By Jonathan Browne
Opposition politician Mr. Alexander B. Cummings laments that despite Liberia being endowed with an abundance of natural wealth, at 174 years, the country continues to beg for budgetary support, including from nations far less endowed than her, and whose public officials and legislators are paid way less than officials here.
Mr. Cummings is the leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress, a constituent member of four Collaborating Political Parties. The CPP comprises the ex-ruling Unity Party, the All Liberian Party, the Liberty Party, and the Alternative National Congress.
In a speech to mark Liberia’s 174th Independence Day anniversary in Monrovia on Thursday, July 22, he said Liberians are too poor that more than half of her population lives on less than US$1.25 a day, and at least 7 out of every 10 citizens in urban areas lack access to improved water, improved sanitation, sufficient living space, or housing durability.
Liberia celebrates 174th Independence on Monday, July 26, 2021, has announced its independence in 1847. However, the government announces there will be no official festivity due to the Covid pandemic.
Speaking of health, he says at 174, the under-5 infant mortality rate is about 84.6% which indicates that out of every one thousand newborn Liberian children, 846 will probably die before they reach age five and that only 1.3 percent of Liberians in rural areas and 34 percent in urban areas have access to electricity.
He further laments that Liberia is too old to have hospitals without essential medicines and diagnostic equipment, while officials clothed with the responsibility to correct this are themselves seeking treatment in neighboring countries, or farther abroad, stressing that if the government cannot fix the hospitals so that the people they serve will go to seek medication then no official of government ought to seek medical checkups or treatment in a foreign hospital at the state’s expense.
According to him, somewhere between the Declaration of Independence in 1847 and today, the country has lost its way, noting that no one needs these grim statistics from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other international institutions to prove this point.
“Too many Liberians are actually living it every day in the worsening conditions of finding food, finding jobs, caring for families, paying rent, paying school fees, paying hospital bills, and keeping a roof over their heads”, he points.
On the economy, he says the moral compass of the society is broken with too many young people unemployed, noting some of them are unemployable, and the cost of living is unbearable, forcing too many proud Liberians to become beggars.
He argues that in distributing the nation’s wealth, few individuals have continued to receive more than they need while the majority gets too little.
“Liberia is experiencing the worst economic conditions in a decade with a continued dismal performance in the key macroeconomic indicators such as Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), unemployment, and inflation. For example, according to the International Monetary Fund, in 2019 and 2020, real GDP recorded negative growth of 2.5 percent and 3.0 percent, respectively. Of course, we can blame the COVID-19 Pandemic, but mismanagement, lack of accountability; poor planning, and corruption have continued to haunt the administration of our government.”
The former corporate executive explains latest the World Bank’s statistics shows that Liberia’s 2020 real GDP per capita, which measures people’s living standard, is the lowest in a decade, and that the United Nations Development Program Human Development Index Report ranked Liberia 175 out of 189 countries in 2019.
He also points that annual inflation averages over 20 percent in the last three years, seriously reducing the purchasing power of Liberians, particularly those who already cannot afford it.
The ANC leader, who is leading a campaign to stop President George Weah to one term, recalled that in April 2021, the Central Bank of Liberia released its Monthly Economic Review, which indicates that Liberian Dollars in circulation is 22.6 billion, out of which 20.8 billion, representing 92 percent, is outside banks.
“There is only one logical explanation for this: People do not trust the banking system. Confidence is low. This is the price we have to pay when we politicize the banking system and corrupt it into systemic and other administrative failures. These failings combined with non-performing loans of 26.9 percent pose a high risk to the stability of the nation’s financial sector”, he analyzes.
However, he calls for a change of mindset and to adopt a new national perspective that Liberia belongs to all Liberians, saying that all Liberians owe a duty to the country to be good citizens and to work as hard and as honestly as they can to make the country better for both current and future generations.
Mr. Cummings stresses that good citizens do not steal and deceive the people. Rather, he says good citizens stand for what is right for the country even if they anger a few friends and political allies, adding that the fundamental duty of citizenship is to build a better country.
“Obedience to the law is a duty of good citizenship. Good citizens take responsibility and accept the failures of getting it wrong just as they will accept the benefits of getting it right.”
He urges national leaders – political, religious, community, and traditional to be more accountable and to lead by good examples so that others are encouraged to follow.
“We will not grow until we allow our visions, expectations, dreams, and aspirations to also grow. Therefore, national goals must be bigger, allowing us to set our sights higher, and extend our collective endeavors further”, Mr. Cummings, among other things, says.