Corruption Oils The Wheels Of Corrupt Business: Would President Sirleaf Undermine Her Allies' Interest?


By J. Yanqui Zaza

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 29, 2007


Do Liberians expect President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, or any other leader who is a beneficiary of contributions from corrupt investors, to institute policies that would reduce rewards, which necessitated a relationship in the first place? Or having executed three former presidents, starting with E. J. Roy and two more indicted, should we not focus on why and how Liberia ruling class uses corruption to perpetuate its hold on power? More so, the debate on corruption is not new. Ironically, criminal minded-investors hold the view that corruption greases the wheels of business. In fact this mentality has spread onto many non-governmental agencies (NGOs), which now allocate amounts within their bids to cover potential kickbacks. Additionally kickbacks influence unethical lawyers to protect corporate criminals, doctors to render unprincipled decisions, legislators to enact anti-people’s laws or judges to rule in favor of parties with big bucks.

Undoubtedly, since corruption has become rampant, is this not the time to view it in a broader perspective? For instance, why is it that as corruption becomes rampant and poverty increases, wealth of both the ruling class and corrupt entrepreneurs increases? In responding to that issue Richard Easterlin said that education would help in lowering inequality when he spoke on the topic “Why isn’t the whole world developed," which was sponsored by the Economic History Association in 1980. Earlier in 1775, Adam Smith, one of the revered economists, said capitalism remedies poverty when he addressed the topic “Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” In 2006, C. Peter Timmer, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development asked why Northern Europe that was cold and muddy became rich a millennium ago? Or how did Germany, which was a cacophony of warring states with desperately poor peasants in 1800, become the economic engine of Europe?

But can we address countries’ inequality or Liberia’s corruption without analyzing why and how the “haves” get rich and “have-nots” continue to get poorer? Is there a link between corruptions on the one hand and a relationship between unscrupulous profiteers and ruling elite on the other hand? A ruling class including a military junta wants to perpetuate its power, while profiteers want super profits. However, for both groups to achieve their goals they have to ensure that a majority of the population is voiceless, uneducated or uninformed. So the theory is if there is minimal investment in education, which is the ladder to economic opportunity, a majority of the population would remain poor. Concurrently, the ruling class would perpetuate its hold on power and allow corrupt profiteers to extract higher profits.

If you think that the theory sounds conspiratorial, inquire if corrupt leaders of churches or businesses would welcome competition. Similarly unscrupulous professionals, including lawyers, accountants, doctors, engineers, etc do not welcome any policy, be it education or be it immigration that increases their membership. Unlike Liberia where corrupt officials and investors go unpunished, U. S. officials who received kickbacks from corrupt investors usually go to jail once found guilty.

Liberia, independent since 1847, with a small population of 3.5 million, but enormous resources, has the worst-case scenario. Its ruling class did not just deny education to the majority of the population, but also provided inferior education to them. In fact this apartheid system did not only affect children of the majority, but also affected ruling class children born by unwed mothers or concubines.

Is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, our post-war president prepared to invest in developing “human oil?” If so did she inquire from Paul Wolfowitz, the former President of the World Bank, the status of the $520 million dollars pledged in 2004 for programs such as education, since the World Bank was one of the fiduciaries? Was our President unaware that her decision, for example, to defer the collection of $28.6 million dollars in delinquent taxes, undermined her policy on education? Was saving money to report a surplus budget, rather than funding public schools, which lack books, desk, chairs, crayons, etc., a good policy? Or was it a surprise that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf abated real estate taxes owed by constituents, while making a difficult for students to attend schools since she continues to layoff their parents?

Besides not funding her own educational policy, why did President Sirleaf select advisors who would easily be influenced by unscrupulous profiteers? I surmise advisors who demand incomparable high compensation, have divided loyalty between government and clients of government or have questionable records usually become gullible to corruption? Again was it a coincidence for President Sirleaf to have hired such advisors? Certainly, President Sirlaef knows or should have known the records of some of her lieutenants. Records in the public indicate that some of her advisors worked for previous government. Some advisors were part of the bureaucrats who replaced advocates of the poor after profiteers isolated President Samuel Doe form his people and some served her immediate predecessor. Or was the selection of the current managing director of the National Port Authority of Liberia based on something else other than the need for a manager who possesses contemporary experience in corporate governance, financial reporting system, electronic technology, etc?

Some critics believe that President Sirleaf is incompetent. I think that President Sirleaf is competent in awarding sweet heart deals to criminal minded investors in exchange for campaign contributions. She is smart in hiring corrupt advisors who will help her in giving out more money to Monrovia landlords rather than providing money for education. She is intelligent in deferring the collection of delinquent taxes from her business partners, but continues in dismissing parents who are struggling to send their children to schools. Hopefully, Liberians would remember that candidates with good messages, but are allies of wicked investors can’t institute people’s policies. Neither would they select uncorrupt advisors since such unpatriotic advisors are needed in designing and carrying out onerous policies. A genuine fight against the cycle of corruption requires the building of formidable political vehicle comprising of a team of advocates for the poor, and not just the selection of charismatic, compassionate or professional candidates.

© 2007 by The Perspective

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