Liberia: Civil Society Groups Worried About Hyperinflation Amid ‘Declining’ Economy
Monrovia – Leading civil society organizations in Liberia have called on President George Manneh Weah to address the “many emerging national issues that have the propensity of derail political and economic gains made over the past 13 years.”
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh – 00231880881540 / 00231777769531/ [email protected]
The civil society groups including the Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL), Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREED) and the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE), in a joint press statement issued on Tuesday, April 2 stated that these concerns range from the management of the Liberian economy, respect for the rule of law and the constitution and limited political will to robustly fight corruption.
In addition, they cited the “dwindling of civic space” for citizens’ participation in the democratic process and freedom of the press and of expression as some of the issues that need to be addressed by the Weah’s administration.
State of the Liberian Economy
On the state of the economy, the groups noted that they are keenly following with dismay the deteriorating rate at which the Liberian economy has weakened over the past 13 months.
They cited the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollars and the United States Dollars and says it is ‘scarily’ plummeting, while the costs of basic commodities have doubled over the last 12 months despite the government’s decision to reduce tariffs on 2,000 commodities in May 2018.
“With the pace at which things are proceeding, if pragmatic steps are not taken by the government to salvage the economy, we are afraid that we would be heading down the slope of hyperinflation,” the civil society groups warned in the statement read by the Executive Director of CENTAL, Anderson Miamen.
According to the groups, the declining economic situation is making life unbearable for many, especially ordinary Liberians and rural dwellers, many of whom are without jobs and better livelihood opportunities.
They say the short term measure undertaken by the CDC-led government including the “US$25 million mop-up exercise” has not worked, thus leading to the perpetuation of the problems.
On the other hand, they noted that the Liberian Legislature seems to be dragging its feet in providing the necessary administrative oversight in helping to resuscitate the economy and improve the governance landscape and called on the government and international community to support a national conference to come up with a solution to salvage the economy.
State of Corruption
The group commended the government for establishing a committee to investigate a number of corruption allegations and scandals including the National Housing Authority’s corruption saga involving its Managing Director Duanah Siryon and principal deputies who are facing prosecution over an alleged bribery act.
They also lauded the government for sanctioning the investigation of the L$16 billion alleged missing money scandal and the establishment of the Concession Review Committee to review all existing concessions from the previous government.
But the groups noted that “While we applaud the government for these steps, we are extremely disappointed in the slow pace at which these investigations are proceeding.”
The group record that in February 2018, President Weah ordered the review of all concessions entered into by the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration.
More than one year since the committee was constituted, the group said it is yet to make public its findings or update the public about the status of the review exercise.
Additionally, in April 2018, they noted that the President ordered an investigation of Exxon Mobil fraudulent acquisition of oil block 13, but till date, the outcome of that investigation has not been made public.
According to them, this is compounded by limited political will to comprehensively audit the past administration and prosecute those who allegedly misapplied public resources as well enforce existing laws and policies, including the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, part 10 of which provides for officials who make decisions after contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types to declare their assets, incomes and liabilities before taking office.
Provision of Basic Social Services
The CSOs say they are monitoring efforts across the country and have uncovered rapid decline in the provision of basic social services, particularly health.
They furthered that evidence shows that conditions at health centers are extremely alarming.
“In all of the 15 political sub-divisions, there is a complete breakdown of health service delivery: there are no essential drugs and supplies at health facilities as well as fuel to run generators at health centers and county administrations,” the groups explained.
They CSOs say this is putting Liberians at risk and exposing the vulnerability of the health system to preventable disease outbreaks including Ebola; something that may lead to worsening of the already high maternal mortality of 1072.
commenting on the rule of law and the constitution, the civil society organizations claimed that there is an apparent resurgence of lawlessness and disrespect for the rule of law and institutions of governance.
The groups condemned the increasing waves of mob violence and other crimes against free speech.
They made reference to several instances of mob violence and other crimes against free speech including the Montserrado County District #13 electoral violence, which they said the authorities are yet to release the report, terming it as troubling.
In addition, they named the attack on Root FM, the investigation of alleged vandalism and firing at District #10, Montserrado County involving Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, mob violence in Glahn Town, Gbi-Doru District, Nimba County that led to the death of two persons.
They also mentioned mob violence in Ganta, Nimba County in March 2019 that also led to two deaths and the increase in the report of rape cases and violence against women, the recent burning down of Weala Police station and Magisterial Court in Margibi County.
In the statement signed by Harold Marvin Aidoo, IREED Executive Director, Eddie D. Jarwolo, NAYMOTE’s Executive Director and Anderson Miamen, Executive Director of CENTAL, the CSOs called on President Weah to take leadership in the fight against corruption.
They also called for the Weah-led government to conduct a comprehensive audit of the past administration and a timely completion of all ongoing investigations the current government has launched.
In addition, they called on the Liberian leader, the Legislature and the government at large to ensure the respect for the rule of law and the constitution of Liberia.
“We call on the government to invest and build the capacity of LRA (Liberia Revenue Authority) to enhance the country’s domestic resource mobilization.
“We also call on the Liberia National Police to be proactive and more efficient in the discharge of their duties. We call on all citizens, especially young people to stop the use of violence as a means of seeking redress and rather use constitutionally established channels for grievance redress.”