the 2012/2013 budgets, the Liberian government allocated $700,000 for NHA, while it allotted twice that the amount to the National Oil Company of Liberia, a fiduciary entity. Nor, did foreign and local partners respond to its funding request; therefore NHA has little capacity to finance the construction of the needed number of housing units. 

One of Liberia’s external partners that could lend housing funds to NHA, but did not, is the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), one of the units of the World Bank. In fact, a chart on page # 16 of IBRD 2016 financial statement did not show any amount allocated to finance building construction in any country, even though IBRD reported a net income of $495M in 2016. So, why would an institution not allocate funds in order to reduce the cost of living, if it were organized to end poverty? I guess IBRD does not want to increase housing units, because profits of its allies would decline.

NHA 2011 Report is a good beginning, but the debate, if any, should not just be about peripheral policy issues such as constructing a few additional housing units without instituting a genuine reform, according to Mr. Connor Dougherty. In a May 8, 2017 NY Times article called “Cars Decline in Value, Why Not Homes,” he advised that if the U.S. government intends to reduce cost of housing, it should drastically cut back land-use regulations that cap new development. In the absence of effective reform, rental payments did increase even though the late President William R. Tolbert constructed additional buildings in Matadi, Barnesville, Gardnerville, etc. during the 70s.

Historically, higher rent payment had bred chaos, including the 1789 explosion in France, according to Thomas Piketty. Also, the increase in the cost of housing was partly responsible for the housing bubble in 2008 in the United States of America, as well as the bankruptcies of Greece and Cyprus in 2009 and 2012/2013 respectively, according to Mr. Paul Krugman, NY Times Columnist.

Nonetheless, these historical events have not provoked the thinking of the Liberian 2017 Presidential aspirants about the high cost of housing; hence, the need for Liberians to begin a dialogue now and not after elections. Assumingly, they forget or are naïve to realize that real estate owners will bribe policy makers and implementers for more profits, especially if voters do not participate in the debate. Describing the attitude of private-profit-making investors during elections, Joseph Schumpeter stated in 1942, that capitalism is not an ideology in which the will of the people is fulfilled. Instead it is a process by which elites compete to protect their interest. 

Will Liberian elites use the capitalistic system to illegally protect their interest? If there is any doubt, let us visit and understand the article called “South Korea’s Powerful Business Ties could Be Tough to Cut,” since the two countries embrace capitalism. The article written by Jonathan Soble, Jeyup Kwaah and Choe-Sang-Hun describes how the rich manipulates politics, and by inference how the rich demand money from the poor in any country, including Liberia. They stated, “… that South Korea richest business clans have the game,” or they know how to thwart any reforms. For instance, they will bribe anybody, minimize tax liability, and, or merge old-entities in order to consolidate power.

The President-elect of South Korea Mr. Moon Jae-In had promised during the election that he would prevent families from using non-profit foundations, monopolizing businesses and exploiting regulations in order to reduce tax liability, they added. However, Mr. Moon will find it difficult to enact many of these constitutional reforms since his Democratic Party’s 119 seats cannot outdo the 300 seats in parliament.

In the Liberian 2017 election, a winning party will not gain a majority within the Legislature. And even if a winning party were to coopt a majority of the lawmakers, records indicate that real estate owners will continue to bribe lawmakers. Therefore, the debate for real estate reform should begin now, rather than later. Beginning the reform process now will allow voters to demand answers from candidates and also identify those candidates who might already be in the pockets of real estate tycoons. Finally, Liberians should not postpone the idea of debating reforms as we did in 2005. Without debate, we wrongly concluded then that the rich are honest and the poor are thieves, therefore, excessive salaries paid to advisers will encourage them to reject bribes offered by big
business. Guess what, such a financial reward to a privileged few has now replaced the idea of patriotism and honesty with the culture of “get rich quick,” a culture from which private profit-making capitalists usually win over society.


