Letters to the Editor
Readers write about Liberia's progress in its struggle against corruption, and why low-interest mortgages could help the credit crisis.
Liberia's efforts to combat corruption are working
In regard to the Sept. 25 article, "Persistent corruption threatens Liberian stability": The piece does not present a complete or accurate picture of efforts on the ground to fight the systemic corruption that has plagued Liberia for many years. The Liberian government, under President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has a zero-tolerance policy for corruption. This is not mere rhetoric.
The government has drafted and submitted to the National Legislature a code of conduct that would apply stringent ethics requirements to all branches of government. Several high-ranking government officials have been dismissed and are under investigation or prosecution for misuse of public funds or abuse of public trust; some 50 cases are with the Ministry of Justice.
Our progress has been recognized by the World Bank, which showed that last year, Liberia made the second-highest gains against corruption in the world by adopting 21 new reform measures. Liberia also gained 13 points in the World Bank's "Doing Business" indicators, because the government acknowledges that the private sector must be the engine of our growth and is working hard to reduce barriers to investment. These endorsements are not just show, but are generally accepted as substantive indicators of technical and real progress.
We have also become a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, working to apply these standards to the mining and forestry sectors – a cornerstone of our revitalizing economy. Liberia needs private investment to thrive, but these investments must be transparent and aligned with the best interests of Liberians. It became clear that the original tendering process had suffered from undue influence. The old way of doing business will not stand.
The culmination and future of these efforts is the new Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission; it establishes a legal framework for fighting corruption. We will support their call for all government officials to publicly declare their assets under oath. They will work to establish a formal mechanism via which corruption can be reported and pursued.
Liberia is blessed with a vibrant civil society, including journalists and watchdog organizations. Throughout the early stages of the anticorruption fight, we have tried to communicate our progress to the Liberian people. They are naturally skeptical; they understand better than anyone that 20 years of dependency, deprivation, and lawlessness have given corruption deep roots. But accusations based on anecdotal evidence or rumor can negatively affect our progress, and threaten to destabilize the system.
While Liberia does enjoy the increased international attention that bold new leadership can bring, we do not get a pass on substance. If anything, our international partners scrutinize our efforts all the more closely for the hope that Liberia really can be what it has the potential to be under accountable governance.
We have worked hard to achieve significant gains in as short a time as possible. Implementation of these plans is now the key, and these international partners will provide vital resources in support of our further efforts. We also hope that these international endorsements of our progress will help us attain Threshold Status with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which will mean access to significant resources that we can invest in our national Poverty Reduction Strategy. This will translate the progress into more visible gains on the ground, which will help the Liberian people believe that the New Liberia is here to stay.
Provide mortgages with low interest
In response to the Sept. 30 article, "Dow's historic drop reflects financial system's challenges": I think the solution to the credit crisis should be a law to limit interest rates to 5 percent and lower credit limits to short terms. With such a law, unforeseen problems in the market would not result in devastating consequences for lenders and borrowers. Bad things often happen. But if less is risked, it would be more common to survive those bad times.
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