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How much money did President Weah meet in the coffer?

Until now, President George Manneh Weah is yet to tell Liberians how much money his government met in the national coffer. Instead, the President continues to remind the citizenry that the economy is in a very bad shape and the country is broke.

But his predecessor, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the picture is not as gloomy as the new government is portraying, disclosing that her administration left US$150m in the national coffer as foreign reserves.

Madam Sirleaf maintains in a BBC interview on Tuesday, 13 February that the new government at least has something to start with, dispelling rumors that the coffer is totally empty, as the new administration seems to be implying.

Full disclosure by the Weah-led administration is very important in building public trust about how and where the so-called pro-poor government sincerely intends to take this country following Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power in 74 years.

Though the amount is very insufficient for the enormous developmental needs confronting us as nation, we believe strongly that telling the Liberian people clearly how much was left on the ground in terms of dollar and cents would properly situate the new administration to realistically take on the challenges that lie ahead.

On the other hand, withholding such information increases the rumor mills about how broke the government is with pessimists painting a murky picture about Liberia heading for doom.

In first Annual Message to the Legislature, President Weah reported that total revenues collected in calendar year 2017 amounted to 489.1 million US Dollars, which is a 13 percent decline over revenue collected in 2016, which was 565.1 million, but asserted, “I cannot vouch for the accuracy or completeness of this information, in the absence of verification by a full and proper audit conducted by a competent authority.

Misinformation and disinformation are recipes for chaos. We caution the new government not to tread on this path because it is not safe to do so. When the people are fed with half or distorted information, they would react with distrust, a scenario that a government elected by popular votes such as the Coalition government headed by President Weah should avoid.

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Timely and accurate information to the public would go a long way in not just building public trust, but lowering expectations as we sojourn under an era of “hope for change”, a famous campaign slogan of the now governing Coalition for Democratic Change.

The sooner the government acts accordingly for the sake of transparency and accountability, the better it would be for all of us. Truth-telling is the foundation for democratic governance. We must cherish it.

Lest we are misconstrued, this paper does not in any suggest that because there are reserves in the coffer, government should immediately go on spending spree. On the contrary, we demand prudent spending that would benefit the country and its people.

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