Martin K Scott
Hey Comrade J. Nikita Zaza,

Anyone who has taken basic Economics knows that the solution to reducing the cost (price) of housing is as simple as supply and demand. In other words, if the supply of housing doesn't meet the demand of housing, it means that housing prices are going to rise..

But yet you suggest "debating a reform policy in order to reduce the housing cost..." .Oh really?.Ok,ok, if you believe that a "reform policy" will reduce the cost (price) of housing, can you tell us how it will work? I'm dying to hear about your "reform policy", comrade:! Let's start the debate right here!

By the way, where did you get your business degree ?? LU (University of Liberia), TU (Trump University), or KMU (Karl Marx University)?
Like · Reply · 17 hrs
Martin K Scott at 04:34PM, 2017/06/05.
j. yanqui

Hi Mr. Mattin K. Scott,

Sir, you and I have already begun the debate on real estate reform as per our comments about the article called “President Sirleaf’s favored citizens: Monrovia-landlords.” I recommended that the Liberian Government, through the Ministry of Commerce, should monitor and control the rental payment in accordance with the laws of Liberia, which states that the authorities shall monitor and control the price of all essential goods and services, including, but not limited to the price of housing units. On the other hand, you stated that private-profit-making investors should ask for any price for goods and services from willing customers, even if the profit margin violates the law prohibiting price gouging.

In my comment, I included information about Rent-Control Policy in New York City as well as JFK Airport Passenger-Policy on Price Control to support my view why the Liberian Government should enforce its Price Control Policy of goods and services that affect the general public.

Sir, let me share with you why a real estate reform is necessary now and should not be only about the idea of increasing the number of housing units. Let us assume that a number of buildings to be used as government offices will be completed within the next ten years as stipulated within the agreement the Liberian Government and China have agreed to carry out. I guess, Monrovia elites will dictate a real estate policy that would generate for them higher profits, of course at the expense of society. However, on the other hand, the Liberian government, with a good real estate policy, would build comfortable and affordable housing units within reasonable commuting driving distances, thereby, creating an environment where real estate owners will make reasonable profits.


Please find below our comments as per the February 2017 article called
"President Sirfeaf's Favored Citizens: Monrovia-Landlords" in case you want to revisit our comments.

Hey Comrade J. Nikita Zaza----

so what if an apartment " that rents for $1,000 in New York City will cost $540 in Liberia, $330 in Ghana, $440 in Sierra Leone and $270 in Gambia"?? Aren't those apartment other people's private property? If so, don't they have private property rights over their private property?

In other words, don't the owners of an apartment have the right to rent (lease), sell or give away his or her private property to anyone for FREE, if they want to? Of course they do. Read the Liberian Constitution (Article 22 a&b).

Look. If you think $540 is too high for poor Liberians, why don't you and your comrades become landlords and rent out your apartment for $270, like the landlords in Gambia? Who's stopping you?

I find it appalling that, despite the disastrous history of price controls, going all the way back to the days of the Roman Empire and ancient Babylon, you want the Liberian government to use its police power to set prices of other people's private property (apartments,rice, pepper, bitter balls, okra, taxi fares, etc) in order to make it AFFORDABLE!

Are you that economically ignorant???

MARTIN K SCOTT AT 10:41PM, 2017/02/05.


The article states that the government is allowing Monrovia-landlords to inflate rent charged to residents, businesses, non-governmental agencies and the government. For example, owners of commercial properties located within Monrovia continue to include replacement cost (i.e., depreciation expense) as part of the rental income. In capitalistic countries as it is practiced in Liberia, many good governments do encourage investors to follow the rules of operating a business. Investors should include the regular business expenses and should not inflate prices such as including replacement cost of properties that have been in business for more than 40 years. Presumably, the government is not discouraging real estate owners from inflating rent because the real estate owners are friends of President Sirleaf.

Therefore, I stated that since the Price Control Unit of the Ministry of Commerce monitors the prices of essential goods and services, it should also monitor rent charged to tenants to ensure that owners of commercial buildings (i.e., not building used for personal residence) do not include replacement cost in rental payment for properties that have been in business for more than 40 years.

