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Welcome to plain Talk.
“We can only get our continent to have inclusive growth if we are educated and change our mindsets,” Doreen E. Noni, Creative Director, Eskado Bird. She made the statement in Davos, at the World Economic Forum.

Recently, the People’s Republic of China Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wang Yi paid a visit to Liberia. According to Liberia’s Foreign Ministry statement, it was intended to explore a number of business avenues in Liberia and also try to cement bilateral ties.

Easy to say than to do. But few days to the arrival of the delegation, there were a wide range of speculations that the Chinese were interested in the takeover of the Wologizi Mountain and other places. If this is correct, it will one day come out.

Well, relationship between Liberia and China is not now. It is dated as far back as 1977. It was broken by previous Liberian governments due to what some politicians called ‘love of cash. At one point, they recognized the Republic of China (Taiwan). For Taiwan, it offered about US$200 million in aid for education and infrastructure.

However, this this government knowing the strength of Mainland China at the security council and other areas, it decided to re-cement ties with her.  Like one writer said, about a decade ago, at the turn of the millennium, the stand of China and Africa looked like an exercise in separate categories. The only thing that these geographical entities appeared to have in common was that they both had, in recent centuries, been economically dominated by external powers and that they both had high rates of poverty and very low per capita incomes. There were few organic, bilateral links between Africa and China, and even the indirect links were of the most tenuous nature.

Today it is inconceivable, from the African end at least, that Africa's economic and political destiny could be discussed without reference to China. From the Chinese angle, Africa may not hold a position of the same level of importance, but Africa is recognised to be a crucial source of raw materials required to support China's forthcoming investments in infrastructure and as inputs into its burgeoning manufacturing sector. The China–Africa axis is not, however, solely of economic importance. There are important political alliances developing between China and Africa, often undercutting historical links with northern partners.

But in Liberia today, the Chinese have undertaken several projects in the past for Liberia. A case in point is the University of Liberia, the Stadium among others.

Now, the minister of Foreign Affairs said they would provide US320,000(Three hundred and twenty thousand United States dollars) for the construction of a diplomatic lounge at the Roberts International Airport.

When I heard this, I was not actually excited about it. Here was my reason: accountability problem and history of incomplete projects. Well, I think the Chinese may mean well, but will our government do this sincerely and honestly and at the end see the result for which this money was intended for? Take a look around here; during the regime of former president Charles Taylor, we were told that an amount US$1M was given to construct the same diplomatic lounge. That was never done. The regime of this government, we were told by some diplomats that close to half a million dollars was collected by various foreign missions to construct that same lounge.

Well, if indeed all these are true, then, we need to be mindful of funds given to Liberia by foreign governments; after all, these funds are taxpayers’ money in their respective countries.
This government has less than two years in office. It would be very sad to ‘chop’ China money without completing the project and turn over to the next government. The most popular saying here is: government is continuity. If it is continuity, so it means you should chop people’s money and tell them to go out and hunt for new one? This will be bad.

Maybe some of the reasons these things happen is the unwillingness of government to prosecute people who are unable to account for project funds. But wait a minute! Maybe too, those who are to prosecute, are part of the embezzlement chain and so it becomes difficult to institute any legal action.

But the plain Talk is for Liberia to move forward, it needs to apply some level of rigidity in dealing with corrupt officials. It is very shameful for Africa’s oldest independent state to be knocking at the doors of some countries for assistance. I beg, madam president, we want to see Chinese funds use wisely.

I leave you with this quote: Africa is the story. The big story is Africa. The Chinese and Japanese are fighting over Africa. This is a market of a billion people, of natural resources. – Dr Ahmed Heikal, Chairman and Founder of Citadel Capita. And Liberia is the oldest independent country in Africa.

Until then, I see you next week.

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