Liberia’s Finance, Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweh told local journalists here Friday March 16, that elections are not necessary, a statement which has been described as alarming and tantamount to undermining democracy.
Minister Tweh’s comments were in response to a US3.9 million request made by the National Elections Commission or NEC to hold Senatorial by-elections in Montserrado and Bong Counties.
The seats were made vacant by President George Weah and Vice President Jewel H. Taylor upon their elections on December 26, 2017. By law elections to replace the two former senators are expected to be held 90 days after the House of Senate had informed the electoral body of the vacant seats. By calculations, the by elections are expected to be held in May this year.
But addressing journalists at his first major press conference which was intended to explain the country’s recast budget which over US 500 million an amount that should have covered the remaining months of the 2017/2018 fiscal period, Mr. Tweh did not only announced a cut in the NEC’s proposed budget for the by-election from US3.9 million to US1.5 million, but added while explaining his government’s pro-poor agenda that he would rather spend monies on other programs than “elections that are not necessary.”
As to whether the minister had dialogued with officials at NEC over their request before coming up with the cut, is yet to be established. But the Minister further suggested that the NEC can recruit people with election experiences from other sectors and agencies to conduct the election.
However, commenting on development, in what appears to be blame-shifting, he argues that what has actually been stalling development in Liberia is lack of political will of past leaders, who claimed they had vision to rebuild the country after the devastated civil war.
He said President George Manneh Weah has come to the office of the presidency with tremendous political will to develop Liberia, and put it on the right path.
“The key to achieving development is the political will, and that is something that the President of this country has, he has that will to transform the lives of citizens, including solving their problems”, the Finance boss promised last Friday.
He says the greatest contribution of the Weah-led administration is to adequate deliver on its variables rather than focusing on anything that has to do with vision, “because past leaders had visions, and yet we see no impact.”
Tweah maintains that the government doesn’t need vision to develop the country, noting, that there could be all the visions of President Tolbert and Tubman’s that could build Liberia like London or New York, but without implementation, they lack impact.
“We inherited a broken system and what we focus is to stabilize the fiscal space to ensure that the government pays salaries and meets its pro-poor agenda plans, he explains, adding that the focus now is deeply on the public financial management space, and was able to generate US$9 million since it came to power that is in savings.
He wants the government to be applauded for such achievement, saying the money has been reallocated, and President Weah is working with the leadership of the Liberian Legislature to finance his pro-poor priority projects, with focus on those citizens, who are not earning a pay check.
The executive recently submitted a recast budget of over US$500 million for FY 2018 and 2019 to the 54th Legislature for approval. “We should ensure that resources are not bending in the favor of government officials, but rather finding those resources to benefit the marginalized citizens”, he says and notes that the President had promised that Liberian students would no longer pay WAEC fees under his pro-poor program.
At the same time he wants an end to criticisms against the new government that has been in power for less than three months.
By Lewis Teh-Editing by Jonathan Browne