Good Populist Move Mr. President, But Did You Consider the Ramifications?


PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH is maximizing his footballing popularity on the field of politics at an all-new level in Liberia. Winning the 2017 elections has thought the former world best a lot about Liberia’s quack politics and the elements that could tighten any politician grip on power.

WEAH KNOWS THE BENEFITS of popularity and now he’s morphing that what he has savored for many years into POPULISM. Populism is a delicate phenomenon in politics and once utilized effectively, especially in Liberia, it would certainly amass approvals from the masses.

WEBSTER DICTIONARY DENOTES Populism as the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite. Put this definition in context and you’ll fathom the rationale of President Weah’s recent “free tuition” policy.

WHEN THE LIBERIAN LEADER visited the University of Liberia main campus last week, we thought his empathetic statement about the “increasing cost of education in Liberia leading to none enrollments, none attendant and frequent drop out is becoming counterproductive to our development goals” is the reality.

ACCORDING TO PRESIDENT WEAH, it is time the government takes the board initiative and makes direct social intervention to address the many problems that the young people are facing. We are constrained to stress that the “Free Tuition” policy is a popular one but lacks practicability.

MR. PRESIDENT, EVERY Liberian knows the colossal gap between the “well-educated” and the “uneducated” and that to “invest in our human capital in order to achieve economic growth” is paramount to sustaining the future of this Republic.

HOWEVER, THERE ARE realities that must be candidly outlined when adopting remedies to our long-standing challenges: don’t solve one problem and create another, Mr. President. This, we think, might most likely cause the previous situation to degenerate as oppose to the intent of a pronounced policy.

GOVERNMENT-FUNDED TERTIARY educational institutions are already embroiled in entrenched complications that require meticulous planning and not knee jerk solutions of populist approach – the kind that creates mass hysteria although the positive impact is far fetch.

The FACT, we must state herein, is that all public colleges and universities are extremely underfunded. This is a situation, Mr. President, you should have resolved before making your ‘free tuition’ populist pronouncement.

TAKE THE UNIVERSITY of Liberia for example, it is allotted US$16,299,877 per fiscal year amid the enormous challenges it has to put up with year-on-year.

WE ARE ALSO CONCERNED that the already substandard quality of education at state-run universities/colleges compared to their sub-regional counterparts, might just deteriorate if some of the current pressing issues are ignored.

NOW THAT SCHOOL FEES are cut-off, your government must bare the burden of covering the additional costs amid concerns about an imminent budget shortfall and alerts from international financial institutions that our economic forecast is dismal. A recent World Bank report puts Liberia’s fiscal deficit at 5.2% of the GDP in FY 2018. This is a result of a significant shortfall in revenues and higher than anticipated non-discretionary expenditures.

WHEN PUT IN CONTEXT, you’ll then realize that the government is facing a hard time with generating finance and the situation might just worsen. Therefore, it is important that we face the reality: this government cannot afford to underwrite the hefty cost of running a free public universities or colleges. Has this government backtracked to assess the impact of the free primary and secondary education? Or is it only desperate to thrive on the popularity of abysmal policies.

SOLVING LIBERIA’S ‘MESSY’ education requires systematic planning and a capital-intensive investment void of political maneuvering. Any attempt to politicize education, as we see in this ‘free tuition’ policy’, would be detrimental to the future of this nation that is already lagging in all aspects of modernization. And to say it bluntly, much of the problems and or successes that might arise from this populist policy would fall on you, Mr. President.