Liberia: “Betrayal of The Masses and Political Self-Sabotage” – Fmr. Finance Minister Konneh Describes Cancellation of the Beach And Waterways Program
MONROVIA – Former Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara M. Konneh, has termed as a complete “betrayal of the masses and political self-sabotage” the latest decision taken by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led-government of President George Manneh Weah to with immediate effect terminate the Beach and Waterways Program in the country.
The program, which commenced in 2013, was initiated by Mr. Konneh during the administration of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as one of the many policy measures intended to ensure the inclusion of low and semi-skilled Liberians in the government’s national visioning process.
Under the program, thousands of semi-skilled Liberians, especially elderly women and youths, were recruited with a task to give a facelift to beaches and waterways around coastal areas in Monrovia and its environs and paid monthly to enable them cater to them and their respective family members.
But the program has been short-lived following claims and counter claims over the payment of 21 months salary arrears allegedly owed the workers by the CDC led-government.
Last week, the CDC-led government, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, abruptly announced the termination of the Beach and Waterways Program which helped to put food on the tables of scores of semi-skilled mothers and youths residing in various slum communities in Montserrado County.
In a statement issued by the ministry on January 8, the government claimed that it inherited the program from the Sirleaf’s administration “with massive arrears which this administration settled”.
The CDC government further claimed that as with the bloated wage structure inherited, the Beach and Waterways program has been “riddled with fraud, waste, ghosts, and abuse”.
“It’s administration has not reflected the level of fairness, especially regarding deserving workers who are entitled to their pay. Its recruitment has been problematic. And these have led to problems and omissions during pay, leading to protests and confusion”.
The statement maintained: “Consistent with clean up done on the Government’s broken payroll, where workers have now been placed in specific pay grades reflecting their level of skills, where the arbitrary general allowance system has been abolished, and where hiring has now been centralized at the Civil Service Agency, the Government of Liberia will announce at some future date a corrective program to replace the problem-filled Beach and Waterways Program”.
According to the government, the timing, rules, recruitment process, and overall governance of the Replacement Program will be communicated to the public, and the it will discuss and settle claims under the Beach and Waterways before announcing its Replacement Program.
But in a statement posted on his official facebook page shortly after the pronouncement of the program termination, Mr. Konneh, who is one of the brains behind the Beach and Waterways Program, disclosed that the program was designed as a “safety net and productive public works program” initiated by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA).
He pointed out that the program was also established as part of a broader Community Empowerment Initiative linked to protecting the environment.
“We thought then, as we do now, that the lack of employable skills should not be the basis for the exclusion of a particular segment of the country from its national programs”.
Mr. Konneh further expressed disappointment over the termination of the program by the Weah led-government, especially when most of those who were serving on the program are from communities deemed as strongholds of the ruling party.
“It is sad to see that the CDC-led Govt has abandoned the program that provided livelihoods for young people with no skills from Monrovia’s coastal communities to clean the beaches and waterways for monthly payments for their work. Most of them came from New Kru Town, West Point and PHP – all CDC communities. It was a purposeful policy measure designed to address short term employment concerns”.
He added that even in the midst of “budget shortfalls,” the Unity Party led-government of Madam Sirleaf managed to sustain the program by ensuring the timely payment of the workers to enable these “poor workers put foods on their tables for them & their families”.
According to him, the program also helped to pay the school fees for some of the beneficiaries and their children.
Mr. Konneh stated that despite the reported budget “surplus” on paper, the CDC government has failed to continue to finance the program to continue to give hope to these workers and their families.
“The least the CDC-led Govt could have done was to continue the program. That would’ve been the true definition of “pro-poor.”
“Their decision to end it amid extreme hardships on families not only shows a lack of compassion but is also just another direct betrayal of the “masses,” an act of political self-sabotage. When will this government stop failing the people?”