GeneralPolitics News

Cummings debunks Weah

By Jonathan Browne

Opposition leader Alexander B. Cummings says president Weah’s description of the state of the Liberian economy and the Republic as “stable, peaceful and strong!” is not only patently false but insensitive, offensive and disconnected, representing an alternative reality to the worsening hardships and deteriorating plight many Liberians are living through daily.

Dissecting the President’s Annual Message in Monrovia on Monday, January 31, 2022, exactly a week after President Weah addressed the 54th Liberian Legislature in joint session at the Capitol, Mr. Cummings, Political Leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) notes that the President has failed, and is now hoping to deceive Liberians with even more promises.

He says on the contrary since President Weah took office in 2018, Liberia’s net economic growth is ZERO, noting that the economy is still sluggish, and corruption is rampant.

“After promising to create one million jobs”, he notes, “unemployment remains above 80%, youth unemployment is higher than in 2017, and the exchange rate is high with prices for every single commodity – from food to gas to dokafleh – higher today than when President Weah came to power.”

The ANC leader continues that the Liberian economy is growing the slowest in the Mano River Union yet, the government continues its wasteful spending and that, in the new budget, it will spend more money on buying and servicing new cars for lawmakers than it will spend on all community colleges, training institutions, the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), JFK and Jackson F. Doe hospitals.

“For President Weah and his administration to be looking to spend more money to buy cars for 103 individuals and not to spend it on providing affordable healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Liberians seeking treatment at JFK, Redemption, and Jackson F. Doe Hospitals is disgraceful, irresponsible and wicked.”

 He notes that in four years, the President has borrowed over 600 million US dollars, while recalling that in 2018, the national debt was $1.039 billion, but today, it has grown as high as $1.690 billion.

He laments that rather than make the future better, the Weah administration is making Liberia worse for the country’s children by piling its debt of wasteful spending on their heads.

“We welcome calls of the IMF, World Bank and ECOWAS to curtail Liberia’s massive tax waiver policy. We urge the government to follow up on its acceptance with diligent actions because Liberia’s tax waivers are being abused with President Weah’s government granting waivers to lawmakers and cronies”, he says.

 President Weah reported to the Legislature that the number of commercial farms and agribusinesses more than significantly increased from 77 in 2021 to 164 in 2022, while there are now dealerships of agricultural machinery, complete with spare parts and workshops.

He detailed that the Ministry of Agriculture developed, negotiated and signed, along with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, key new projects valued at over $73 million US dollars. President Weah added the World Bank’s Rural Economy Transformation Project, (RETRAP), which is meant to expand the ongoing Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project, STAR-P, which was developed for a total value of $55 million US dollars.

But Mr. Cummings says despite Liberia being endowed with one of the most fertile lands in Africa for agriculture production, the Weah government has failed to make any sustainable gains and substantial investment in agriculture, citing that this year, President Weah has budgeted ZERO DOLLAR for the Agriculture Fund, and in fact, for the next three years, the Agriculture Fund will get ZERO DOLLAR.

He points out that the government has turned the agriculture sector over to non-governmental organizations and donor projects, adding “We are yet to see economic growth due to the infusion of millions of dollars in that sector. The Office of President Weah even has more money in the budget than the entire Ministry of Agriculture.”

He continues that the Weah-led government has not just failed to manage the economy, they have also failed with issues of national security, service delivery, fighting corruption, and consolidating democracy, saying “Many of you do not need me to tell you that Liberia’s security is weak, our country is a transshipment point for harmful drugs, and a hotbed for money laundering and human trafficking. These international crimes are hurting the image and reputation of our country.”

  He recalls that last year, President Weah asked Liberians to install CCTV in their homes, rather than depending on his administration for their safety and protection, the most important duty of any President and Commander-In-Chief, adding that the President has surrendered to rising crimes in the nation’s streets and communities, while citizens are essentially on their own.

Mr. Cummings promises that under his leadership as president, drug trafficking in Liberia, and use of Liberia as a transshipment point for drugs, will end, vowing to provide rehabilitation, job training, prison reforms, and reintegration opportunities for Liberians, and restore the country’s reputation in the world by tackling and ending money laundering and human trafficking.

He says Liberia is basically leaderless, and to put it in COVID-19 terms, President Weah is in self-imposed quarantine, which seems to explain why the President would ridiculously declare the country’s crime-infested streets, beaches and urban communities as “peaceful and strong”, telling  Liberians who are suffering through this every day that everything is all right.

The ALP leader adds that in rural communities, life is just as it has always been, if not worse, especially for women and children, with many dying in childbirths and from preventable and treatable illnesses, while still, too many Liberian babies are dying before they reach their 5th birthdays. “We are not in a military battle, and the President may be thinking that the absence of war automatically means that Liberia is at peace.”

He said into his fifth year, President Weah cannot credibly point to any significant improvement in the delivery of basic services to the Liberian people including in the important areas of healthcare, education, safe drinking water, sanitation, electricity, law enforcement, fire service and infrastructure, lamenting that four years later, Liberia still has 1 doctor for every 15,000 citizens, while public clinics and hospitals are understaffed and under-equipped characterized by regular shortages of medicines and medical supplies. Amidst it all, government officials and their families seek medication abroad.

On the question of electricity that has become very irregular and inaccessible, Mr. Cummings notes that despite inheriting an 88 Megawatts Mount Coffee Hydro, a 38 Megawatts Bushrod Power Plant, and the regional project to supply electricity to Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (CLSG) besides distribution of electricity to communities funded by donors, services remained poor, extension and distribution to communities and households frustratingly slow, while completion of the projects are delayed due to incompetence of the government to honor its share of the commitment, such as resolving resettlement action payments for those in the project affected areas.

He says while the ANC welcomes the decision by the electricity regulator to reduce prices, it is meaningless without increasing access of stable electricity to more households, residents and businesses, pointing that generated electricity is sitting at substations in Buchanan, in Mount Coffee, in Yekepa, and in Mano River, none of which is being distributed because government is unable to negotiate commercial agreements with suppliers in Ivory Coast.

 “The CLSG is using Liberia to supply Sierra Leone and Guinea with no benefit to Liberia”, he adds.

He promises that a Cummings administration will fix the LEC and guarantee a stable and reliable supply of electricity during the rainy and dry seasons as well as connect more homes, communities and businesses to the electricity grid, not as a special privilege for a few but a right of all citizens.

The ANC’s critique of President Weah’s speech brings to three the number of opposition parties that have challenged the President’s address in various aspects. The Unity Party and the Liberty Party last week criticized the speech. https://thenewdawnliberia.com/pres-weah-reports-growth-at-3-6-percent/

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
Back to top button