LEGAP: Best Plan Yet to Liberia’s Economic Recovery

By Dionysius Sebwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 7, 2005


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The controversy about LEGAP (Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan) is being fueled by suspicion of prominent Liberians. And instead of clamoring or sensationalizing about the negative connotation of the word trusteeship, we should be spending more time educating our populace about the need and the enormous benefits of LEGAP.

Trusteeship is not a dreadful word as some would have us believe. Concerns about our sovereignty and apparent occupation can be addressed if we incorporate our list of desires – scope of the plan, timeframe, objectives, consideration of our sovereignty, benefits to our country – into any contract we negotiate with the International Contact Group.

The trusteeship being considered by the International Contact Group applies primarily to a segment of our governing institutions. Appropriately, this arrangement is called LEGAP (Liberia Economic Governance Action Plan) – not trusteeship. The word trusteeship purports imperialism or colonialism. And the natural response to such control is nationalism. That’s the visceral reaction some Liberians are exhibiting right now. Our branches of government – executive, judiciary, and legislative – will all be intact throughout the process.

According to Chapter X11, Article 78 of the UN Charter on Trusteeship, “The trusteeship system shall not apply to territories which have become members of the United Nations, relationship among which shall be based on respect for the principle of sovereign quality.” Considering this provision, it is absolutely clear Liberia does not fall under the category of trusteeship. Besides, the UN Trusteeship Council was disbanded in 1994.

Circulating unnecessary statements and criticizing the International Contact Group when its efforts are geared toward ensuring our country’s financial house is put in order -good governance, accountability, and transparency – run counter to accelerated economic development and fiscal responsibility Liberia needs. This sort of criticism of LEGAP is a near-perfect example of patriotism run amok. While not every Liberian government official is corrupt, the writing is on the wall: prevalent corruption is constricting every sector of the Liberian government. The international community is merely trying to prevent our country from teetering on the edge of post-election fiscal mismanagement of epic proportion.

Liberia’s perennial problem should not be swept under the rug. Our government’s problems are revenue generation and undeniably bad management. Have we done some soul-searching and asked ourselves why Liberia is still mired into poverty after more than hundred years? Why would anyone want to leave unchecked an insidious fiscal problem that has permeated all sectors of our government and recurrent in succeeding generations? Do we really love our country when we try to stifle effective management plan by a credible international group? Or, are we just indifferent to the daily suffering of our local population?

LEGAP is a relief for all Liberians. The goal of the International Contact Group outweighs any myopic perception we may harbor. The crux of the debate about LEGAP should focus on how our sovereignty can be protected while this generous assistance of fiscal management revamps our government and other financial institutions. LEGAP acceptance illustrates our commitment to structural reforms, an incentive to the international community to invest more in Liberia. Our dismal track record necessitates this critical choice we must make to ensure a financially sound footing for Liberia. Countries that have benefited from such assistance have substantially improved their economies and other sectors of their countries.

It’s all smoke and mirrors when some Liberians have a knee-jerk reaction about Liberia’s sovereignty and miss the point of an issue that is intended to bring much-needed investment. Liberia is not being occupied, rather this country is getting fiscal management assistance (bluntly, monetary lessons) because over one hundred years we have failed to employed accountability, transparency, and good governance. Our country is rife with corruption. Crying wolf about trusteeship when such proposition does not exist is disingenuous. Do we conscientiously believe this effort by the International Contact Group is a bad idea? Or are we being just selfish because we do not, like our local population, experience or bear the brunt of constant hardship of ordinary Liberians?

There are many approaches to ensure Liberia is stable, peaceful, and prosperous; be it absentee ballot to ensure politicians are held accountable to voters at home and abroad; be it some arrangement with the International Contact Group to ensure fiscal management is a hallmark of a reemerging

nation; be it comprehensive election in which no segment of the Liberian population abroad is disenfranchised. LEGAP is one major step to meeting UN Millennium Goal, minimize or eliminate corruption, and tackle the astronomical unemployment strangling our economic growth.

LEGAP will certainly alter the status quo and help catapult Liberia into the 21st Century with a purpose. This move by the International Contact Group is a blessing – a clean slate to start afresh and do it right this time. Our country is being rescued due to a woeful financial track record of fiscal management while effective stewardship remains almost nonexistent.

Reining in corruption will take more than business-as-usual practices. Economic development for Liberia is ours to achieve; anything contrary to LEGAP will doom our nation. The buck has to stop somewhere. Rejecting LEGAP is self-inflicting.

About the author: Dionysius Sebwe is president of the LiberianAbsenteeBallot Organization