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RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT’S ANNUAL MESSAGE 2020

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Fellow Liberians, yesterday we heard the President deliver his 3rd Annual Address to the nation as
required by law. The overall message from the President was that the state of our nation is stable.
Contrary to what the President said, the state of our nation is WEAK. Our economy is in a terrible shape.
Prices on goods and services, from rice to transportation are increasing daily. Unemployment,

particularly youth unemployment continues to increase. Teachers, nurses, doctors and civil servants
are not being paid on time. Liberians have to stand in long queues at banks to withdraw Liberian Dollars
like we are a bankrupt country and now we are in longer queues to get petroleum products due to
shortage on our market. The crime rate to include incidence of rape, armed robbery, etc has increased.

Today our country is further divided along several lines, but, sadly, our president did not offer any
immediate or long-term actions aimed at helping unite our people. Reconciliation was not mentioned
even though he recognized the need for peace in Liberia, forgetting that peace is not the silence of
guns; and there can not be true peace without reconciliation. Our people are suffering and the
economic hardship continues unabated.

THE ECONOMY
In 2019, the economy contracted by 1.4%. Inflation increased to 31%, forex exchange went at high as
209 and the fiscal deficit hit $200 million. Businesses, Liberian-owned and foreign, are losing money
and laying off workers. Market-women are forced to sell without profit. Last year, Sime Darby laid off
hundreds of workers and closed its operations. Firestone also laid off 800 workers. Liberians are finding
it more difficulty to provide for their families today than they did before this government came to
power.Take the story of Dominic Kpadeh. He is a father of four children and a rock-crusher from
Montserrado. He and his co-workers used to earn US$1000 monthly. Over the past 2 years, 75% of
their income has disappeared. They are lucky to earn even US$250 per month.

Stories like Dominic’s are common all over Liberia. On our travels across our country, we interact with
teachers, healthcare workers and civil servants who used to earn salaries regularly for 12 years now
are going months without salaries to support their families. Many civil servants now live on “sell-pay”
and by “digging hole and covering hole”. Market-women, street vendors and small business people
who depend on their daily hustles to feed and send their children to school are struggling to provide
food for their families or pay school fees because businesses are doing poorly.

Liberians are hardworking and resilient people with enormous potential. We see our mothers, sisters,
fathers and brothers working hard daily to earn a decent living. So, the people are not responsible for
the current economic hardship in Liberia. The President in his speech yesterday blamed our economic
woes on trade and geo-political factors and projected 1.4% growth in 2022. If this was the case, our
neighbors and other countries in the region would be experiencing similar if not the same economic
situations. However, all of our neighbors are experiencing economic growth and projecting high
growth for this year alone, 2020. For example, Sierra Leone is projecting 4.20%, Guinea 6.10% and
Ivory Coast 6.5%. What this means is that our country will continue lagging behind our neighbors while
our people continue to suffer.

Trade and geo-politics is not responsible for our economic problems. Rather, massive corruption and
outright stealing by government officials, mismanagement of government resources, incompetence to
implement economic growth and job creation policies and reckless spending by the president are
among the reasons for economic hardship. Example of reckless spending is the President flying all over
the world on a private jet the country cannot afford while neglecting the cries for help for people
struggling in the country.

HARMONIZATION
This government is compounding the suffering of hardworking public and/or civil servants by reducing
their salaries through its so-called Harmonization policy. It is unacceptable to be reducing civil servants’
salaries that are not paid on time by 30-50% while prices of everything- rice, oil, chicken,

transportation, – are increasing by 30%. This is not harmonization. This is a wicked and malicious attack
on our people standard of living. Instead of harmonizing workers’ salaries, it is time for the President
to harmonize his frequent private jet travels, cutback on building more mansions for himself and
cutback on the corruption that has taken center-stage in his government. Rather, he was not truthful
when he stated that he had met his promise of a 25% salary cut and was the first to have his salary
harmonized. Fellow Liberians, it will interest you to note that after reviewing the president’s budget,

particularly the salary component of the president’s budget of 2018-2019 and 2019-2020, there has
been absolutely no reduction in the salary of President Weah. In fact, our research revealed that the
Compensation portion of the budget of this current president which was $381,414.00 in 2018-2019
was increased to $494,949.00 in 2019-2020. Yet, the President in his message, thanked you for your
patience and understanding during this harmonization which he promises will continue, while his
budget and wealth undergoes MULTIPLCATION.

FISCAL AND MONETARY POLICY
Fellow Liberians, this government is grossly mismanaging the public finances which further weakens
the economy. That fiscal irresponsibility is evident by the government owing workers salaries arrears
and unjustifiably increasing the public wage bill to about $320 million from $297 million by putting
unqualified and incompetent political cronies on government payroll. This fiscal irresponsibility has
drawn the ire of development partners like the IMF who have insisted that the wage bill be reduced to
2018 level as a pre-condition to receiving budgetary support, as mentioned in the Annual Address.

