Liberia: The Coronavirus Fight and the Opportunity to Rethink

Many who shared my view feel that there are no redlines left for terrorists to cross. This is a psychological war and succumbing to the strategies would give the enemies superior hand. Let stand up with one voice and call to win this war!

The Editor,

I really wonder which one is Liberia’s Project or the government’s project? Stop Ill-advising the president …. personalizing public struggle is hardly a way to garner public support, which is what won the fight against Ebola… and that is what we need to win the fight against the corona virus.

As is evident, the general public has really not joined the fight, is not supportive or cooperating as is required, for the most part. ( see our behavior from 6AM to 3:00PM – no social distancing… we wear mask when we are approaching a check point and we are hardly washing our hands. The ropes tied across the roads in various communities is senseless because instead of having a single sanitized hand to turn the faucet, people are expected to each turn the faucet. How safe is that … how do you know the hand before yours is safe or clean?? Waste of time and unnecessary risk to people.

A few reasons: this is not seen as our (the Liberian people) struggle or fight, but the president’s campaign move (ala “Weah project” buckets). I heard the VP Jewel Howard did hers too. Very funny but sad. PR is not a child’s play. It’s a professional job. Not any bag handler can do it.

Second, the death has not been related or linked directly to the positive cases. Many persons believe that all but one (the nurse from ELWA who died at 14 military) of the dead that were identified died from corona and the others were counted after they died. Meaning we are testing dead bodies. Unless this is explained well, it brings credibility issue. Maybe this is necessary in order to identify and contact trace and also to protect funeral home personnel from assuming corona bodies. But who has explained this to us. The communication around the fight against corona all-around is poor, inconsistent and incoherent.

Third, unlike Ebola which took at least about two weeks before the public agreed that it was a struggle worth joining , but when the public joined, it became Liberia’s struggle against Ebola. The president rallied the country. In this case, the Weah project or the government has not taken us there yet. Many are simply standing aside and watching. It is still seen, and designedly so, as Weah’s project. Sad!!!

Certainly, it is time to re-evaluate the strategy, begin to admit shortcoming or wrong moves and bring the public along. Mr. president you and your folks will not and must not always be right and oblivious to constructive criticism. Anyone can be wrong and anyone can make mistakes. The first step to handling shortcomings is to accept that you have made a mistake and then the thinking should follow. We are not working together as a country so we will struggle to win.

There will be ample time to campaign, but now is the time to lead. Stop destroying the president. It is time for some of you to man-up and begin to offer counter suggestions or question strategy proposals. If you fail to do that you will continue to defend bad policies without success…. you will continue to see people with genuine anger and frustration as jealous and hateful — you will continue to alienate professionals —- because you have fashioned yourselves as sycophant par excellence or because you are not ready and able to compete on your own ground. That’s what people will think. I wonder whether outside of the CDC bubble, you believe that this kind of whining, finding excuses and blaming is gaining any traction? I think not.

Let me repeat, this is our government and Weah is our president. It is important that this government succeeds so that our tomorrow will not me mortgaged on the altar of sycophancy and idiocy. The president needs men around him, not aged-boys that can’t even provide sector (areas of responsibility/specialization) advice. Or guys that keep writing dumb speeches full of undeliverable promises. ETON, EBOMA, Resource, and now rice and loan payment, come to mind. STOP EMBARRASSING PRESIDENT WEAH. He brought you all on board to help him … you can’t be of much help if you join the choir or misinform him. There are enough wayward boys and girls in CDC to do the battle cry and vain praise-singing. There will be enough time to campaign. You “professionals” should try to be professionals, leave the worship to the battle cry crowd.

I don’t know how well the “$25 million food aid thing is going; or even the loan payment for marketers scheme . I surmise that the government will struggle to explain this and the puppeteers will find enemies or jealous haters again, if you will, when the queries start coming.

To date, and I might be wrong, since the pronouncement, I am not sure the food aid distribution has started. I am not even sure there is a structure in place that extends beyond vulnerable groups … maybe not even at the WFP.

Food distribution, if at all, might start after corona is defeated and then the questions will begin to come like they did with the $25M. I would have suggested that the money or a significant portion of it be used to ramp up testing … so that we can quickly identify the afflicted, isolate, treat and contact trace. Experts have told us that is how the battle against corona will be won. We could eat the food, if it ever comes, and still be sick or exposed. In that case, we would have accomplished nothing or not much, to be generous. I would have also used some of that money to resource hospitals, paid their debt (salaries, fuel and meds) and prepare them to respond should it become necessary. Many hospitals hardly have fuel to keep the power on. Some don’t have medications and basic supplies. No PPEs and masks. How prepared or serious are we with this so-called fight or”Weah project”? I would do that and target the food distribution to the vulnerable population.

