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Uncertainty over July 26 celebrations

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As the Weah administration moves deep into its third year, the government seems to be unenthusiastic about early preparations that would lead to official celebrations of Liberia’s 173rd Independence on July 26, barely a month away.

By now, the administration should have announced to the public entry for an Independent Day Orator like it did in its first year in power, which landed the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, as the government’s ultimate choice for the occasion.

President George Manneh Weah spent half million United States Dollars (US$500,000) in the 2019 July 26 celebrations, inviting scores of foreign guests, including Heads of States and governments to grace the ceremonies that were characterized by pageantry in the midst of serious economic challenges and unpaid salaries for civil servants. Plea from ordinary Liberians and even members of the President’s ruling Coalition for Democratic Change to cut down expenditure for the festivity in the face of economic reality went unheeded.

Chief Cyril Allen, who chairs the governing council of the ruling CDC advised the Weah administration at the time to reduce huge expenditures in some areas of the government that are not profitable, stressing that the best option for the government is to reduce the budgetary allotment for the celebrations.

He argued that if past administrations had spent one million United States dollars on celebrations, the Weah administration should consider US$300,000 for the Independence celebrations.

“The economy globally is tight, almost many of the regional countries around us are facing similar economic challenges but, what I can recommend to our government is cut down some spending, interestingly, there are some expenditures of government that do not worth spending a cent on. For example, cut down travels, gasoline for the three branches of government, recharge cards and other areas that I think are not bringing anything in return to the country and its people,” Chief Allen recommended via mobile phone to this paper on Sunday, 21 July 2019.

The government did expend the amount as was budgeted despite the warning to exercise prudence, given the dismal state of the economy. However, sources within the corridor of government are hinting this paper that the 2020 July 26 Independence Day celebrations might not be held due to serious financial difficulty.

One source explains that the financial situation is even being exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic that has brought the world’s economy on its knees. But another source notes that if the government would celebrate the country’s 173rd Independence Day celebrations this year, it is highly unlikely the festivity would be elaborate.

Making remarks during his first Independence Day celebration after coming to power, President George Manneh Weah rallied Liberians to join him in helping to build Liberia, stressing that Liberians need a strong union and the peace that abides in their hearts for the prosperity of the Motherland.

“No matter who you are and where you are, opposition or not, in the rural parts of the country or in the Diaspora, in the towns or villages or in the city; so as long as you are a Liberian, it is your patriotic and nationalistic duty to put your hands on deck to help us build our country,” the President said on Thursday, 26 July 2018 at Liberia’s 171st Independence Day celebration in Monrovia.

But the 2019 (171st Independence Day) Orator Madam Leymah Roberta Gbowee underscored that when the needs of the citizenry are met, it is easier for people to vision and dream together, peace becomes a collective reality and then reconciliation comes more naturally.

“We must address the harsh economic conditions because families can barely find food to pay their children’s school fees or buy basic necessities… For us to be stronger together, we must agree on a set of collective values that we will live by and teach to the next generation – Values that will guide our national politics as well as our everyday life. It will be near to impossible for us to be stronger together if we have not agreed on the values of the journey of togetherness”, Madam Gbowee noted. Story by Jonathan Browne

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