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Liberia: Economic and Social Consequences of President Weah’s 2nd Term

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By Ansu Opa Dualu

Liberia: Everything rises and falls on leadership! It is the singular issue that shapes the direction of any organization or country. The person who occupies the very top must possess a certain preparational pedigree that distinguishes him/her from the typical if producing results is the goal. National leadership is not a space for trial and error; there are serious economic and social consequences if the individuals who step up to lead do not have the tested capabilities to deliver especially at the level the presidency – a clear example is Liberia under President Weah. Click here https://allafrica.com/stories/202101060389.html  to read “A Guide to Picking Liberia’s next President” to know exactly what foundational preparation these individuals must possess to be considered or trusted with national leadership.

The presidency is not a joking matter – this is not a place for a flunkey! Liberians should not hand over their future to people who do not have the capacity to understand our economic and social challenges, who have had zero preparation in this complicated field of leadership, especially in the 21st Century. If national leaders do not have an in-depth appreciation of our problems and cannot articulate the issues and provide plausible solutions to our developmental priorities, they cannot begin to recognize nor provide answers to those dire societal ills that continue to stagnate everything in the country. Liberians must open their minds if they truly want their lives to change in the direction they desire. Tested leadership matters.

So far, President Weah has ruled by decree. He has weakened every governmental institution including the courts and our anti-graft agencies with his misrule and unilateral decision-making tendencies. Liberians must appreciate that economic growth is significantly and negatively impacted when exposed to bad governance.

The lack of regulatory oversight, institutional ineffectiveness when it comes to controlling corruption, and enforcement of the rule of law which are empirically linked to poor economic growth, the president’s refusal to systemically address national issues in conformity with the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia are all bad governance issues that continue to cripple our country in a major way. Moreover, our international image that was gradually being re-built has been entirely eroded by this neophyte who does not grasp the magnitude of the awesome responsibility before him. The true damage is yet to be fully quantified. But we know one thing for sure: Bad governance has set us back many years and further weakens the social fabric of the country; a continuation along this line will widen the developmental gap between us and the rest of the world!     

The impact of weak governance is deeper than most who suffer under its effects care to understand. Poor governance is a driver of disaster risks, political instability and sovereignty risks, poverty, and inequality, stifles economic growth, poor urban arrangements, and the proliferation of slum dwellings. Moreover, it exerts tremendous influence over accountability issues, transparency, and whether people in that society will experience any appreciable standard of living – bad governance is the biggest contributor to increased crimes and decreased human capital.

Furthermore, corruption and bad governance heavily contribute to and surge in unemployment numbers, the decline in business activities, reduction in tax revenue and create many barriers that eventually destroy the economy like we are seeing under this current kleptocratic arrangement.

Conversely, good governance principles like ethics and accountability, transparency and participative governance, the rule of law, and responsible stewardship are set aside to the detriment of most of the population. Why will any responsible citizen want to continue down this line of extreme poverty imposed by vain men who only care about themselves and not the people whom they swore to serve?

Under President Weah’s absent leadership, targeted corruption and the lack of adequate governmental oversight have tightened access to necessities such as healthcare, food, shelter, clean water, and adequate sanitation; it has also increased mental illness in the country, limited access to social services, increased public mismanagement, and increased crime rates. These actions have left most of our people venerable and at risk of preventable diseases and premature death. The president does not care; in fact, he goes into the studio and makes substandard music while his people suffer the consequences of his misrule. One wonders whether President Weah truly wanted to become president at all or perhaps, he was only interested in the fanfares to “boost his morale”, sleep with as many young women as he can using national resources, fly a state-sponsored private jet, and not the responsibilities of the office of the president.

The lack of policy direction on the part of this government had further exacerbated the teenage prostitution rates in the country, increased high school dropout rates especially among our young girls, increased the number of broken homes mainly due to the high rates of unemployment among young people in the country, increased the “zogorazition” of young men, and the president continues to destroy Liberia because he does not know what to do and will not listen to advise from anyone who will not worship him! This president has no original ideas. Liberia continues to fall far behind mainly because of President Weah’s lack of basic leadership preparations. 

