-Pundits’ Assessment Of Weah’s Third Message; Wasted Time Coupled With Loaded Hypocrisy
While it is true that President George M. Weah’s third annual message was not received with feast of roses and glowing admiration by critical minds, most of whom far from a distance before deliberation, scolded it as another ‘overdue restitution’, recklessly crafted and poorly presented far below standard and quality according to pundits; it firmly reflected a chronic deception very difficult for the nation (besides the clique) to sincerely stomach.
Pundits who up to now are still pondering over, but least surprised from the level trickery and high degree of sham that overwhelmed the third message, despite the public’s keen attention and courteous interest in hearing something much more different in substance with emphasis on the tons hurdles railroaded by acute corruption piercing the society; the unchecked startling revelations against President Weah unleashed by a renowned personality MulbahMorlu, Chairman of the ruling establishment; the causes and effects of an impotent dying economy, let alone the almighty ‘bread and butter’ crunch, the Chief Executive instead elected to shower praises on most of this questionable cronies in government responsibility for the pitfall confronting the country; as he mockingly pacified the people with “please give us small chance yah….”
However, Peter Joewin, a onetime staunch admirer of Dr. Weah and a local trader in the Redlight commercial hub told this paper recently that Liberians must became to come to term with the hard facts of reality because a nation will always have the kind of leader it deserves, adding that “a nation of sheep deserves a Shepard and by contrast, when provided a lion, obviously, the result is anyone’s first guest.”
Madam Theresa Klipaye, a marketer in Ganta, Nimba County also wondered why it is so very hard for President Weah to set the record straight once and for all by bringing to book all those in the minds of the citizens who are still looked at suspiciously regarding the US$25m mopping up exercise and the controversial Ld16bn instead glorifying them for being ‘financial-small-gods’ despite landing the nation and people in the middle of an angry ocean wherein there is no lifeguard jacket present or life-guard boat around to rescue; rather the government is swift to begin prosecuting Ms. Ellen Corkrumfor an alleged corruption charge levied against her by the previous (Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s) government and later reportedly dropped.
Meanwhile, Alternative National Congress (ANC) political leader Alexander B. Cummings responding on behalf of the collaborating opposition political parties quickly pointed out that “but you cannot avoid reality”, adding, “a government that shows no remorse for or genuine commitment to addressing the issues and concerns of the citizenry and continuously encourages bad governance does not deserve their respect. We know that you certainly do not believe a word the president said today.”
Cummings noted that as expected, he failed yet again to assure us that he is committed to serving as president for all. On January 22, 2018, President Weah pledged “to end corruption, be president for all Liberians”, and change the unacceptable trend of Liberians being “spectators in their own economy”. What you have endured in the last year is contrary to the pledge made on January 22, 2018.
He added that from all indications, not only are Liberians spectators in their own economy but they are now also effectively bystanders in the affairs of their own country. The president, his cronies and a handful of foreigners arethe main actors and participants in the Liberian economy. And even more appalling is that some of his foreign “business” partners have horrible criminal past in their countries.
He said public corruption has galloped out of control. Governance is characterized by skullduggery, bigotry, hypocrisy, falsehood, abuse and misuse of public office and power. Violation of the Constitution and laws of Liberia has become commonplace and is pervasive throughout the administration. The president and his officials are above reproach, violating laws and tearing down systems and procedureswith impunity.
According to him, despite his declaration in early 2018 that he inherited an “empty” treasury, a claim later refuted by his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President Weah and his officials have only worsened Liberia’s woes. Daylight robbery motivated by insatiable greed is on the rampage. This has caused a total loss of confidence and trust in the governance system.
At the same time, in his Inaugural address, Weah pointed out that he has spent many years of his life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other. “I am overwhelmed with the crowd and the energy here today, and I guarantee you, when we finish, there will not be a winning or a losing side. Today, we all wear the jersey of Liberia, and the victory belongs to the people, to peace, and to democracy”.
He noted that the tens of thousands of Liberians here today and many more in our communities across the country who are listening gathered together around radios in the palava hut, it is to you we are responsible to deliver the change you deserve. “Indeed, we must deliver the change that our people need, in order to transform their lives for the better”.
“I promise to do everything in my power to be the agent of positive change. But I cannot do it alone. First, I call upon the revered institution that host us today and from which the Vice President and I come– The Legislative – our co-equal branch of government, to work with me to create and pass essential laws that are needed to complete the foundation of this nation”.