Further, the marketers loan scheme is something I would not have suggested . First of all, without knowing and vetting the loan portfolio of the marketers, it is foolhardy to pronounce that you will repay the loan. Exactly what is the size of the obligation you have elected to own? I am not sure you know because these marketers loan are also in the informal sectors (Susu clubs and others).

But even more importantly, you are offering to undertake a liability that is not yours at a time the government is indebted (or delinquent in subsidy payments) to hospitals, indebted to PUL, burdened under unpaid domestic debt portfolio and foreign debt servicing. You can hardly
Manage these. The IMF and the bilateral institutions are considering postponing debt servicing so that that fiscal space that will create can be used to fight corona and shored-up struggling economies, Liberian being a prime example. Exactly what message is the government sending by undertaking to pay loans —- that it has enough fiscal space and does not need the help; and that it can afford to pay all it creditors but has just chosen not to pay? This makes not sense at this time. The government simply doesn’t have the fiscal space. Sooner or later it will have to carry out another round of salary cut since it is Incapable of carrying out redundancy, which is the most sensible way out of the unsustainable salary burden due to unwarranted over employment… where many have employments without jobs. But then, that’s the partisans —- qualify and or needed or not, they must be employed.

I would have suggested that the government hold meetings with the lenders and ask them to join the fight by making donations and freezing loans … no interest accumulation or defaults due to non payment until the emergency is over or until some set date. That would make sense. I would also invite the business community and ask for contributions to a special fund and or help to bring in much needed supplies …. masks, PPEs, ventilators and medications. After all, some communities have been bringing in special chartered flights. This was to be couched as a national struggle where we would need all hands on deck.

Additionally, putting the president in the street wearing his face mask improperly and distributing a few face masks to security personnel at the check point was a flawed PR move. It fell flat… his moves have to be transcending. They have to be able to change minds and attitude. His self-drive through town and small distributions hardly ticked the needle in that direction. President Weah doesn’t need to humanize himself by driving himself and personally distributing mask. The electorate already accepted him as one of their own. He needs to deliver for them, not act.

Who are the ones thinking these things through and asking the president to execute? This was not good… it was feeble and petty. I felt sorry for the president when I looked at the video.

Also too, the president was encouraged to get out there and intimate that unless someone can contribute a “million mask” or so, they have not earned the right to criticize. That is not true. No one must contribute before they earn the right to criticize. Anyone can criticize at anytime. You are our president sir, who else do you expect us to take up our anger and frustration on?

This is flawed logic. Everyone knows that the president is using the country money or should be using the country’s money to pull us through this pandemic. He is not viewed as a philanthropist when he does these things. So the bucket thing with “Weah project” is a dumb idea. The entire country is “Weah’s project”. How come you guys don’t know that. He didn’t and doesn’t need the bucket stunt. He was here during Ebola remember …. any parallel?!!

Mr. president, don’t t be misled all the time … criticism comes with the territory… you should respond through your performance. Stop complaining. It makes you look weak and small. Just work and deliver. People criticize mostly because they are angry and frustrated, not because they are hateful and jealous as you have been constantly told. That line of thinking is misleading and not helpful.

You guys keep exposing the president to public ridicule and easy attacks and this is not fair to him. You guys stand up to be counted. We are not on the right track… long before corona we weren’t … corona will further worsen the problem . The times ahead will be rough. Budget shortfalls are all but assured, even without corona. Remember the two fuel crisis when business activities were disrupted? Remember export have all but stopped or slowed? The fix was already in. Corona has made it worse. No export or market for our major foreign exchange earning exports (rubber and iron ore). We must all but rely on domestic revenue mobilization and the little budget support we can get from partners, if we still get it. It will take painful, sensible and patriotic decisions to lessen the shock that’s coming. Some austerity will be in order here. History doesn’t bore well for us on handling this one. We don’t have a record of making hard decisions. Not in the last two and a half years. Maybe corona is the jolt that will return sanity and force learning. Maybe it will move us to a nationalistic thinking and away from the parochial/partisan malaise that has taken us backwards. Clearly, the times ahead will be tough …. and we can not fast and pray, go from one prosperity preacher to the next or just wish it away. We must do so through our policy options and personnel decisions. Anything to the contrary will Keep is looking for haters and jealous people. But all of that will not make the president deliver to his people. This hasn’t helped and it will not.

I tire mehn, what is this here so???