The Outburst of Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah: A Tacit Admittance of Deep Economic Crisis
Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah told a gathering of Liberian diaspora in Philadelphia that the salaries of civil servants should be sliced. It became a cause célèbre, triggering massive condemnation from Liberians both on social media and in the local press. A unity in condemnation this writer has not seen for a long time.
Samuel D. Tweah was slammed for being insensitive, and some virtually poured on him negative tags, calling his conscience into question. The condemnation trended on social media and it sparked a national outcry. Even the somewhat apolitical folks joined the deafening refrain of slander, and the minister was reduced to a mere whipping boy. The outrage was loud, and it confirmed the fact that the people act on the basis of extreme necessity.
Notwithstanding the rage and the slander unleashed on the person of the minister by some Liberians, a lot of the people didn’t go beyond the scope of formalistic thinking to ascertain why the minister would dare make such a statement. A lot of people joined the bandwagon without unpacking the underlying processes which informed his submission. Only focusing on the statement without exploring the reasoning behind the assertion defines the acute limitation of the condemnation.
Samuel D. Tweah can be accused of many things, but he is certainly not a fool. He has all the statistics that depict the downward spiral of the Liberian economy. If you can take anything away from him, nobody can rob him of his intellect and so-called struggle history on the campuses of the University of Liberia. In other words, he knows what it means to live on a bare minimum. His advocacy for so-called social justice and going head-to-head with the Student Unification Party on the campuses of the University of Liberia are credentials he cannot discard simply because he wants to enrich himself.
In addition, he is aware of the gory sufferings of the people, especially the challenges facing civil servants, and the tremendous consequences such reduction will have on the generality of the people, especially so when conservative estimate indicates that at least seven persons benefit, whether maximally or minimally from the income of a civil servant. But then the question becomes what may have triggered such assertion from the loudmouth minister?
Samuel D. Tweah has essentially told the Liberian people that there is an imminent collapse of the government due to insolvency and fiscal limitation to raise revenue to service the budget unless a miracle happens, but there will be no miracle. It is only the depth of such terminal decay that will force him to make such statement with reckless abandon. The minister indirectly averred that the pro-poor government may not raise revenue to service the budget, and pay salaries of employees of government and political appointees in the near future, in spite of the fact there is this hysterical feeling that the Weah government will work wonders.
In a country where even the average salary of a civil servant is at the bare minimum, nobody with a boldface would want to take such gamble. However, what the minister has not grappled with is the fact that cutting the salaries of civil servants and even officials of government cannot make up for the black hole in the budget. It will only further compound the problem, giving rise to national security issues, which places the country on the brink of a social explosion.
Inflation is no more cyclical but permanent, as the exchange rate hits record high. Commodity prices are at an all-time high while income is below living standards. The country has a serious trade deficit, to the extent that there is an intolerable scramble for the United States dollars. By all standards and projections, the country is in the worst economic crisis since its formation.
Yet arch-apologists of the Weah government would argue that donors will give us funds. This writer says to such person that the global trend indicates that donors are fatigued. The European Union has its trouble children in Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain to settle, compounded by the global upsurge in the arm race, most countries in the European Union are focusing on strengthening their defense capabilities, solving the migrant crisis, and ensuring that their respective countries are in good standing.
As for the United States, even its closest allies are feeling the repercussion of its actions, let alone a backward republic like Liberia. Trump has cut defense aid to Pakistan. He pulled out of the Asian Pacific-Trade Agreement, sparking the outrage of his allies. Recently, the United States of America has imposed tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports, triggering confrontation between the two countries, as China issued tit-for-tat. In fact, the budget of the State Department has been cut, which impedes the operations of USAID and other organizations that get funds from the State Department to intervene in Africa and elsewhere.
Except there is national recalibration, austerity or ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ will only sharpen the contradictions, leading to a massive social explosion even the ‘armed bodies of men’ will not quell. But such dramatic change may not come anytime soon or in the near future, as the GOL is operating without a compass to direct it, measure performance, and ensure that priorities are focused on. Secondly, the dramatic change cannot be a total adherence to the prescriptions of the IMF and the World Bank. By dramatic change, this writer is talking about radical economic readjustment to solve the imbalances and remedy the discards.
Lest I forget, the CDC faithful say they owned the people. But I retort to them that even the slave owners proffered similar argument. Years later there were massive revolts by slaves for their freedom, to the extent that even some of the owners of slaves were expropriated. The ‘slaves’ you owned will only be loyal and obedient to you when forces arrayed against their survival are not at the extreme. Once they are faced with a serious survival question, your rule will come crumbling like a house of cards.
At the moment there is still a honeymoon with the people and the administration. Some have engaged in either an aside or soliloquy, refusing to come out openly with condemnation of the administration, as they all believe that things will dramatically change. Yes, there can be break in continuity, a period of stasis, and sudden jump. For instance, earthquake cannot just happen. It takes years for tension to build up that one cannot see with the naked eyes, sometimes experiencing even a break. Suddenly, you see explosion. A buildup of anger in the people is settling in, which will lead to the change of quantity into quality.
Holding all factors constant, predictions are that the Weah government may not survive its full term. The writing is on the wall, and the sign is so glaring. As the failure of it will give rise to the politics of the homeland going leftward. The emperor is extremely naked that is why he is forging a close relationship with the army. But the army, like all armies in backward countries, have always split wide open on national issues, as interests and persuasions are not one and the same.
However, the left cannot be idle. It should start organizing the most radical layers of the society, exposing the bankruptcy of the regime, and preparing the stage for the spontaneous upheaval of the people into history. The logic of motion is a science, a product of the development of nature, of human conscience, thought and feeling. The contradictions are insoluble, no amount of window dressing by this administration can stop it. It will delay but it is inevitable.
About the author: Boakai Kiadii studies Political Science with emphasis in Public Administration at the University of Liberia. He is the Secretary General of the Movement for Social Democratic Alternative (MOSODA). You can reach him through Cell#: +233552176627, or [email protected].