While we join the President to thank our partners for their support to our fiscal and monetary discipline
programs, we call on the government to refrain from diverting donor funds as was done during the
course of the year.

We commend the President for expressing his willingness to work with our partners in strengthening
our monetary policy framework and for steps towards making the Central Bank more autonomous.
However, we are alarmed by the president’s report on the increase in our debt portfolio from
987.8miilon at end of 2018 to 1.27 BILLION at end of 2019. A 282 MILLION increase in our debt in just
a year is cause for concern especially when the impact is not felt on the lives of our people.
EMPLOYMENT

On employment, attempts by this administration to fix unemployment through public sector hiring
shows how incompetent their handling of economic governance has been over the last 2 years. The
President admits to employing about 15,000 in just over 2 years. Government is not the place to grow
jobs and reduce unemployment for political supporters and cronies. Instead, this government needs to
create an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and create jobs, but this government
has failed to enable the private sector in the last two years. The President cites the participation of
Liberian construction firms in the construction of feeder roads as his achievement in keeping his
inaugural promise that Liberians will no longer be spectators in their economy. On the contrary,
Liberians continue to struggle to get financing to start a business or expand existing businesses and
fully compete and participate in their own economy. Under this Weah administration, Liberians are
not even spectators to their own economy because they cannot afford to enter the stadium to watch
the economy game but rather are stuck at home.

However, we want to commend the president for the promise to invest in youth empowerment
programs. While we note this as one of his many promises, we hope that this promise can be fulfilled
in order to impact the lives of our young people and provide trainings and job opportunities for them.
Political Governance

On political governance, we are seeing the eroding of civil liberty under this government as political
opponents and critics of the president and government face intimidation and threats regularly.
Unfortunately, the President was again untruthful when he reported that citizens have enjoyed their
rights under this administration and there has been no arrest nor guns shot in response to protests. On
the contrary, peaceful civil action, which is the bedrock of democracy, is being denied as we saw with
the unjustifiable dispersal of peaceful citizens protesting current economic hardship and governmental
corruption as noted by The National Independent Human Rights Commission. The CPP empathized and
sympathized with those injured on January 6th, 2020 as the result of state-sponsored crackdown on
peaceful Liberians. Contrary to what the president stated, 26 peaceful protesters were summarily
arrested by the government during the Jan 6 protest held this month. Additionally, a peaceful protester
was shot and killed in Kingsville, Number 7, Montserrado County along with two other juveniles that
were injured by state security officers under this very administration.

In the case of corruption and unaccountability as it relates to political governance, they remain key
features of this government. This is even confirmed by the 2019 Corruption Perception Index report
released last week ranking Liberia as one of the worst decliners in the fight against corruption
worldwide. Evidence of that is the handling of the US$ 25 million in the Mopping Exercise and the LD$
16 billion saga. A year on from these scandals, the government is yet to hold all those culpable as
indicated in various reports. The President has shown no intention of slowing the construction of
mansions and apartment complexes especially after failing to publish his asset declaration. We are left
with no choice but to deem the President new found wealth as “questionable”. Yet the President wants
us to believe that he is serious about the fight against corruption. He promises legislation to give the
LACC prosecutorial powers but yet appoints die-hard CDC partisans and supporters to the LACC. The
President claims to fight corruption but gave no rebuttal statement to the leaked audio of his National
Chairman of the CDC making allegations of corruption against him as President. This contradiction in
what the president says and does is enough to let us know that it is all “mouth-talk”.

Fellow Liberians, in the President’s address yesterday we heard him listing many projects, from Road
Connection to Education to Agriculture and youth empowerment. We acknowledged some albeit little
achievements. However, majority of what the president considered as achievements, are in actuality
not achievements but rather promises or negotiations that are yet to be implemented or concluded.
For example, the establishment of the Free Economic Trade Zone, Youth Empowerment program,
introduction of new legislation to fight corruption, expansion of RIA Highway, repair of traffic lights,
and implementation or completion of projects, including most of the road projects he mentioned, by
the previous government. The reality is that the 200 kilometers of community and feeder roads the
president talked about is no more than 50 kilometers.. Moreover, analysis by NAYMOTE-Partners for
Democratic Development found that of the President 92 campaign promises, only 7 promises have
been kept or completed in two years.

However, we remain somewhat hopeful. We welcome the projected return of GDP growth in 2022,
but it is crucial to again note that our neighbors are projecting strong growth despite the geopolitical
shocks our president blamed for the lack of growth in our economy. For example in 2020: Sierra Leone
is projecting growth of 4.20%, Guinea 6.10% and Ivory Coast 6.5%. In short, President Weah is telling
us to brace ourselves for additional two years of suffering and hardship and as such, we will not
celebrate projected growth but rather actual growth. This is like celebrating a goal that has not been
scored yet. Moreover, at a growth rate of 1.4%, it will take 72 years for the economy to double in size
and reduce unemployment by 30%. Therefore, instead of heralding a projected growth number in two
years, the government must take this opportunity to institute and implement economic and regulatory
reforms that can generate higher economic growth and create jobs.

