Editorial: The Buchanan retreat should produce tangibles
President George Manneh Weah chairs a three-day cabinet retreat this week (24 -26 April) in the coastal city, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, perhaps the last or second to the last by this administration before presidential and general elections in October. This retreat of the cabinet is very important because it provides an opportunity for the Weah Administration to not only measure performance but to outline actual deliverables since its inception in 2018.
It also sets a platform for the government to carry out some real public relations as it seeks re-election in October amid barrage of criticisms about ineptitude, accountability, corruption, mismanagement, economic hardship, gross constitutional violation and insecurity, among others.
The government has a development roadmap dubbed, Pro-poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity (PAPD). Such forum provides an opportunity to take down partisan lenses, and objectively identify weak links and how to improve them.
The flagship priority for the first six years has been roads that it is still battling with even as it seeks re-election. Some of those road projects were already signed by its predecessor and are being implemented, while it has its own road connectivity programs that are ongoing simultaneously.
But there are weaknesses in some sectors such as agriculture, education security, health, rule of law that need critical assessment with open mind. For instance, in the draft FY2023 National Budget Agriculture was allotted US$5.42 million, representing 0.70 percent in a country that 100 percent relies on rice importation, its staple and other food.
Education and Health both received a greater chunk of the budget by far than Agriculture but performance leaves much to be desired. President Weah announced all public universities tuition-free. However, state universities and colleges across the country are in financial crisis, leaving lecturers to go on strike or students protesting. The President pays WASSCE fees for 12th graders annually, but Liberia’s performance on the subregional exams is nothing to write home about, as announced here recently by the Head of WAEC Monrovia Office Dai Gbotoe.
Despite a projected budget of US$75.52 million or 9.71 percent for Health, health institutions across the country are barely functioning because of lack of drugs, tools and logistics. This also raises performance questions.
Security and Rule of Law were allotted a big chunk of US$96.87 million or 12.45 percent in the 2023 draft budget, but the justice system, starting with the Police, correction, and other arms are operating below public expectations, leading to breach of confidence.
As the cabinet meets this week in Buchanan City under the watch of President Weah, we believe these are but few of the critical areas that need urgent attention, especially security, as the nation goes to election.
The retreat is necessary and should be given the attention it deserves because it is from there government honestly measures its performance of the task it has been entrusted by the electorate.