Economies in the Region are Booming While Liberia Continues to Decline, Collaborating Political Parties Critique Pres. Weah’s Excuse on Declining Economy

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Monrovia – If President George Manneh Weah’s Economic Management Team’s projection of economic growth of 1.4 percent in 2022, is anything to go by, then Liberians should brace themselves for a tough two years ahead. 

The President, in his Annual Message to the Legislature on Monday, January 27, blamed the current, bad economy, economic hardship and woes on trade and geo-political factors. 

Reacting to what may look like doomsday news from the government, the four major and largest opposition political parties, under the banner Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), debunked this and laid the blame on the ineptitude of Pres. Weah’s government to do the right thing that will spur economic growth.

Reading Tuesday, January 28, the CPP’s official response to  Pres. Weah’s 3rd Annual Message to the Legislature, Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), on behalf of him and his colleagues of All Liberian Party (ALP) of Mr. Benoni W. Urey; Liberty Party (LP) of Mrs. Senator Nyonblee Kargar-Lawrence; and Unity Party (UP) of former Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, said the geo-political and trade reason blamed for this projection can’t be why Liberia is going to have such growth by 2022.

“If this [were] was the case, our neighbors and other countries in the region would be experiencing similar if not the same economic situations. However, all of our neighbors are experiencing economic growth and projecting high growth for this year alone, 2020. For example, Sierra Leone is projecting 4.20%, Guinea 6.10% and Ivory Coast 6.5%.  What this means is that our country will continue lagging behind our neighbors while our people continue to suffer.”

“Trade and geo-politics is not responsible for our economic problems. Rather, massive corruption and outright stealing by government officials, mismanagement of government resources, incompetence to implement economic growth and job creation policies and reckless spending by the President are among the reasons for economic hardship. Example of reckless spending is the President flying all over the world on a private jet the country cannot afford while neglecting the cries for help for people struggling in the country,” Mr. Cummings said.

Earlier, he stated that the overall message from Pres. Weah that the state of the Liberian nation is stable is unreal. 

The Economy

“Contrary to what the President said, the state of our nation is WEAK. Our economy is in a terrible shape. Prices on goods and services, from rice to transportation are increasing daily. Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment continues to increase. Teachers, nurses, doctors and civil servants are not being paid on time. Liberians have to stand in long queues at banks to withdraw Liberian Dollars like we are a bankrupt country and now we are in longer queues to get petroleum products due to shortage on our market.”

Further in the CPP’s press statement, they disclosed that in 2019, the economy contracted by 1.4 percent; while inflation increased to 31 percent and that forex exchange went as high as 209 and the fiscal deficit hit US$200 million. “Businesses, Liberian-owned and foreign, are losing money and laying off workers. Market-women are forced to sell without profit. Last year, Sime Darby laid off hundreds of workers and closed its operations. Firestone also laid off 800 workers. Liberians are finding it more difficulty to provide for their families today than they did before this government came to power.”

The ANC’s Political Leader, who was in Maryland County, Liberia’s southeastern most end, few weeks ago, said “On our travels across our country, we interact with teachers, healthcare workers and civil servants who used to earn salaries regularly for 12 years now are going months without salaries to support their families. Many civil servants now live on ‘sell-pay’ and by ‘digging hole and covering hole’. Market-women, street vendors and small business people who depend on their daily hustles to feed and send their children to school are struggling to provide food for their families or pay school fees because businesses are doing poorly.”

“The President in his speech yesterday blamed our economic woes on trade and geo-political factors and projected 1.4% growth in 2022. If this was the case, our neighbors and other countries in the region would be experiencing similar if not the same economic situations. However, all of our neighbors are experiencing economic growth and projecting high growth for this year alone, 2020. For example, Sierra Leone is projecting 4.20%, Guinea 6.10% and Ivory Coast 6.5%.  What this means is that our country will continue lagging behind our neighbors while our people continue to suffer.”

– Collaborating Political Parties

Harmonization Policy

According to the opposition political parties, the Weah-led government is compounding the suffering of hardworking public and/or civil servants by reducing their salaries through its so-called Harmonization policy. The CPP says it is unacceptable to be reducing civil servants’ salaries that are not paid on time by 30 to 50 percent while prices of everything – rice, oil, chicken, transportation – are increasing by 30 percent. “This is not harmonization. This is a wicked and malicious attack on our people’s standard of living. Instead of harmonizing workers’ salaries, it is time for the President to harmonize his frequent private jet travels, cutback on building more mansions for himself and cutback on the corruption that has taken center-stage in his government.”

He further debunked what Pres. Weah had said about the cut in his salary by 25 percent.

“It will interest you to note that after reviewing the President’s budget, particularly the salary component of the President’s budget of 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, there has been absolutely no reduction in the salary of President Weah. In fact, our research revealed that the compensation portion of the budget of this current President which was US$381,414 in 2018-2019 was increased to US$494,949 in 2019-2020. Yet, the President in his message, thanked you for your patience and understanding during this harmonization, which he promises will continue, while his budget and wealth undergoes MULTIPLCATION.”

EMPLOYMENT

On employment, the CPP said attempts by this administration to fix unemployment through public sector hiring shows how “incompetent” the government’s handling of economic governance has been over the last two years. “The President admits to employing about 15,000 in just over 2 years. Government is not the place to grow jobs and reduce unemployment for political supporters and cronies. Instead, this government needs to create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and create jobs, but this government has failed to enable the private sector in the last two years.”

Mr. Cummings added that under this administration, Liberians are not even spectators to their own economy because they cannot afford to enter the stadium to watch the economy game but rather are stuck at home.

They, however, commended the President for the promise to invest in youth empowerment programs. They added, “While we note this as one of his many promises, we hope that this promise can be fulfilled in order to impact the lives of our young people and provide trainings and job opportunities for them.

Political Governance  

On political governance, the opposition block said it is seeing civil liberty eroding under this Liberian administration as political opponents and critics of the President and government face intimidation and threats regularly.

The President had said on Monday, “Our human rights record is pristine clean. In two years, not a single bullet has been fired in anger by this Government at any of our citizens, and consequently, there have been no deaths from street protests. No persons have been arrested for exercising their constitutional rights of peaceable assembly, and above all, there are no persons who have been jailed because of their political beliefs or associations.”

To the above statement, the CPP said, “Unfortunately, the President was again untruthful when he reported that citizens have enjoyed their rights under this administration and there has been no arrest nor guns shot in response to protests. On the contrary, peaceful civil action, which is the bedrock of democracy, is being denied as we saw with the unjustifiable dispersal of peaceful citizens protesting current economic hardship and governmental corruption as noted by The National Independent Human Rights Commission. The CPP empathized and sympathized with those injured on January 6th, 2020 as the result of state-sponsored crackdown on peaceful Liberians. Contrary to what the President stated, 26 peaceful protesters were summarily arrested by the government during the Jan 6 protest held this month. Additionally, a peaceful protester was shot and killed in Kingsville, Number 7, Montserrado County along with two other juveniles who were injured by state security officers under this very administration.”

Find the full copy of the CPP’s Press Statement here.  

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