The Cost of Governance:  Former Ruling Party, Current Ruling Party in Game of Buck-passing

                                                    By. S.Karweaye 

There are countless things wrong with governance in Liberia, and many Liberians would relate to this quite easily. Notably, however, one of the factors bedeviling governance in the country is the huge cost incurred in running the government in post-conflict Liberia.  This challenge started under the former ruling Unity Party (UP) and passed down to the current ruling party, the Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC)  and according to analysts, might lead Liberia into bankruptcy someday. The negative impact of this high cost is known and felt by most Liberians who bear the brunt daily.

It is worth noting the millions of dollars Liberia makes from mining, timber, maritime registry (flag of convenience), electricity, and foreign aid, independent of other earnings like income taxes, have yet to translate into desirable development because most of the country’s funds go into recurrent expenditures like payment of wages, salaries, purchase of vehicles, gas slips and allowances for overseas travels, accommodation, medical expenses, servicing debts, among many others. 

For example, under the UP-led government in the 2016/2017 budget, out of the US$556 million signed into law,  recurrent expenditure got US$487.2 million  (88% of the total budget) while capital expenditure got US$68.8 million (12% of total budget) and the US $26 million for debt servicing while the 2017/2018 budget, out of US$563.5 million signed into law by the outgoing Unity Party-led administration, recurrent expenditure got US$499.2 million (94% of total budget) and capital expenditure got USS 27.3 million (5.2%). 

Under the CDC-led government, the 2020/2021 budget signed into law by President George Weah, out of the US$570 million budget, the allocation of US$511.4 million (89.7% of the total budget) went to recurrent expenditure while capital expenditure was US 58.7 million  (10.3% of total budget) and  US$ 92.2 million (16.3% of total budget ) went to debt servicing.

In the 2022 budget of the government of Liberia, out of the US$786.6 million budget, the highest allocation of US$647.6 million went to recurrent expenditure, while capital expenditure was US$139 million (17.7%) and the US $105 million (10.8%) went to debt servicing.

This has been the practice over the past seventeen (17) years under both the Unity Party-led government and the current Coalition of Democratic Change-led government, and in addition, the country’s debt profile keeps mounting by the day. At the moment, the country’s debt burden stands at about US$$1.69 billion and is climbing according to President Weah’s fifth annual message to members of the Legislature on January 24, 2022. 

Notably, the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, cabinet ministers, directors at all levels, and people in positions of authority across the country are believed to be aware of the damning impact of the huge cost of governance and how it impedes the country’s growth and development. But happenings have shown that instead of taking decisive steps at their respective levels to address the conundrum and ensure that funds needed to address infrastructure deficit and provide social services are freed up from allowances, they only highlight the problem, and sometimes give excuses as to why it is difficult to correct the anomaly. Then they move on, leaving the problem to fester with no one in particular to take responsibility for the inaction.

For example,  Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe, Commissioner  General of Liberia Maritime Authority, recently criticized the  Unity Party Standard Bearer and former Vice President of Liberia, Mr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai (JNB), revealing that there were increments in the budget of the Office of the former Vice President totaling USD20m for office expenditures and an additional USD15m for Youth programs directly under the Office of the Vice President.

According to Mr. Nagbe,  how can Mr. Boakai be called “RESCUER” when he walloped in the luxury of taxpayers’ monies for over a decade calling the JNB team “Cabal of Budget Manipulators.”  The CDC stalwart who served in the Unity Party Government as a minister for transport in 2012; minister of youth and sport in 2013 and Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs, and Tourism in 2016, made the disclosures when he appeared on the State Radio, ELBC recently.

It is  arguably true  that Vice President  Mr. Joseph Boakai and  his office received  more than US$20 million in compensations in the 12 years  For example,  the Office of the Vice President  received the following budgetary allocations  in five years:

2013/2014 Budget: US$2.4 million

2014/2015 Budget: US$2.1 million

2015/2016 Budget: $2.2 million 

2016/2017 Budget:  $2.2 million 

2017/2018 Budget: $2 million

Total in 5 years: US $10.7 million

The current Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor after hearing Maritime Commissioner Nagbe, who heads the Coalition for Democratic Change Special Engagement & Strategies Committee, also criticized  Mr. Boakai and his office for receiving more allocations in the budget during his tenure as vice president. According to her, the former VP received more budgetary allocation in the budget than her as current Vice President. This writer wondered if the current Vice President has seen her  office budget before criticizing Mr. Boakai and his office Madam Jewel Howard Taylor and has received the following allocations in the last five years:

2018/19 Budget:  US$2.6 million 

2019/2020 Budget: US$2 million

2020/2021 Budget: US2. 2 million 

 2021 Special Budget: $1.4 million

2022 Budget: $4.2 million.

Total in five years: $12.2 million 

This writer and other meaningful Liberians have been calling for the need to cut down the crushing and prohibitive cost of governance in Liberia, but to no avail.  Successive governments, including the present one, have been paying lip service to it. They talk about it but don’t do anything about it. 

If the President, Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, Directors, legislators, etc would be willing to take a cut in their salaries and allowances it will save the country from ever-increasing national debt.  If you look at the salaries, perks, air travel including the private jet of the president, vehicles, vacations, hotel (bills), and tickets and put all those things together, they make up way more than the salaries of teachers, doctors, law enforcement, etc. 

We should recognize that we cannot accomplish growth and development in Liberia using loans and outside financing alone. Therefore, we need to impose deep cuts in the cost of governance and improve internal revenue generation and collection so that we can free up resources that can then be deployed to fund policy initiatives that will enhance the lives of our people.

Unfortunately,  Liberians have suffered enough from the lackluster kind of leadership of both the CDC and the UP-led administration that has held the country back in the last 17 years. For example, the government of the CDC in the last five years has inflicted a lot of hardship on the lives of Liberians. People are finding it difficult to live decent lives in this country because everything has skyrocketed in terms of food prices, and the basic needs of people, and when it comes to the issue of healthcare, the country is heading towards collapse. 

The CDC-led government has obviously been overwhelmed with incessant killings and life is becoming meaningless in Liberia. Meaningless and worthless people have taken the laws into their hands and we see these people killing other people in almost all parts of the country. If Liberia was on a scale of one to ten, Liberia was at a scale of 5 in 2017 and in the last five years, CDC has taken us down further the scale.

The CDC and UP  are Siamese twins who have failed Liberians and should not be voted for in 2023.  When you listen to them (CDC and UP) it seems they are just competing on who has done more damage to Liberia. If Liberians should allow the CDC  and UP  to continue ruling the country, only God knows what will happen to Liberia. 

Liberians most especially the youths need to challenge those seeking political power in the country ahead of this year’s general election. This is the right time to challenge those in power and bring those with fresh blood, ideas, and initiatives that can change the narratives for Liberians. 

Our beloved country, Liberia is now at a critical stage and doesn’t need anyone from either the CDC  or UP  any longer. Liberia as a country deserves much better leaders unlike the one we had with the UP for twelve years and what we are presently having under the ruling CDC. We must shun the CDC and the UP in 2023. I rest my case.

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