Sir, good governments, even within capitalistic countries, are aware that investors will search for any means to get more profit at the expense of society. That is part of the reason why good governments usually establish agencies to monitor prices to ensure that profiteers do not inflate prices, even at times when goods and services are limited on the market or it is difficult for merchants to obtain the merchandise and services for sale.

So sir, the issue is not price control. However, I mentioned price control because the government of Liberia mandates the Ministry of Commerce to monitor the prices of essential commodities and services, which include housing. The Ministry of Commerce does monitor local merchants to ensure that the merchants do not inflate prices. If you disagree with the price control law that the Ministry of Commerce is mandated to enforce, then you should call upon your Lawmaker to change the law.

Sir, I have included "Authorized" information about yellow taxi operating in N.Y.C.

NYC sets the price in order to prevent drivers from inflating price, especially so for a visitor who might be unable to determine or prevent taxi owner from inflating a price for a ride.

J. Yanqui Zaza

"Safety Tip: Ignore offers of transportation from solicitors in the terminal. Soliciting of ground transportation is illegal and many illegal solicitors are unlicensed and uninsured. To obtain ground transportation information, please visit the Port Authority Welcome Center located in the arrivals area of each terminal, where uniformed staff will be happy to assist you. Alternately, you may head directly for the taxi stand located outside each terminal for safe and legitimate transportation. Ignore non-uniformed people offering to assist with baggage. Seek out uniformed porters or airline employees for baggage assistance.

JFK Taxi Information:

Important Tips:

Tipping is customary for good service.
Taxis at JFK Airport charge a flat fare of $52 for trips between the airport and Manhattan. Taxis impose a $4.50 surcharge during peak hours (4-8 p.m. weekdays, excluding holidays), for a fare of $56.50.
There is also a NY State tax of 50 cents added to trips within New York, but not for trips to NJ.

One fare pays for all passengers to one destination.
Four passengers (five in minivans) is the limit for New York City cabs.
Meter must read $3.00 at the start of the trip (except for JFK-Manhattan $52 Flat Fare trips).
Please take your receipt.

Sample Fares from John F. Kennedy International Airport:

These samples do not include tolls or tips.

Between JFK and Manhattan -- Flat Fare is $52 to the first destination (plus tolls and tip). The taximeter and receipt should reflect that this trip is a flat fare. There is no $1 peak time or 50-cent night surcharge for these trips.*

Trip Fare Range
Between Terminals $ 4 - $14

To the Bronx
Co-op City
The Hub (149th& 3rd Ave.)

$52 - $57
$48 - $53
$63 - $68

To Brooklyn
Coney Island

$59 - $64
$42 - $47

To Queens
Citi Field
Main St. & 60th Ave.

$28 - $33
$24 - $29

To Staten Island
New Dorp Lane
Victory Boulevard

$67 - $72
$74 - $79
To LaGuardia Airport $34 - $39
To Newark Liberty International Airport $97 - $102 (+$17.50 surcharge)Flat Manhattan Fare (Does not include tolls, tip) $52
Nassau/Westchester, NY: The amount on the meter from JFK to NYC boundary PLUS double the amount from the city boundary to final destination.

Connecticut/Suffolk/New Jersey/north and west of Westchester County: Price is negotiated between passsenger and driver at the start of the trip.

*Flat Fare Policy: If passengers request multiple destinations within Manhattan, the fare is $52 to the first passenger's destination. Thereafter, the meter will be engaged and a new trip and fare occurs.

Taxis are regulated by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission

For taxi compliments, complaints and lost property, call 311.

Taxis are regulated by the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Taxishare Services: To reduce costs, passengers traveling to similar destinations may also share taxi rides. Connect easily with other travelers going your way using Bandwagon, the taxisharing app. Download the free Bandwagon app here and request a taxishare upon landing, or just look for Bandwagon's taxisharing agents at terminal taxi lines during peak travel periods (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday afternoons and evenings).

