Cummings: “Economy Remains Sluggish”

MONROVIA-After president George Weah delivered his state of the Nation Address on January 24, 2022, Alexander B. Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress has described the Liberian economy as sluggish and said that corruption was still rampant. Moreover, president Weah has failed to create the one million jobs he promised Liberians.

President Weah in his state of  The Nation  Address described the economy as stable and was growing.  He said: “Based on the sound management and good performance of our economy, Liberia received $345.3 million US dollars in August 2021 under the general Special Drawing Rights allocation to  IMF members.”

But in his review of president Weah’s address, Mr. Cummings said the president did not tell the Liberian people facts.

Mr. Cummings said, “On Monday, January 24, 2022, President George Weah was not truthful when he said, “I can state categorically, and with confidence, that the State of our Economy is Stable and Growing, and that the State of our Nation is Peaceful and Strong.”

“Since President Weah came to power, Liberia’s net economic growth is ZERO. The economy is still sluggish, corruption is rampant. After promising to create one million jobs, unemployment remains above 80%, youth unemployment is higher than in 2017, and the exchange rate is high with prices for every single commodity – from food to gas to dokafleh – higher today than when President Weah came to power.

“Stealing, lying, promising, taking no responsibility, lying again, promising again, and continuing the stealing are the mantras of this government as doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants, police officers and other servicemen and women who keep our society together are being grossly underpaid, with some, especially teachers, having to constantly protest for their “harmonized” pay. Every year, high schools, colleges, and universities, though restrained by limited resources, produce thousands of young graduates, all of them hopeful of a better life, only to see their dreams and futures crushed by the lack of jobs and opportunities.”

He added: “President Weah’s description of the state of the Liberian economy and the Republic is not only patently false, but it is also insensitive, offensive, and disconnected representing an alternative reality to the worsening hardships and deteriorating plight many Liberians are living through daily. The President has failed and is now hoping to deceive Liberians with even more promises. It has been reported that out of the 169 promises the President has made, he has only kept 11,   which is a score of 7%. Obviously, President Weah is good at making promises and very bad at fulfilling promises.”

Read his full text below:

                                                                              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Alexander Cummings Responds to 2020 State of the Nation Address

 Monrovia, Liberia. January 31, 2022:

My fellow Liberians:

The State of the Republic Address is an important accountability and governance mechanism which should be undertaken truthfully. On Monday, January 24, 2022, President George Weah was not truthful when he said, “I can state categorically, and with confidence, that the State of our Economy is Stable and Growing, and that the State of our Nation is Peaceful and Strong.”

Since President Weah came to power, Liberia’s net economic growth is ZERO. The economy is still sluggish, corruption is rampant. After promising to create one million jobs, unemployment remains above 80%, youth unemployment is higher than in 2017, and the exchange rate is high with prices for every single commodity – from food to gas to dokafleh – higher today than when President Weah came to power.

Stealing, lying, promising, taking no responsibility, lying again, promising again, and continuing the stealing are the mantras of this government as doctors, nurses, teachers, civil servants, police officers and other service men and women who keep our society together are being grossly underpaid, with some, especially teachers, having to constantly protest for their “harmonized” pay. Every year, high schools, colleges and universities, though restrained by limited resources, produce thousands of young graduates, all of them hopeful of a better life, only to see their dreams and futures crushed by the lack of jobs and opportunities.

President Weah’s description of the state of the Liberian economy and the Republic is not only patently false, it is insensitive, offensive and disconnected representing an alternative reality to the worsening hardships and deteriorating plight many Liberians are living through daily. The President has failed, and is now hoping to deceive Liberians with even more promises. It has been reported that out of the 169 promises the President has made, he has only kept 11,   which is a score of 7%. Obviously, President Weah is good at making promises, and very bad at fulfilling promises.