Fellow Liberians, despite taking almost 2 hours to address the nation, the President failed to mention
the state of our health sector. It is even more alarming given the recent global health outbreak of the
Corona virus. While the first case of Coronavirus has been discovered in neighboring Ivory Coast, our
president did not make a single mention of plans his government has already made to ensure that
Liberia does not experience a repeat of the devastation the Ebola Virus disease caused in Liberia. Our
people are dying from preventable and curable diseases with little or no medical supply to cater to
them. Currently our hospitals are non-functional, labs are empty, no drugs, no electricity, death rate
continues to climb, etc. The incidence of rape has increased dramatically because despite the passage
of the Domestic Violence Bill, this government has failed to invest in the health system which plays an
important role in the medical role of rape cases.

Conclusion and Recommendations
Fellow Liberians, the President’s speech yesterday offers no real roadmap for national renewal and
economic recovery. And like the last two years of failed policies, his speech provides no hope and
assurance to our people in these difficult economic times. It has been two years of no substantial
success. Two long years of untold sufferings while the president and his officials live in luxury and
splendor. Two years of foreign exchange rate increase. Two years of increase in the prices of basic
household commodities. Two years of nothingness except wanton looting and rampant corruption.
This is totally unacceptable! And should be to you as well.

Again, our people have suffered for too long. They have been made beggars in their own country just
to survive. Their children are forced out of schools because they cannot afford school fees. Conditions
are very bad for our people. In Monrovia and many places around the country, children have left
schools to sell at street corners and the busy traffic. Most of our youths have been exposed to substance
abuse. Pregnant women are forced to walk miles only to receive substandard treatment. Our hospitals
and clinics are in deplorable conditions. Taxi drivers and motorists are parking their vehicles because
they cannot afford the exorbitant price of gasoline and fuel. The same can be said for our Pen-Pen and
Keh-Keh riders. It is time to act. Yesterday’s message has heighten fears and deepen whatever tinge of
any hope that was left as we waited to hear practical policy prescription on how to revamp the
economy, return to good governance and avert further financial disasters that still lie ahead. We must
act with some urgency to prevent the situation from degenerating into benevolent devastation.

The CPP has been active in contributing ideas and solutions to solve the economic crisis unfolding in
our country. At the recent UNDP funded National Economic Dialogue, we submitted a set of policy
recommendations to stimulate the private sector, create jobs and promote investment. Therefore,
today we are again recommending the following policies to jumpstart the economy:
We welcome the move by the president to address the following recommendations we previously made
and request the government to make adjustments that will ensure greater impact.
1. Focus on Domestic Revenue Generation
– by staffing the LRA with competent people and provide them with adequate operational
funding.

– Ensure we are receiving our fair value share from our natural resources like iron ore, rubber,
gold, diamonds, etc.
2. Our economy is an import-based economy. Everything consumed here comes from abroad.
Though the goal is to change that to an export-led economy, until that transition can occur, we
are calling for the creation of an Import and Export Credit Facility to enable Liberian-owned
businesses to access capital and financing to compete and participate in the economy.
3. Review all resources and tax policies with regards to ease of doing business as a means of
making it easy to start new businesses and creating employment opportunities.

4. Remove or substantially lower tariffs and other import cost at the Freeport. This will lower the
cost of imports thus lowering the cost of goods and services sold to Liberians.
5. Removal of all monopolistic and import restrictions in the economy, particularly on key import
commodities like rice. Under this current government, Liberians are still restricted to the
percentage of rice they can import in their own country. Enough is enough. Stop restricting
Liberians in their own country and let them freely and fully participate in their economy.
6. Setup a special Agriculture Investment Fund to provide financing to small and medium size
farmers and agro-businesses to encourage and boost local rice production. With one of the most
fertile lands in Africa and the World for growing rice and other commodities, it is unacceptable
for Liberians to continue to rely on consuming imported rice.

7. Resume funding to and staff governance and integrity institutions with competent people of
integrity. Review acts establishing various ant-graft institutions to to give more power to fight
corruption in government.
8. Investment in the Health and Legal Systems to address the issue of Sexual and Gender Based
Violence. It is not a women issue but rather a national issue. Declare RAPE an national
emergency and institute immediate reforms to address its prevalence. Our women and girls are
dying.

9. Reduction in government wage bill and increase in Public Investments. Last year this
government invested only US$27M in the economy. This amount is far below the estimated
US$150M annual investments needed to stimulate this economy. Cutting back on lavish foreign
trips and riding private jet, high wage bill, and ending the stealing will leave more funds for
increased public investment.

If these recommendations and others are considered and fully implemented, we assure you that
Liberians will move from being spectators to starting players in their own economy and that the
state of our nation will become STRONGER.
Thank You!
God Bless you and God Bless Liberia
By the Collaborating Political Parties (ALP, ANC, LP &UP)
Delivered by Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, Political Leader- ANC

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