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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

LEWIS BROWN’S APPEARANCE ON SPOON TV EXPOSED THE VULNERABILITIES OF ALEXANDER CUMMINGS

Date:

By Samuel P. Jackson

Full disclosure: Lewis Garseedah Brown is my cousin. We share great grandparents and in the tradition of the people of Rivercess, he is considered my close kin and kith.

Lewis Brown, student leader, LPRC Managing Director,  National Security Advisor,   interim Foreign Minister, Minister of Information and UN Ambassador is a well-educated and articulate man with a passionate love for his country. But his appearance on Spoon TV on September 13 exposed the vulnerabilities of  Cummings’ presidential ambition and drove a hole in the argument that the ANC leader is Mr. Clean Hands.

In Liberian politics and in fact global politics, alliances to win elections discount the checkered past of politicians from different parties in efforts to build winning coalitions. That is just the way politics works, and therefore, anyone who runs for office must necessarily seek and receive the endorsements of politicians who may or may not pass the smell test. While Mr. Brown was rightly cornered for his support to the NPFL,  his role in the administration of the jailed former Liberian president and warlord Charles Taylor, voters will not use that against Mr. Cummings, since all of the presidential candidates have allies who played significant roles in Liberia’s brutal war.

A civil war tarnishes generations of leaders in any country but it has never eliminated them from leadership positions or curtailed their rights to speak as citizens. Thus like or it not, Mr. Brown’s endorsement of the ANC leader will not result in a groundswell of negative reaction to the Cummings’ presidential drive. But his endorsement of Alex Cummings and the themes he sought to present to the electorate were vague, deliberately lacked specificity and showed the presidential candidate does not have a plan to “rescue” Liberia.

The rescue plan in place by the George Weah administration from the recent corrupt and failed  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf leadership seems to be bearing fruits and provides opportunities for sustainable growth and development, despite targeted sanctions on three officials of the government, evidently influenced by the Anti Liberia lobby in Washington, financed by Mr. Cummings and his friends in the United States.

Let us look at the economic growth figures of the past eight years, from the onset of Ebola. According to the IMF,  Liberia’s economy grew by more than 3.7 percent last year, a drop from the projected growth rate of 5 percent but nevertheless the first positive and seemingly sustained increase in economic output that will accelerate in coming years. Liberia’s per capita GDP will recover to prewar levels in 2023 and nominal GDP will rise to 5 billion in 2024, propelled by activities in fishing, logging, recovery of commodity prices in iron ore and rubber, and due to the structural reforms including strict fiscal transparency and accountability of the Weah Administration. Inflation moderated to single digits, one of the best in ECOWAS and Liberia’s currency has maintained stability and recovered from the crippling depreciation of the country’s currency in 2018 and 2019.

We all know that the depreciation of the Liberian dollar was brought about by the illogical printing of 16 billion Liberian dollars, without due respect to the quantitative theory of money. Growth in broad money should not exceed the economic growth rate of an economy such as Liberia with a narrow financial system, incapable of using quantitative easing or the reverse,  contraction of the money supply by using instruments and policies. These are severely limited due to our dual currency system, and also limited financial inclusion, where only 7 percent of the adult population have bank accounts.

Cummings’ amateur economists have been arguing that the Weah Administration did not meet the economic growth projection of 5 percent and that somehow was a failure. Incredulous! The fact that these hacks did not consider the war in Ukraine as the major exogenous factor impacting the global economy with rising food and fuel prices, high inflation even in the United States and  contraction in the global economy is unfathomable.

That they seek to make what is a  resounding success in economic output in a structurally deficient economy a fulcrum of their economic arguments against the Weah Administration calls into their question their analytical ability and patriotism. They cannot say with a straight face this Administration has failed, not with the empirical data from established authoritative sources.

While other economies in the world, including Ghana,  the supposedly poster child in the ECOWAS region for economic growth and political stability suffer from rising inflation, currency depreciation with risks to political stability, Liberia has made marked progress. That marked progress has resulted in a small degree of improvement in Liberia’s human development index (HDI), despite 90 percent of countries suffering decline in their HDI in 2021, this according to the United Nations Human Development Report of 2021-2022. More importantly, Liberia has the highest life expectancy in the Mano River Union, higher than La Cote d’Ivoire, a country with substantially more capacity and advances in their economic system.

Lewis Brown could not articulate a sound reasoning for supporting Mr. Cummings, except the lame and sometimes confusing use of the term “leadership” to describe what  his candidate  brings to the table. Business managers have rarely brought any degree of innovation and creativity to political governance. The two most striking examples are Donald Trump in the United States and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. Trump’s Make America Great Again (MAGA) is hate filled, played on the ignorance of poor rural whites and his actions resulted in the insurrection at the US Capitol. For Berlusconi, his poor judgement, conflicts of interest and corrupt practices are legendary.

Clearly success in corporate America, in a consumer products company selling sugary products cannot automatically translate into being a successful politician and leader in a third world country. The skills required to survive in corporate America may be actually counterproductive to serving as a leader in Liberia. Cutthroat competition. Survival of the fittest. These are skills for the corporate jungle in the United Sates, but not in a postwar democratic dispensation where compromises and reconciliation are required for governance.

My cousin Lewis Brown tried  to make Alex Cummings, a Horatio Alger, rising from the slums of Point 4 to the citadel of corporate America in an effort to compare him to the real rags to riches story in Liberia. Only George Manneh Weah fits that bill. I know Alex Cummings. I grew up with him. I had a crush on one of his sisters.

We are from Fiamah, Sinkor. Alex is from a solid upper middle class family, a decent traditional family but not a poor family. No rags to riches here. Alex attended the College of West Africa, and during my school days was a school for the elites. No arguments here. Indeed, he made us all proud with his unquestionable success, but this is not a Horatio Alger story. Far from it.

My cousin mentioned me anonymously last night. I was the one who sent him a congratulatory text after his endorsement of Alex Cummings and said, “let’s center the ball”.  The ball is now centered and we will use our brains and skills to defend the record of our respective candidates, and expose untruths and exaggerations. But we remain patriotic Liberians first. And so it goes.

The Author is a recent MSc. Cities (Sustainable Cities and Communities) graduate of the prestigious London School of Economic and Political Science. He is a long-time social activist and political commentator with a past life in corporate America (Bank of America, Chase Manhattan Bank, Drexel Burnham Lambert, and Credit Suisse).

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