Consequently, law and order is marked by misgovernment, insecurity, partisan politics, demanded bribes, coercion, and violence – think about the auditors, Executive Protection Services Officer who shot himself “multiple times in the head”, immigration and police officers who have gotten murdered without any explanation, and the countless extrajudicial killings of Liberian Citizens throughout the country. This stretches to the criminalization of politics – the president labeling Liberian Citizens “enemies of the state” – and the violation of citizens’ rights by state actors. The media is being muffled with partisan closures and illegal refusals of license despite the appearance of free speech; couple this with high-ranking officials in government using ex-combatants and documented murderers to do their dirty work. There is fear among the people without any meaningful recourse.

The president without trying to find any worthwhile solutions to these life and death issues facing most of our people mocks them by telling them he cannot guarantee their security even though that is one of his primary duties as president. He tells them to buy closed-circuit television (CCTV) in a country where there is near zero electricity and 90% of the population can barely afford a proper meal per day. He even refuses to address his people in times of crisis. Since George Weah became president, he has not held any consequential press interchange that lasted twenty minutes! The president constantly runs away from the people – he has almost no regard for their well-being!

Disturbing crime rate statistics, a practically non-existent legislative body who has neglected its oversight responsibility, a law enforcement arm that answers only to government officials and not the people, a prison system that has run amok, and a judiciary that literally operates in total fear of the president and his lieutenants. How can Liberia grow under these conditions?

On the other hand, the court system is in name only. The president decides what judgments are rendered, who is guilty, or who is not. This equally applies to that most important commercial court that could encourage trade into the country and by extension, employment. The justice minister, on the other hand, kowtows to the president and his whims at every turn. He is silent on almost every legal issue. Why will any serious investor bring his money to an environment with so many uncertainties?

The executive continuously and unilaterally circumvents court rulings without any regard to the ramifications to the republic. Think the Supreme Court and the illegal expulsion that was overturned by the ECOWAS Court; illegal removal of Liberia’s Special Representation to our Maritime Mission; the passport sell-off bonanza, commissioning an ambassador and other top officials without senate confirmation, refusal to respect legal tenures, and removing officials without cause, a major political party helicopter case, disregarding Liberia’s Public Procurement Laws; just to name a few. In nearly all these cases, the court ruled, and the government refused to abide by the rulings. In fact, they have openly challenged the court to carry out its rulings. Nothing has been done; the court and the legislative branches of government sit on their hands, and they allow this miscarriage of justice to continue undisputed. The army remains in the barracks.

These blatant violations do not stop with the courts, the president has extended his reach by selling off our resources outside of established laws. Case in point, the Spanish-Senegalese Fishing Agreement violates settled laws. As is being described in the international press, these vessels are “plundering valuable Liberian shrimps”; they are taking advantage of a research license to avoid taxes in many instances, costing Liberia millions in much-needed revenue. Instead of doing research, which is the license they got, these vessels are illegally fishing in our waters, refused to follow any of our laws while Liberian Fishermen suffer the loss of income and their livelihood. Remember, all of this was done in the dark with President Weah granting an authority he does not have under our law. The Liberian Legislature sits there and allows another branch of government to encroach into its space unchallenged. These freeloaders in the legislature are equally responsible for this collapse of our institutions.

Imagine President Weah not defining any policy direction that he himself can articulate nor provide any solutions to our desperate economic and social conditions, harming the people, and setting the country back years without any regard to its well-being while still wanting a second term from the people; think about what he will do when he no longer needs your vote. He may just set the country on fire!

The platforms upon which to build and strengthen our governance institutions are being destroyed mainly due to incompetence, the full manifestation of a kakistocracy, and greed. Liberians must open their minds with a purpose if not for themselves but for their children’s future and all of posterity. If Liberians do not listen and continue down this line with President Weah and his fellow kleptocrats, every problem listed herein will be further compounded and set us back many decades. This man has no business near the presidency; he has zero ideas of what he is doing. Let us send him parking and hopefully, a responsible leader will take overcome 2024, hold President Weah and his lieutenants to account, and ensure Liberians never again make such colossal mistake!  

About the Author: Mr. Dualu is the author of a series of articles that focus on finding solutions to some of Liberia’s pressing national issues. Some of those papers include “Common Sense Economics for Liberia”, “A Guide to Increasing Liberia’s $500M National Budget to Over $2B in Ten Years” and “Leveraging Liberia’s Resources to Lift the Pro-Poor Agenda”. The author works as a financial professional out of Massachusetts.

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