Car, Van and Scheduled Bus Service is also available at JFK.

Reservations for shared-ride van and private car services can be made at the Port Authority Welcome Center located on the Arrivals level of each terminal. If the center is closed, there is a convenient self-service kiosk nearby where you can contact authorized shared-ride or private car services.

Authorized airport vehicle services:

J. YANQUI AT 05:03AM, 2017/02/06.

Comrade J. Nikita Zaza--you say that the "government is allowing Monrovia-landlords to inflate rent charged to residents, businesses, non-governmental agencies and the government". But hey, are they (residents, business, etc) that stupid to keep paying "inflated rent" to real estate owners who are friends of President Sirleaf?? Are these tenants a bunch of suckers for Sirleaf and her friends?

Even if they were suckers, .what fish do YOU have to fry in a PEACEFUL, VOLUNTARY, MUTUALLY AGREEABLE economic transaction between a WILLING seller (landlord) and a WILLING buyer (tenants)?... By the way, are you a poor man's lawyer?

MARTIN K SCOTT AT 11:18PM, 2017/02/06.


Sir, your question "By the way, are you a poor man's lawyer?" is a surprise tome because you have commented on many of my articles.

I have joined brothers and sisters who believe that it is the responsibility of all of those who are knowledgeable to inform Liberians, who should encourage government, investors, and other related parties to search for ways and means to reduce income inequality.


J. YANQUI AT 03:39PM, 2017/02/07
j. yanqui at 11:49PM, 2017/06/06.
Martin K Scott
Comrade J. Y. Nikita Zaza,

You recommend " that the Liberian Government, through the Ministry of Commerce, should monitor and control the rental payment in accordance with the laws of Liberia, which states that the authorities shall monitor and control the price of all essential goods and services, including, but not limited to the price of housing units."

Ok, fine.

But do you know that PRICE FIXING of all essentials goods and services, including, but not limited to the price of housing units, is against the law in Liberia?? Oh, my bad, I forgot....that law only applies to Lebanese, Chinese, and Indians merchants--right, Comrade??

Also, do you know that price performs the vital role of allocation of resources in the Liberian economy? A price held below what the market will bear causes dislocations in the form of shortages, long lines and even starvation!. Haven't read or heard about the rice shortages, long lines for transportation, and the black market in Liberia?

If so, then why do YOU want the government to continue to DENY prices from performing its PRIMARY function--equating supply to demand??

Oh, my bad, I forgot, you're economically illiterate!
Martin K Scott at 01:18PM, 2017/06/07.
j. yanqui


Once again, thanks for your comment.

I have researched the issue of price gouging and price control in the State
Georgia because someone informed me that you reside within that State.

Georgia's law (O.C.G.A. Sections 10-1-1393 and 10-1-438) "...prohibits businesses
from taking advantage of the situation to engage in price gouging." Also, the state
of Georgia and the City of Atlanta do not have a Rent Control Policy.

I have mentioned the state of Georgia because you did not comment on NYC Rent
Control Policy and, or JFK Airport Price Control Policy.

Sir, I agree with you "...that price performs the vital role of allocation of resources
in the Liberian economy," and in any other country. Therefore, governments should prohibit profiteers from demanding excessive prices for goods and services that the general public needs such as shelter, food, etc. If not governments are indirectly authorizing elites to take more money from the pockets of the poor. And if governments do not want to increase the gap of income inequality, then the authorities might have to institute policies that prohibit influential business people from dictating economic policies.

Interestingly, you agreed with the idea that Liberia has laws to monitor and control prices of essential goods and services, including the cost of housing. Also, you indicated that Liberian authorities are compelling local merchants to follow the "Price Control Policy, but they continue to allow Monrovia-Landlords to demand higher rental payments. I guess you know why.