My fellow citizens: Our state is basically leaderless. To put it in COVID-19 terms, President Weah is in self-imposed quarantine. This likely explains why he would ridiculously declare our crime-infested streets, beaches and urban communities to be “peaceful and strong”, and say to Liberians who are suffering through this every day that everything is all right. In rural communities, life is just as it has always been, if not worse, especially for women and children, with many dying in childbirths and from preventable and treatable illnesses, while still too many Liberian babies are dying before they reach their 5th birthdays. We are not in a military battle, and the President may be thinking that the absence of war automatically means that Liberia is at peace.

Again, the President is wrong because peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of security and opportunity. Streets and communities are insecure and too many Liberians are still being denied opportunities because of their tribe, gender, religion and party affiliation. If it were possible, many young Liberians, would gladly leave Liberia, the land that they dearly love, in search of greener pastures.

Liberia’s economy is growing the slowest in the Mano River Union. Yet, this government continues its wasteful spending. In the new budget, this government will spend more money on buying and servicing new cars for lawmakers than it will spend on all community colleges, all training institutions, the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), JFK, and Jackson F. Doe Hospital. For President Weah and his administration to be looking to spend more money to buy cars for 103 individuals and not to spend it on providing affordable healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Liberians seeking treatment at JFK, Redemption, and Jackson F. Doe Hospitals, is disgraceful, irresponsible and wicked.

In four years, the President has borrowed over 600 million US dollars. In 2018, the national debt was $1.039 billion. Today, the national debt is $1.690 billion. Rather than make the future better, this government is making Liberia worse for our children, and their children by piling the debt of the government’s wasteful spending on their heads.

We welcome calls of the IMF, World Bank and ECOWAS to curtail Liberia’s massive tax waiver policy. We urge the government to follow-up on its acceptance with diligent actions because Liberia’s tax waivers are being abused with President Weah’s government granting waivers to lawmakers and cronies.

Liberia has one of the most fertile lands in Africa for agriculture production. Notwithstanding, this government has failed to make any sustainable gains and substantial investment in agriculture. For example, this year, President Weah has budgeted ZERO DOLLAR for the Agriculture Fund. In fact, for the next three years, the Agriculture Fund will get ZERO DOLLAR. The government has turned the agriculture sector over to non-governmental organizations and donor projects.  We are yet to see economic growth due to the infusion of millions of dollars in that sector. The Office of President Weah even has more money in the budget than the entire Ministry of Agriculture. Until we can at least feed ourselves, we can never truly say we are an independent nation.

My fellow Liberians: The Weah-led government has not just failed to manage the economy, they have also failed with issues of national security, service delivery, fighting corruption, and consolidating our democracy. Many of you do not need me to tell you that Liberia’s security is weak, our country is a transshipment point for harmful drugs, and a hotbed for money laundering and human trafficking. These international crimes are hurting the image and reputation of our country.

Last year, the President asked Liberians not to depend on his administration for their safety and protection, the most important duty of any President and Commander-In-Chief, but asked Liberians to instead install CCTV. The President has surrendered to rising crimes in our streets and communities. Lawlessness abounds and we are essentially on our own.

Drug ghettos are easily springing up in neighborhoods and communities with no effective national rehabilitation and reintegration programs for victims of drug addiction and abuse. The same is true of our prisons which are overcrowded with young people, many of whom are first time offenders. These young people are being imprisoned, and returned to their communities after serving time, without life skills. They are soon forced to return to the life of crime to survive.

Under a Cummings leadership, the drug trafficking in Liberia, and the use of Liberia as a transshipment point for drugs, will end.  Additionally, we will provide rehabilitation, job training, prison reforms, and reintegration opportunities for Liberians, and we will restore our country’s reputation in the world by tackling and ending money laundering and human trafficking.

Fellow Citizens: Into his fifth year, President Weah cannot credibly point to any significant improvement in the delivery of basic services to the Liberian people including in the important areas of healthcare, education, safe drinking water, sanitation, electricity, law enforcement, fire service and infrastructure. Four years later, for example, Liberia still has 1 doctor for every 15,000 citizens. Public clinics and hospitals understaffed and under-equipped, are experiencing regular shortages of medicines and medical supplies as government officials, their families and those with money can afford quality medical treatment by often traveling abroad to get it.

