Independent Presidential Candidate Senator Oscar Cooper opens a tutorial class on the national budget for rival candidate businessman Simeon Freeman of the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) party at the last of series of debate among six presidential candidates organized by the Liberia Media Development Initiative or LMDI.
Dubbed “Docor Debate”, the exercise held in the auditorium of the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia on Saturday, 23 September brought together face to face six candidates, including the only female in the presidential race Ms. MacDella B. Cooper of the Liberia Reformation Party (LRP). Others include Independent Candidate Rev. Yarkpajuwurm N. Mator, Rev. Kennedy Gbleyah Sandy of the Liberia Transformation Party (LTP) and Jeremiah Z. Weapoe of the Vision for Liberia Transformation (VOLT), respectively.
In cross-examination, the candidates ask one another questions on their respective polices and agenda for the country with MPC standard bearer Simeon Freeman, challenging Senator Cooper’s plan to cut his own salary and benefits if elected President and those of senior officials of his government in order to create 15,000 new jobs and fund other vulnerable sectors of the economy.
Mr. Freeman says this is impossible because the budget is law and no President has right to singlehandedly cut salaries of officials, let along members of other branches of government. But Independent Candidate Cooper, a sitting Senator, disagrees, arguing that there is no standing law about the budget, explaining that the national instrument only becomes law after the President signs it.
He continues that each budgetary year is different, as nothing is written in concrete, so there is always room for adjustments here and there.
Campaigning on the slogan, “the Oscar Cooper Xperience”, he lectures that the mathematical calculation has already been done, claiming that if salaries and benefits of senior officials, including the President, Vice President, Speaker, Senate Pro-tempore, Chief Justice and Associate Justices, and the cabinet, among others were to be cut, US$9888,000 would be generated annually.
On the other hand, Senator Cooper, who prides himself as an advocate in the Liberian Senate for job creation, says the MPC standard bearer’s promise to create 100,000 jobs is impossible, saying “I heard people say they want to create 100,000 jobs; it is not possible.”
Candidate Jeremiah Weapoe of the VOLT agrees with Sen. Cooper that 100,000 jobs every month is not feasible; instead, he promises, “Under my administration, every year we will create 10,000 jobs.”
“We need a mixed economy, not a command economy where Sen. Cooper, the President and her officials are directing everything”, Weapoe fires.
Still on job creation, he vows to create an agriculture battalion within the Armed Forces of Liberia, and, like Liberty Party standard bearer Cllr. Charles Walker intends to do if elected as President, recruits criminals and loiters commonly referred to here as “zogo” into the military to reform them.
“When we do that, we will not only be empowering them, but providing security”, The VOLT standard bearer explains.
Job creation has been a key challenge of the Sirleaf Administration in its two terms in office. The government concedes that it has not done enough to meet the expectations of young people with promise of 20,000 jobs that were never fulfilled.
The LMDI’s “Ducor Debate” among president candidates was the last exactly two weeks before the October 10 presidential and legislative elections, having held two earlier debates for the presidency both in Nimba and Bomi Counties.