Finally, monitoring price or enforcing price control does not necessarily lead to government authorities coercing profiteers to sell goods and services below profit margin or market value. More so, why would any government enforce a price control policy that would force profiteers to sell their goods and services under market price, thereby, compelling investors to relocate to another community? Do you have any reference?

I am sure authorities of the United States of America have examined your concern but concluded that the enforcement of Price Control for certain services such as utility (water, electricity, education, food, shelter, etc.) is good for society. That is part of the reason why NYS and NYC have lower tax rates for utility entities (Verizon, Con Edison,etc.) than the tax rates for regular corporations (Goldman Sacks, Starbucks, Marriott Hotels, General Motors, etc.)

In closing, please be careful in using economic theory to make prediction because it is a difficult undertaking. For example, long ago it was predicted that inflation would increase if the rate of unemployment fell below 4.5 percent or 4 percent. That theory did not hold true during the economic boom of President William J. Clinton and President Barack Obama. Also, American taxpayers have realized that market-oriented economists did wrongly predict that economic activities would increase if government officials reduce tax rate of businesses and, or tax rate of individuals.

Once again, thanks for the conversation.

j. yanqui at 07:48PM, 2017/06/07.
Martin K Scott
Hey Comrade J.Y. Nikita Zaza,

If all your socialist friends jump off a bridge, would you do it too? I have to suppress the laughter here. In others words, just because the Peoples Republic of NYC and JFK have rent control and price controls, you think it'd be economically sound for Liberia to do the same, right, Comrade? .......Is that what they taught you in economics 101 at Leningrad State University? Someone told me that you got a B.S in economics from there!

But look, basic economics teaches that when either supply or demand changes, PRICES change! Whether its food, housing or transportation, it doesn't matter. But guess what happens when a LAW ( Georgia's anti-price-gouging laws) prevents prices from changing, it reduces the flow of resources to where they would be most in demand. At the same time, price control reduces the need for the consumer to limit his demands on existing goods and resources!

By the way, price controls have a centuries-long track record of creating worse problems than they solve In 1979, the American Government (Carter Administration) instituted price controls to solve its gas shortage problem. But guess what happened?? American citizens had to wait in long lines to buy gas.! In Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, rent control led to housing shortages! In the 17th, 18th and 20th century, price controls on food led to hunger and starvation in Italy, India and Russia!

Hey Comrade, does all this history and economics matter to you?

Martin K Scott at 12:12AM, 2017/06/09.
j. yanqui

Hi Mr. Martin Scott,

Once again, many thanks for your contribution.

I have posted for your reference below an excerpt of my April 5, 2005 article, which outlines idea or rationale why good governments set price control and, or why they play a role in providing certain goods and services that affect majority of the citizens. I guess it is because of such a belief that Mrs. Theresa May, current Prime Minister of Great Britain rejects the “free market ideology of Thatcherism,” advocates for a tax rate as high as 35%, and reminded British voters that her “…Party still believes in a post-war Keynesian consensus of government intervention…”

Also, it is a good idea for governments to receive reasonable revenue in order to invest in shelter, clinic, education, etc. However, governments can receive reasonable revenue only if they play a role in the economy as evidenced by the role Botswana plays in managing its diamond industry. Botswana receives about 50% of its budget revenue from diamonds, while Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast receive about 3% of diamond revenue because profiteers (Liberians, Lebanese, Guineans, Gambians, etc.) spirit diamonds outside of the countries.

Further, while the British Government allows the very poor to receive free housing in London (www.quora.com/how-do),” our Liberian government allows Monrovia-Landlords to inflate rental payments. For example, even though profit-making buildings on Camp Johnson Road, Down Waterside, located in Taylor Major Compound, etc. might have already recouped the replacement costs of their investments, they are still including replacement cost in rental payments. Sir, replacement cost (i.e., depreciation) is recouped after 40 years for commercial buildings in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.

Sir, this is the article called “Limited Utility Services Stifle Economic Prosperity” reported by the Perspective.

