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Democracy has come to town; use creative economic interventions

 By P. Emmanuel Munyeneh

Speech launching  the Economic Student Association of the United Methodist University in Liberia

I am honored to be selected to serve as keynote speaker on the occasion of the Economic Student Association of this great institution. I believe that this invitation is timely and consistent with your principles to expand the horizon of your members and the larger student populace. You have asked that I speak on the topic: ‘The Workings of Economics in Our Lives,’ but I have decided to speak to you on the theme: “Democracy has Come to Town; Use Creative Economic Interventions.”

The struggle for electoral and economic democracy and development in our country is nearing an end. You now find yourselves in a fortunate situation given the fact that the price and peace you now enjoy have already or almost been paid for by agents of positive change.

Let me reminisce by mentioning few of the heroes and heroines in the struggle for democracy and development in Liberia:

The late Albert Porte, Didho Tweh, Tuan Wreh, Gabriel Baccus Matthew (The father of multi-party democracy), Paul Gbain, Tom Kamara. There are others who are still alive and it is worth mentioning their names: Dr. Amos Claudia Sawyer, Chair of the Governance Commission, Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh (the only man on the ground), Nobel Laureate, Madam Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf our President, and a woman considered as the ‘mother of resiliency,’ Leymah Gbowee, and Etweda Cooper (the voice of women in the sub-region).

And I could go on naming so many Liberians dead and alive who were and are still in the vanguard of smothering the democracy that we now enjoy. They represent the pillars of our burgeoning democracy and the trai blazers of our national development.

Isn’t it worth mentioning that democracy has indeed come to town? If not, let us go further in reflecting on the gains made over the period of six years and the ones to come.

I am aware that members of Economic Student Association of this university are familiar with the Women Parity Index, and the Gender Empowerment Index. That Liberia is considered one of the fewest countries in the world with women in key positions of power and influence rising to the occasion through micro-economic opportunities.

No wonder why the intensity of traffic congestion in Liberia. As emerging agents of economic development, have you asked yourselves what are some of the indicators responsible for the traffic congestions? I guess your first response will be road networks. And you are right.

But have you ever thought that women owned almost 40% of private vehicles congested in traffic today? They are mostly women from the informal sector, who are constantly travelling from Ghana to Nigeria, from Togo to China and other places in the region for goods to service our local economy. Oh yes, they get discounts on Delta Air lines, they are credit worthy, they owned houses and other businesses, but most of all, they owned cars that take them places at short notices.

Measuring democracy and development should not only be seen in GNP or GDP calculations, but must also be felt in the qualitative or social aspects of life. By this we can say that there has been considerable improvement in the social side of development through series of democratic and civil interventions.

From a nationwide perspective, the Government of Liberia has initiated series of consultations, with the latest being the Vision 2030 (Liberia Rising Project). The participatory approaches of these consultations are glaring indication that Liberia has a higher ranking on the Openness Premium, not only in trade and tariff but also in the dispensation of social justice and human rights. Women in rural and urban centers now have a say in the body polity and decision-making processes of their various communities. This too can be translated as economic development.

If we must continue to advocate for rapid economic growth and development throughout the length and breadth of this country, then it is incumbent upon us to also advocate for continuous dialoguing in resolving some of our domestic problems.

One way of doing so is to call on our President, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to once again commence her nationwide tour, which brought her face to face with her people over the first six years. The gains of having conversation with the people cannot be quantified but can be measured qualitatively as indicated by the level of deliberative participation by youths and women in the affairs of their communities. This is what we in the development and economic circle call “Development as Freedom”.

Democracy has come to town so do not be afraid to use your democratic voice to influence economic policy decisions. From the oil to budget debates, let your voices be heard far and wide throughout the country. Make sound economic policy recommendations to the President and the Legislature for the way forward. I have not tried the Legislature, but I have made recommendations to the President and she responded by forwarding my recommendations to the appropriate authority.

The advent of globalization and technology has increased the openness premium on democracy and economic development. We will soon be home to Fiber Optic cable. With the banishing of the yoke of monopoly and the expansion of free market enterprises through open competition, we now have choices to settle for, either through the 3.999G or the 4G network- and, I wonder, how many of you in this hall know what the G stands for?

As a matter of fact and through my interaction with you, it seems that most of you are not connected to the globalized world. You need to get connected through the use of the Internet, through your phone, your android or your laptop. If you do not have any of the above, then I strongly recommend that you take advantage of the numerous internet cafes in town. Please reduce your level of face booking and use your limited credit to do research and other comparative economic studies from a global context.

You cannot claim to be a part of the globalized world if you do not have the minimum requirement which is an email address. As economic students and future policy makers, you must rationalize your choices between your social activities and those that bring you long lasting benefits, such as connectivity to the outside world and an extensive level of research.

You must adapt precautionary approaches to your demand for money using the saving as investment model for social capital formation and entrepreneurship. You must be able to weigh the economic cost- benefit analysis between a bottle of beer or amarula to the minimum increase in the cost of credit hours- If I were you, I will do anything in my reach to obtain a decent education

Democracy has indeed come to town and is knocking on the doors of young and emerging Liberians, both from the formal and the informal sector. Freedom of expression, of movement, civil liberty, religious freedom and all of the tenets of democracy are now in town to pave the way for unhindered economic ventures.

The onus is now on us, especially you members of ESA to take advantage of this grandeur offer from the value and presence of democracy, and transform it into useful capital ventures that will lead to an improvement in your lives and that of the entire population. And no one can do it better other than you, the new and emerging economic geniuses and entrepreneurs of our time. Yes you can!

I thank you!

P. Emmanuel Munyeneh, is Assistant Managing Director for Administration and Finance, Forestry Development Authority, Republic of Liberia. He can be reached at cell: +231 886 515 047/777 515 047.

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