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Reviewing Weah’s 5th SONA

By Jonathan Browne

President George Manneh Weah’s last Annual Message that he delivers next Monday, 30th January to close his first term in office would perhaps be the easiest, as it provides him an opportunity to sum up his government’s major achievements for the first six years.

The NEW DAWN has been leafing thru the President’s 5th Annual Message delivered last year before the 54th Liberian Legislature sitting in Joint Session to gauge what is to be expected in the 6th and final Annual Message on Monday that will conclude his first term in the Presidency and perhaps present a strong argument for his re-election against a seriously divided opposition here.

Beginning with the economy, a crucial area for any government, President Weah reported that his government approved the 2022 national budget at $785.6 million, the largest national cake ever in the history of Liberia, with domestic revenue projected at $640.5 million US dollars, or 81.5 percent, while external resources were put at $145 million US dollars, or 18.5 percent.

The President said there was increased capital spending in the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget, in an attempt to solving the many development challenges confronting the citizenry in various sectors.

He named roads, electricity, education, national security, health, water and sanitation, transport and several other sectors that were targeted.

Comparatively, he said revenue collection for 2021, including grants, was $646 million U.S. dollars, against $653.9 million U.S. dollars in 2020, attributing this apparent decrease to more international Covid-related funding received in 2020. 

Of this amount, domestic taxes hit $577 million, while external resources was at $68 million U.S. dollars.

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Despite Covid however, President Weah reported that the economy grew by 3.6 percent from negative 3 percent in 2020, and growth for the year ended was projected at 4.7 percent, through increased agricultural and public investments in social compact program.

He added that in nominal value, the economy expanded by more than US$300 million in 2021, and inflation reduced to less than 6 percent in November 2021, from 13.1 percent in December 2020.

According to the President, the last fiscal year recorded the highest level of domestic revenue performance since the end of the civil conflict and challenged all to sustain these efforts.

At the same time, total cash expenditure for the same period under review was $668 million U.S. dollars, with 44 percent of this amount spent on compensation of Government employees, 25 percent on goods and services, 17 percent on domestic and international debt, and 5 percent on Public Sector Investment.

Perhaps of key notice during the same period was pronouncement that the Government of Liberia has changed the Fiscal Year from July 1 to June 30, to a complete calendar year in conformity with countries in West Africa.

Another major takeaway from the Weah administration as the President delivers his last Annual Message next week is passage of the Dual Citizenship Law that allows Diaspora-Liberians to maintain their Liberian Citizenship alongside naturalization abroad.

This was contained in President Weah’s first Annual Message delivered in 2019 when he described the Constitution of Liberia as being “racist” for denying people of non-Negro-decent from holding Liberian Citizenship, noting that Liberia was the only country in Africa subscribing to such law.

His predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, had introduced the debate, but Mr. Weah took the bull by the hone and place the issue into a referendum along with other proportions. He was defeated, but did not give up the fight until eventually having Dual Citizenship legislated, approved and signed into law last year.

 However, despite Covid, he reported that the economy grew by 3.6 percent from negative 3 percent in 2020, and growth for the year ended was projected at 4.7 percent, through increased agricultural and public investments in social compact program.

He added that in nominal value, the economy expanded by more than US$300 million in 2021, and inflation reduced to less than 6 percent in November 2021, from 13.1 percent in December 2020.

On the question of roads, the government’s flagship development program, President Weah reported in his 5th Annual Message that government made great strides to deliver on its commitment to the people of Liberia for the pavement of primary and community roads, pavement and maintenance of streets within county capitals, and the connection of all counties by paved roads.

He stressed that it also remains an important priority of his administration to ensure the full accessibility of the entire country through the maintenance and rehabilitation of existing 4,200 kilometers of urban and secondary roads across the country.

By improving road connectivity throughout Liberia, he said basic economic activity will increase due to the free movement of goods and services, which will correspondingly lessen economic burden of citizens, who are facing the daily travel challenges of not being able to move freely within and around Liberia due to bad roads.

“Regarding our primary roads construction projects, I am proud and excited to report to this august body that works have already begun on the Ganta to Saclepea road corridor; the Saclepea to Tappitta road corridor; the Fish Town to Gbaken Kanweaken road corridor in River Gee County; and our flagship road project, the iconic Roberts International Highway Road Project.  When completed, the total road projects begun since the inception of my Administration will total approximately 470 kilometers. This represents 90 percent of the 517 kilometers that we established as our National Target four years ago”, the President reminded.

The issue of road is likely going to be one of his major trump cards, he goes to the ballot box in October to ask Liberians for a second term.

However, widespread corruption that saw three of his key officials sanctioned by the United States Government, forcing them to subsequently resign with more sanction list said to be coming up as announced by U.S. Ambassador Michael McCarthy, is something that President Weah would have to address definitively in his last Annual Message as he marches to the poll seek another six years mandate.   

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NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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