“It will be my task, my duty, and my honor, to lead this nation from division to National Unity, and toward a future of hope and prosperity. I have here taken an oath before you, and before the Almighty God, to uphold our constitution and to preside over this Government and this country to the best of my abilities”, Weah disclosed.
“I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate”, Weah vowed.
He furthered, as officials of Government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs, stressing, “those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law”.
In Weah’s third message, he started with Article 58 of the Constitution of Liberia spells out a provision that mandates the President, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, to present the Legislative Program of the Administration for the ensuing session, and report to you on the State of the Republic, covering the economic condition of the Nation, including expenditure and income.
As you begin this 3rd Session of the 54th Legislature, we urge you to consider the passage of other Bills still pending before you, which are very essential to our Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, Weah cautions.
We refer to The Convention of Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters; An Act to Establish the Liberia Standards Authority; An Act to Establish the Civil Service Commission;
Agreement between the Government of the United Arab Emirates and the Government of the Republic of Liberia for the Avoidance of Double Taxation;
Loan Agreement – Upgrading of the Konia-Voinjama Road Project between the Republic of Liberia and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
An Act to Endorse the National Youth Policy of Liberia: An Agenda for Action; An Act Prohibiting the Tenure of Public Officials within the Executive Branch of Government; The Revised and Restated Charter of the University of Liberia; The Whistle-Blower and Witness Protection Bill;
The International Solar Alliance Framework Agreement;The Presidential Transition Act; The Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, Preventive Measures, and Proceeds of Crime Act, 2019; An Act to Amend and Restate “An Act to Authorize the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia”, which will enhance the autonomy and independence of the Central Bank of Liberia.
We also urge you to take another look at our forestry, mining and fisheries laws to inject new and innovative thinking, to include viable strategies for expansion of productive capacity, best practices for better returns and gains, as is the case in other jurisdictions.
The year 2019 was marked by global economic uncertainty Recovery of global economic momentum remained slow, largely due to trade and geopolitical tensions, as well as country-specific effects. These constraints adversely impacted the performance of our domestic economy, Weah lamented.
The domestic macroeconomic environment was difficult in 2019. It was characterized by low economic growth of less than 1 percent, annual inflation of more than 20 percent and depreciation of the Liberian dollar by more than 20 percent, he conceded.
However, in the last quarter of the year under review, inflationary pressure was contained, reflecting some modest appreciation of the Liberian dollar. End-of-period inflation was projected to fall from Thirty point Six percent (30.6%) in May 2019 to Twenty point Eight percent (25.8%).
For the very first time in our entire legislative history, you showed the courage, wisdom, and determination to trim the Government’s wage bill, and we applaud you for that. You will recall that my first announcement as President was the reduction of my salary by 25%; and I want you to know that even after I did that, my salary was subsequently further reduced during the harmonization exercise, Weah raises a controversial debatable issues.
In the year under review, we were able to negotiate and sign Sixteen (16) financing instruments with various development partners, amounting to nearly Two Hundred and Seventy-Four point Thirty-Five Million United States dollars (US$274.35 million). Approximately One Hundred and Ninety-Four Million United States dollars (US$194 million) of this amount are loans, and about Seventy-Nine Million United States dollars (US$79 million) constitutes grants.
These loans and grants are allocated as follows: One Hundred and Twenty-Five point One Million United States dollars (US$125.1 million) for road construction linking Barclayville to Sasstown, Voinjama to Konia, and Sanniquellie to Loguatuo; Forty-Seven Million United States dollars (US$47 million) for improving results in secondary education; Twenty-Eight point Ninety-five Million United States dollars (US$28.95 million) for improving urban water supply in Monrovia; Seventy-One point Eight Million United States dollars (US$71.8 million) for improving agriculture; and Six point Five Million United States dollars (US$6.5 million) for youth empowerment and employment.
The Government’s public debt has increased, largely because the country has had to finance major infrastructure projects over the last several years. As at end-December 2019, the total stock of public debt amounted to One point Twenty-Seven Billion United States Dollars (US$1.27 billion).
Going forward, I want to assure you of an improved monetary condition in 2020 and beyond, aimed at promoting a stable macroeconomic environment. My Government will remain committed to non-borrowing from the CBL and non-interference in its operations as an assurance of the operational independence of the Bank.
This first segment of the Coastal Corridor Highway extends from Grand Kru County to Sinoe County. The process of selecting a Contractor is ongoing and actual construction works are expected to begin this year.