Liberia’s President Weah Marks 30 Days Without Immediate Plans for Country
Monrovia – Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 marked President George Manneh Weah’s first 30 days in office, yet, Liberians are not aware of his immediate plans for the country.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
History tells us that the first 100 days of a presidential term took on symbolic significance during U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term in office, and the period is considered a yardstick to measure the early success of a president.
Similar to the case of President Weah, President Roosevelt entered office amid the tumult of the Great Depression.
With banks caving in and jobs vanishing, he set to work passing laws and establishing new government bureaus to curb the economic suffering.
At the time, poverty was ubiquitous, roughly 15 million people were unemployed (over 20 percent of the US population at the time), people waited in bread lines, homelessness were rampant and shanty towns popped up nationwide.
But Roosevelt rose to the occasion and worked with a cooperative Democratic majority in Congress to lay the foundations for the New Deal, a group of government programs that, along with World War II, brought America out of the Great Depression.
In his third radio speech, President Roosevelt offered a 3,000-word report on what he had accomplished in his first 100 days.
He said – “I think that we all wanted the opportunity of a little quiet thought to examine and assimilate in a mental picture the crowding events of the hundred days which had been devoted to the starting of the wheels of the New Deal. We have built a granite foundation in a period of confusion.”
Since this speech, presidents around the world have attempted to emulate the legendary political trait of Mr. Roosevelt in their first 100 days.
When former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took office in 2005, the country was virtually in ashes, every sector completely broken, economy at its worst and there was a relative crumbled foundation to build upon.
In the midst of these towering challenges, Madam Sirleaf, assembled the courage to present to the Liberian people an across-the-board plan intended to be achieved in her first 150 days in office.
This plan hinged on “achieving quick and visible progress that reaches significant number of our people, to gain momentum, consolidate support, and establish the foundation for sustained economic development”.
Among Madam Sirleaf’s plan included the restoration of electricity to certain parts of Monrovia, and maintaining a small but effective government, fighting corruption, amongst others.
These plans helped Liberians set their eyes on what to hope for within a specific period of time.
The public adjudged Madam Sirleaf by those expected deliverables.
What Has Weah Presented?
Two days after President Weah was declared winner of the presidential elections in December 2017, he called a press conference at the headquarters of his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) where he disclosed that his government would govern on a “pro-poor agenda”.
That speech was, however, limited – falling short of expanding on what the pro-poor government would entail.
Pres. Weah’s inauguration on Jan. 22, 2018 showed a massive manifestation of the high level of confidence reposed in him by Liberians, especially the masses.
Interestingly, the excitement and enthusiasm that engulfed thousands of Liberians at the Sports Complex and others who queued for miles to get to the venue signified a new dawn in the pages of Liberia.
Ironically, the first pages of this new dawn were bloated with lofty assurances as contained in the inaugural address, igniting hope that buttresses his campaign slogan – “Hope for Change”.
The fight against corruption, empowering Liberian businesses and revamping the economy were emphasized in the January 22 speech – these were exactly what the masses wanted to hear.
“It is my belief that the most effective way to directly impact the poor, and to narrow the gap between rich and poor, is to ensure that public resources do not end up in the pockets of government officials,” he said.
In his first annual message, President Weah again raised hopes through the disclosure of his government’s agenda which include giving power to the people, economy and jobs, sustaining the peace and governance and transparency.
To jumpstart that, he promised to reduce his salary and benefits by 25 percent – a political move that has ignited debate and exerting pressure on other branches of government.
And the ‘promising spree’ did not stop there. During this first Armed Forces Day celebration as Commander-in-Chief, the President again gave series of assurances to the uniformed men and women – promising to build the country’s first military hospital and ensuring that service men and women have decent housing facility.
What are The Immediate Plans?
In the wake of these peacock promises, the President has not presented any blue print to the public on what he expects to achieve in the short term – simply put, his priorities for his first 100-150 days.
Unrealistically, President Weah continues to mention road connectivity as his first 90-day priority.
How is this achievable in this very short period of time?
When asked for the first time about his first 90-day plans while on an official trip to Dakar, Senegal, the President reiterated road connectivity.
“As I said road connectivity is important; we have been cut-off and I believe when the roads are good, Liberia can be decentralized.”
“So, this is our number one priority,” Mr. Weah told West Africa Democracy Radio in Dakar.
While the President seems apparently determine to achieve his ‘road connectivity’ target, observers, including engineers, are critical about the achievability of the plan for a short term.
Earlier, during his Annual Message, the President did promise to connect the southeastern part of the country to Monrovia via a costal highway from Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to Harper, Maryland County.
He also promised to construct farm-to-market roads. This, he said, forms the foundation of his plans to open the economy.
While these remain brilliant ideas, the President knows that he cannot honestly achieve these in 90 days.
President Weah was heralded for his intervention for the reduction in the price of rice during his first week in office. Unfortunately, though these reductions of US$2 and US$4 for the 25kg and 50kg respectively have happened it is yet to take effect, signaling that there wasn’t a laid out modality to subsidize the cost for importers.
When President Weah promised to build the country’s first military hospital, he said little about how this was going to be achieved and the time frame within which Liberians should expect the erection edifice or when the ground will be broken for this project.
FrontPageAfrica has made several attempts to obtain copies of blue prints of the President’s “Pro-Poor” Agenda and First 90,100 or 150-day deliverables, but to no avail.
However, the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill told FrontPageAfrica that the commencement of payment for fees for the West African Examination Council, breaking ground for the construction of the military hospital, the reduction in the price of rice all form part of the 100-day deliverables.
Commenting on the President’s first 30 days in office, spokesman of the former ruling Unity Party, Mohammed Ali, told FrontPageAfrica that President Weah must be commended for employing dozens of youth in his government.
Said Mr. Ali: “I am certainly concerned that we could not have gotten a 100-day plan from the very beginning. But I am sure the government will eventually release a plan for the first six months or less by which we will be able to judge the achievement of President Weah at least for that time.”
He challenged the administration, which has spoken much about transparency and the fight against corruption, to declare their assets and in the same light, disclose what was left in the coffers by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“We are asking the President to make open to the Liberian people what his government inherited in the country’s coffers and the foreign reserve.”
“These will serve as part of the baselines for evaluating his performance in terms of revamping the economy. We are also asking him to tell us the rate of unemployment as he stated in his state of the nation address that we are faced with unprecedented high unemployment,” he said.
What Could Have Been Weah’s 100-Day Plan?
Taking into consideration the ‘spoiled system’ that was so badly wanted ousted by the masses, who resolved on October 7 and December 26, 2017, it would have been prudent if President Weah had begun instituting some immediate measures that would have formed the foundation of his government.
These measures must help curtail wastes, improve security, building confidence in the justice system, foster reconciliation, ensure equitable use of national resources and guarantee equality.
These measures for the first 100 days from a random sampled view should include the reduction of the price of gasoline, reduction of tariffs on some shipments to Liberia, protecting borders, limiting government officials’ foreign travels, among others.