Despite inheriting an 88 Megawatts Mount Coffee Hydro, a 38 Megawatts Bushrod Power Plant, and the regional project to supply electricity to Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (CLSG), in addition to distribution of electricity to communities funded by donors, electricity services are poor, extension and distribution to needed communities and households are frustratingly slow, and completion of the projects are delayed due to incompetence of the government to honor its share of the commitment, such as resolving resettlement action payments for those in the project affected areas.

While we welcome the decision by the electricity regulator to reduce prices, that decision is meaningless without increasing access of stable electricity to more households, residents and businesses. Generated electricity is sitting at substations in Buchanan, in Mount Coffee, in Yekepa, and in Mano River, none of which is being distributed because this government is unable to negotiate commercial agreements with the suppliers in Ivory Coast. The CLSG is using Liberia to supply Sierra Leone and Guinea with no benefit to Liberia.

The President and his administration do not care. They do not care if things are bad, or getting worse. A Cummings administration will fix LEC. We will guarantee stable and reliable supply of electricity during the rainy and dry seasons, and will connect more homes, communities and businesses to the electricity grid not as a special privilege for a few but a right of Liberians to the country’s development.

Many of you heard the President speak about the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). What you did not hear him say is that his government has repeatedly failed to meet the benchmarks of the MCC for renewal thereby losing millions of dollars to improve access to electricity.

We would have congratulated the President and his government for the roads and houses he pointed to in his address on Monday, until it has been realized that some, if not all of these projects, are also fronts to steal state funds and launder money through numerous no-bid contracts, opaque processes and inflated costing. For example, the Popo Beach Project was first estimated at US$800,000 to build 50 two-bedroom units, or USD16,000 per unit. Now, the government is saying the project will cost US$3 Million to build 89 units or US$33,700 per unit. The Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), is run by President Weah’s crony, and its budget has been increased by US$10 Million. This is shameful. The stealing is disgraceful.

Few months ago, the government spent millions on the Bushrod Island road using concrete pavement. Recently, a bid has been announced for the same road. As the bid was being announced, the project had already been given to a company owned by a CDC stalwart. The real interest is not to develop the infrastructure. It is to steal. As a result, we continue to see issues around conflict of interests, poor planning, no-value for money, and low-quality engineering associated with infrastructure development under President Weah.

Additionally, the National Road Fund (NRF) is being mismanaged. Considering the hardship bad roads continue to pose to the movement of people, goods and services, it is unacceptable that the NRF continues to be abused by the government. We call for an immediate audit of the NRF. Audit now, or be audited later. Do the right things now, or answer for the wrongs later.

My fellow citizens: Our cherished democracy is under stress and threats. Over the last four years, President Weah has sought to undermine the rule of law and rollback good governance practices. Political interference and executive overreach in the justice system continued beginning with the politically-motivated impeachment of Justice Kabineh Ja’neh up to and including the political persecution of formidable opposition leaders on trumped up and false charges.

Peaceful protests and assemblies are being teargassed resulting to violence, arrests and wounding of peaceful citizens. President Weah and his administration are yet to realize that peaceful assemblies are inherent guarantees and ingredients for functional democracies while judicial independence is indispensable to the consolidation of democracy and growth of the economy.

The same is also true about corruption, which has gotten worse under President Weah. Nearly every month a new corruption scandal is uncovered. Just days before the President’s address, we learned that USD14 million which was meant for rice importation subsidy was stolen. Last month corruption allegedly occurred at the National Elections Commission. Corruption has been in the driving seat of this presidency from the beginning killing our country and undermining the wellbeing of our people.

It is time for President Weah to lead by good example against corruption. Therefore, I urge him to publicly declare his assets, and encourage officials of his government to do the same. Make no mistake about this: As President, I will publicly declare my assets year on year, and will instruct the forensic audit of all expenditures of the current Liberian government, and wherever it is determined that those with fiduciary responsibility turned a blind eye to their duties and or facilitated the conversion of public funds to private use, such individuals will face the full weight of the law regardless of who you are. We have to get serious about stopping the stealing.

