Liberia is a small country on the very West Coast of Africa with a population of 4.1 million. It has 43, 000 square miles of land. The country has endured years of turmoil and civil war. Most of the citizens do not have jobs and over half of the citizens are illiterate. Liberia’s economy is largely reliant on the export of raw materials, mainly rubber and ore.
It is however ridiculous and painful for Liberia, a country with less than 5 million people to pass a national budget of over US $600 million and yet still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The national government’s approved a budget for Liberia for the past three years were: US$660 million-2014/2015, US$604.4-2015/2016 and US$600.2 million (Government of the Republic of Liberia, 2017). Contrastingly in 2016, Liberia was ranked 174 out of 187 by the United Nations Development Index. Poverty in Liberia is manifested in areas like poor healthcare and education systems, bad road conditions, high unemployment rate, high illiteracy rate, low life expectancy, etc.
In the presence of such ideal poverty situations, the political elites are living extravagant lives at the majority poor citizens` expense. They are abusing the power entrusted to them by the electorates and setting for themselves excessive salaries and benefits. Kollie (2017) article gives some interesting statistics about the money spent only on the Legislative Branch between 2013 and 2017.
Some questions to ponder on about the above statistics are: what extra work are the lawmakers doing when they only have two active sections within a week and a long vacation break which most of them spend aboard? Who are they representing with such disparities between them and the very citizens whom they claimed to represent? Are they in office for service or salaries?
As the legislators make millions, the basic service providers who include teachers, health workers, security personnel and others are being paid an average of US$150 per month. More sadly again, the average Liberian family lives on less than US$3 a day. This statistic is beyond belief and shows the corruptness and deadliness of the Liberian governing system, making us reflects on World Youth Alliance’s position as relates to responsible stewardship.
The insatiable desire for wealth and love of power have become the drivers for public servants nowadays in Liberia, and not service to the people. The public offices meant to be places of service to the people have now become clear paths to prosperity. The comforts, benefits, and privileges attached to public offices have made the incumbents to strongly hold on their positions, making it very difficult for others to serve. This has created a corrupt, ineffective and imbalance social condition called “horizontal mobility”.
Horizontal mobility is a situation where an individual moves from one position to another within the same social class without change of status. That is, the majority citizens continue to get poorer while the few elite politicians continue getting richer at the poor citizens` detriment. Hence the middle class that has the potential to drive a better economy for developing countries are not given an opportunity to thrive and continue to dwindle.
The corrupt system had resulted in ideal poverty, high unemployment among youth, prostitution, labor abuse, high illiteracy, human tracking, low life expectancy, etc. These disadvantaged conditions continue accelerating each day. They defile the very dignity of a human person and threaten the future of the country.
The question of concern which I continue to ask myself as many Liberians have come to a point of getting comfortable with these uncomfortable situations is: how can this corrupt, unpatriotic, and imbalance system be defeated?
With the above question in mind and knowing World Youth Alliance at the Africa Emerging Leaders Conference 2016 and its dedication to defending the dignity of every person through education, culture, and advocacy I got interested. I wanted to better understand international advocacy and contribute to World Youth Alliance Africa work of defending human dignity across Africa. I then signed up for the Certified Training Program (CTP) and the Internship. Now that I have been accepted for both, I am looking forward to going back home to restart the World Youth Alliance Liberia Chapter with a special focus on advocacy and education, then culture. This is because I believe that the corrupt system in Liberia can be defeated through constructive civil engagement and action.
Government of the Republic of Liberia. (2017, April). The Budget-Ministry of Finance & Development, Planning-Liberia. Retrieved from https://www.mfdp.gov.lr/index.php/the-budget#
Kollie, M. (2017, March 8). FYI Liberians. Retrieved May 21, 2017, from http://fyiliberians.blogspot.com/
Written by Chris Lan from Liberia, B2 2017 Intern at the WYA Africa Regional Office