Long ago, as it is now, governments around the world upheld the rationale that certain activities (education, religion, library, charitable organizations) should be exempt from taxation if majority of the population benefits from the teaching or moral values; governments should invest in services (light, water and sewer, highways, bridges, etc.) that impede the well being of society if not provided. Those who uphold this thinking say that citizens enjoy their government’s efforts if it provides the environment conducive for them to prosper. They argue that services such as electricity, water, transportation, etc. in modern times have become necessities of life, and are not luxuries.

The U.S. Government embraces and implements this idea that a government should provide an environment conducive for its citizens to prosper. So it gives incentives to employers, subsidizes corporations (Sugar Industry and Farm Industry), bails out mismanaged corporations (Chrysler, 1980’s and Capital Asset Management, 1990’s), or provides funds for research for commercial use such as the Internet-worldwide web and medical drugs. In addition to giving out corporate welfare, it funds and operates Amtrak, a government controlled transport system. President George Bush, for example, allocated $1.2 billion dollars within the 2006 budget for Amtrak. Following the footprints of the Federal Government, New York City also implements this philosophy. It owns and manages subways trains and buses (Metropolitan Transport Authority) that serve millions of people daily. Concurrently, the City, in conjunction with the States of New York and New Jersey, owns and manages three airports (John F. Kennedy, Newark Liberty International and LaGuardia). These airports handle over 80 million air passengers, over 1.1 million aircraft movements, and over 2.5 million tons of cargo annually.

By the way, why is it that investors shy away from funding long-range ventures such as George Washington Bridge, Holland Tunnel all in New York City, or Electricity, and Water and Sewer all in Liberia? Profit. Investors don’t realize the kind of quick and huge profits from investing in Amtrak, electricity, water and sewer. In fact some investors lobby their governments to invest in those long-range projects as part of incentives for doing business. They argue, rightly so, that a government, in addition to minimal profits, receives indirect benefits such as the opportunity to spur economic activities across the country

Sir, this is the information on the price of oil:

Yom Kippur War
“On October 6, 1973, Syria and Egypt, with support from other Arab nations, launched a surprise attack on Israel, on Yom Kippur.[11] This renewal of hostilities in the Arab–Israeli conflict released the underlying economic pressure on oil prices… You've [Western nations] increased the price of the wheat you sell us by 300 percent, and the same for sugar and cement... You buy our crude oil and sell it back to us, refined as petrochemicals, at a hundred times the price you've paid us... It's only fair that, from now on, you should pay more for oil. Let's say ten times more."[12]”

“In response to American aid to Israel, on October 16, 1973, OPEC raised the posted price of oil by 70%, to $5.11 a barrel.[13] Thus, market prices rose from $3 per barrel to $12 per barrel to reduce demand to the new, lower level of supply.[18] The world financial system, which was already under pressure from the Bretton Woods breakdown, was set on a path of recessions and inflation that persisted until the early 1980s, with oil prices remaining elevated until 1986.”

j. yanqui at 09:59AM, 2017/06/09.
Martin K Scott
Hey Comrade J. Y. Nikita Zaza,

We all know that you're an avowed socialist, but how do YOU judge a government policy (price controls, rent controls, etc)??? By its good intentions or its results??

If you say by its RESULTS, you will see the economically disastrous consequences that followed after the government (including the British, Botswana, and American governments) instituted its Price Controls or Rent controls policies!

Here are some examples of the disastrous consequences of Price and Rent Controls: 1979, the American Government (Carter Administration) instituted price controls to solve its gas shortage problem. But guess what happened?? American citizens had to wait in long lines to buy gas.! In Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, rent control led to housing shortages! In the 17th, 18th and 20th century, price controls on food led to hunger and starvation in Italy, India and Russia!

Hey Comrade, it's painfully obvious that you have NO understanding of basic economics (and history). But can you do me a favor and put a WARNING on all of your postings that YOU'RE economically illiterate???
Martin K Scott at 12:54PM, 2017/06/09.

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