My fellow Liberians: Measuring the success of tenures, like this Weah administration does, on the perceived wrongs of the past is the textbook definition of flawed, visionless and inconsequential leadership. The ANC and I will provide consequential leadership to our country, one that will take responsibility, make the required tough choices and hard decisions that may not seem pleasant, but are necessary to get the new future of unity, shared prosperity, and equality in opportunity that Liberians deserve, and have been denied for too long.

We recognize the importance of dressing up the body of our country – building roads and sports parks. But the real changes we must also make is to clean up our nation’s soul so that we never again destroy our country, or pull each down when we should be building and lifting each other up – so that no Liberian child is limited to what they can become because of their gender, tribe or religion.

When we clean our nation’s soul we ensue that no Liberian needs to feel excluded, marginalized or denied opportunities in their own country because they are opposition, or come from a different region, ethnicity or religion – so that all of our children, boys and girls, have the best opportunity to be the best  adult versions of themselves because they have access to the best quality education  and can strive for excellence right here in Liberia.

Cleaning the nation’s soul means women will have equal say and equal seat around the national table of decision making, and the rights and issues of women are not treated as tokens for their male counterpart’s political support and campaigns but is necessary for the sustainable development of the nation – so that our communities and streets are safe and secure, and peaceful worshippers seeking the revival of their souls and a better tomorrow, for themselves and their children, are not rushed to death out of fear of the commission of crimes against them or the actions and or inactions of an untrained police force which should be protecting them.

We clean our nation’s soul so that we manage the great wealth of our nation more equitably and accountably to ensure that we are no longer considered amongst the poorest and most corrupt in the world, and that all Liberians benefit from all that Liberia is blessed to have – so that hospitals are accessible, affordable and modernized not just with medicines and beds but also with the necessary equipment and technology to ensure that all Liberians have the same chance at the best possible healthcare delivery right here in Liberia.

Cleansing the nation’s soul is a chance for our young people to study and graduate assured that they are equally guaranteed a chance to get a job and the support and assistance they need to build their careers, raise and care for their families, and return support and assistance to their parents who sacrificed to educate them – so that some of our citizens including the elderly are no longer made to beg for livelihood in the same country many spent their lives serving, or that Liberians continue to be bystanders in the business of the growth of their economy with unconscionable restrictions imposed on Liberian businesses and entrepreneurship.

We must cleanse the soul of our nation so that our country is no longer a den of crimes and drugs, or rape and sexual abuse with impunity, or money laundering and human trafficking – and so that public service is actually for the good of the public and not for the illicit acquisition of overnight wealth by government officials.

Finally, my fellow Liberians: The Presidential and General Elections scheduled for October of 2023 will mean a lot to Liberia’s future. Liberians will have the chance to choose a new direction for our country. We must not become complacent nor let ourselves get disengaged or uninvolved. As we continue to see, not only will we continue to live with the consequences of the incompetent and corrupt leadership of our country if we fail to change it, but we can all be assured that things will only get increasingly worse!

After four years of failures, President Weah is hoping we can all forget how he and his officials prioritized getting themselves rich overnight while they connived and deceived to keep Liberians poorer and divided. As with all failed leaderships, they are looking to make more promises, take no responsibility, and siphon public monies in pursuit of their selfish political interests.

Despite our best efforts, it has to be admitted that as currently constituted, the CPP may not make it to 2023. But you, the Liberian people, collectively will make it to 2023. The CPP may have been your preferred vehicle for change but the need to change ought not to end because the preferred vehicle broke down along the way. Only the failed leadership of President Weah will benefit if we give up on the need to change the direction of our country. We must never give up – we must never lose hope!

Liberia, the land we love and have been blessed to own together – mismanaged and crying out for change – needs all of us to stand together – educated and uneducated, Christians and Muslims, old and young, Congau and Country, Man and Woman – all of us who know our country must change and must continue to fight to deliver real change.  Real change will not happen because of party. History shows that real change has always happened because of the people.

Our children deserve real change. Liberian families, of all tribes and religions, deserve real change. Liberia deserves better.

God bless you.

God bless our country, Liberia.

I thank you.”

 

 

 

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