Is Economic Injustice New In Liberia? No,
It Is Rooted In Our Economic System
By J. Yanqui Zaza
In the debate to come participants might not focus
on corporations squandering millions of dollars earmarked
for development, a serious economic crime. Rather they
might preach the familiar cold-war rhetoric such as
socialism to protect profiteers’ cash cow. So
beneath the concern about the Chinese-Liberian relationship
Dr. Marcus Dahn, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
spoke recently, there is a fear. Profiteers fear that
China’s economic activities might reduce donors’
funds and loans from the United Nations (UN) and World
Bank (WB) respectively.
Corporations might make little profits if the Chinese took over Liberia’s development projects. On the other hand they stand to reap enormous profits if China’s role is limited. Aware that the fiduciaries, in the case of Liberia (WB and UN) were toothless, they drained off portion of the $520 million dollars donors pledged in 2004 for Liberia, $60 billion dollars earmarked for New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S. after Hurricane Katrina, and $19 billion dollars and $45 billion dollars raised for Afghanistan and Iraq respectively.
Unlike the U.S. government, which assists countries by passing aid and loans through corporations, China, having trained surplus of professionals, does not need to hire contractors. For instant just as the Chinese used its own technicians in constructing the Samuel K. Doe Sports Complex, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare facilities, etc., it, apparently, would use the same method in constructing hospitals, colleges, roads, etc. Also it usually accommodates thousands of foreign students at technical colleges and universities for little or nothing, because it owns or operates those institutions.
The U.S. government usually hires a profiteer to perform a specific task the same way it awarded a $200 million dollar contract to DynCorp to train 3,500 Liberian soldiers. America’s economic system, which limits government role and requires assigning contracts to profiteers, is not only expensive, but it is also having a negative impact on its foreign policy. For, example, the U.S. is finding it difficult to persuade its allies to reject hundreds of competent medical doctors from Cuba, a tiny country in Latin America.
Although it has the highest Gross National Product in the world, U.S. professionals can't provide services for free, because the U.S. economic system does not allow the Federal government to invest in the training of professionals such as doctors. In addition, despite of its population of 280 million and the size of its economy, there is shortage of professionals. More so, goods and the cost of training technicians are very expensive. To balance budgets, Sates and local municipalities in the U.S., for example, are ordering drugs from Canada and hiring nurses from the Philippine and South Africa.
Now, the million-dollar question is whether the U.S. government, through the influence of profiteers, would arm-twist the Liberian government in ending the Liberian-Chinese economic relationship. Let us hope that our dire economic conditions would help us not to repeat the mistake we made in 1980. During that period, the government rejected China’s offer to train about 1000 Liberian students in diverse technical and professional backgrounds. Interestingly, the U.S. government does not have to arm-twist anyone. There are many reasons why China's role might be limited, even if the United States does not provide significant funding. One of those reasons is our economic system.
We should commend Toe for restating the issue of economic injustice, if Liberians intend to reform their economic system. However it is also true that the issue is not new. In fact it is because of our greedy economic system, patterned after the U.S.'s, that we had the vicious civil war and don't have a skilled labor force, high schools, hospitals, roads, etc. Additionally, the issue of economic crime was raised again during the Charles Taylor Regime when the allowance and salaries of the governor and board members of the central bank came under scrutiny. Or did the misappropriation of a significant portion of the $520 million dollars pledged in 2004 constitute an economic crime? If not, what are the elements that constitute an economic injustice?
Worst though, our economic system does not only shift enormous wealth to the privileged few, through inflated contracts and lease agreements. But it also, for example, impedes any efforts on the part of our government to finance investment in social programs such as quality education.
So why would an economic system inhibit such efforts if it is true that education helps to create a level-playing field for everyone to be emancipated from poverty? Greed. That's how anti-corruption advocates describe it. Had it not been for this greedy economic system our government would have invested at least in high schools and vocational schools beginning in 50s, thereby providing a skilled labor force. An educated society would not have allowed the haves to accumulate their wealth. This theory is commonsense because an increase in the number of doctors, accountants, lawyers, engineers, would not only reduce the fees customers have to pay for the same services, but prosperity would trickle down.
Additionally, the lower the rate of literacy of a country, the easier it becomes for the gap to be wide in salaries between chief executives versus ordinary employees. In countries such as Canada, Japan, Germany, etc. where the cost of college education is almost free there are many technicians. Consequently, the gap in salaries between chief executives and ordinary employees is not only low, but goods and services are also less expensive. This is not in case in Liberia or in the U. S. where there are fewer college graduates per capital because the cost of education is very exorbitant. So was the idea of increasing profits for the haves in Liberia a part of the reasons why the U.S. did not invest the $200 million dollars in education? If not, would the investment in the military, which dictators usually use to suppress their constituents, prevent another civil war in Liberia?
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