By Jonathan Browne
The Political Leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress Mr. Alexander B. Cummings blames the Weah administration for increasing poverty among Liberians.
Mr. Cummings laments that it is unacceptable that the combined budget of the President, Vice President, President Pro-Tempore, Speaker and Deputy Speaker is over US$15 Million, while the combined budget of the five major hospitals in the country – John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Phebe Hospital, Jackson F. Doe Hospital and Redemption Hospital is just a little over US$10 Million.
He cites for example, that while the annual budget for the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Bong County (central Liberia) is US$1,684,078, the Vice President of Liberia has an annual budget of more than US$4 Million.
Redemption Hospital in the Borough of New Kru Town on Bushrod Island is allotted an annual budget of US$250,000, which is two hundred times the budget of the Speaker, Mr. Commings further reveals.
An engagement with the media on issues of national concern on Monday, June 20, 2022, at his office on Old Road in Monrovia, the ANC Leader lamented that Liberians are living the sad reality of worsening economic hardships across the country.
Mr. Cummings says his quest to become President is to end this bad chapter and change the sad story of the country, saying that Liberia cannot continue to lag behind because it will only lead to harder times than citizens are already enduring, and that harder times without solutions he warns, will risk long-term peace and security.
The ANC leader promises that the cornerstone of a Cummings Administration will be that no President, lawmaker or minister will ever receive more than what is allotted to a public hospital or school in the national budget, stressing that the national budget is a tool that should transparently and accountably outline what the priorities and values are, rather than used an instrument to legalize stealing.
He says from food to gas, and hospital bills to rent; the cost of everything is skyrocketing while incomes are going down, and people cannot find jobs.
“In the last 5 years under President Weah”, he notes, “no serious investor has come to our country but they continue to pour into neighboring countries, including countries that have fought wars like us.”
Mr. Commings explains that President Weah likes to excuse himself and his officials for the current hardship by blaming the opposition. However, he says the reality is that the Weah government has not behaved in any way to attract credible international investors that would trust his government to invest here.
He reminds that serious investors have not forgotten that under President Weah, and for the first time in the history of Liberia, 11 foreign embassies, missions and international organizations wrote the President to tell his government to stop taking their money that were saved in the Central Bank without their permission.
He points to the LRD$16 billion saga, the US$25 million mop-up exercise, the Global Fund, the Road Fund, and the COVID-19 relief fund, among others as corrupt practices in the government that have eroded public trust.
“The stealing business in the government is too much. It is embarrassingly turning people away from coming to invest in our country, at a time when we need serious international investors to help us create jobs that will pay decent living wages to our people”, he says.
He notes that the Weah government promised to have created 50,000 jobs annually for the youths to lift Liberians out of poverty, but observes that five years after the promise, the government has not only failed to create jobs, but it continues to act in ways that will keep the citizenry in perpetual poverty.
Mr. Cummings cites that the government has instead, cut civil servants’ salaries and pressurized private employers here not to pay Liberians, as they would like, saying “When salaries are cut like the Weah Government has done, it makes it harder for parents to take care of their children, and for families to care for those who get sick.”
He says even as if these appalling living conditions don’t already exist in the country, the government has also increased gas and fuel prices, something, he laments, is not just wrong, but wicked!
He continues that the Weah government knows that increasing prices of gas and fuel would force the already high prices of food, transportation, medicine and everything else to shoot up and make things get worse for the people, who are already suffering.
He argues that the price of gas and fuel does not have to be so high here, noting that Liberia’s prices are among the highest in West Africa and on the entire Continent.
“To keep the price low, and therefore keep the prices of food and transportation stable,”, the presidential hopeful suggests; “the Weah government can cut some of its charges on the importation of gas and fuel so that importers do not have to charge suffering Liberians higher than they can afford.”
He says a Cummings Administration will build accountable systems in government and will lead by required good examples so that others will follow, and vows to end stealing in government.