MONROVIA, Montserrado – The civil society group, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, is warning that there is a general decline in perceptions of political governance in Liberia.
The sixth of its annual reports which “assesses citizens’ perception of the quality of governance,” the group covers a wide range of governance and economic indicators in Liberia.
In this year’s report, the group notes worrisome trends in citizens’ views about key aspects of governance, including public administration, the economy, quality of democracy, legislative engagement with citizens, public trust in the military, the police, and other security apparatuses. Also covered are trends in the government’s management of health services in the country.
Out of a total of 3,600 people surveyed across the country, 82 percent believed “the country is going, or somehow going in the wrong direction.” This fraction represents a sharp negative 18 percentage points increase from last year’s figure.
When it came to the economy and economic conditions, 89 percent of respondents describe the current economic conditions as “very poor or poor,” compared to 70 percent last year.
The government’s handling of the economy and economic management also took a hit, with a staggering 92 percent of total respondents rating the government’s performance in fighting corruption as “very poor or poor.”
If nothing else, this particular perception trend is a confirmation of how badly the George Weah administration’s reputation has suffered in the wake of rising inflation, high cost of living, and recent corruption scandals involving the reported disappearance of L$16 billion currency banknotes and a subsequent US$25 million “mopping-up” exercise led by the country’s Economic Management Team under the leadership of Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah.
Regarding legislative engagement with the general citizenry, the report also describes a grim picture.
Only a quarter of the respondents confirmed participating in any activity or event organized by their representatives since January 2018. This means a whopping 75 percent of respondents did not participate in a single event or activity during the period.
This particular finding appears to buttress conclusions reached by other civil society groups regarding the poor state of legislative conduct. For example, a 2016 report by the group IREDD, described both the House and Senate as “very weak” and “ineffective.” Collectively, lawmakers scored poorly on the tasks of “representation, lawmaking, and oversight responsibilities, in which lawmakers have a traditional mandate.” The practice of conducting legislative business “behind closed door” has also significantly undermined transparency and led to the erosion of public trust. The group’s 2019 report continues to describe similar trends.
In this year’s report, Naymote also sought to compare the ruling party and opposition lawmakers in a manner that should give the Weah administration some food for thought. Despite overall dissatisfaction of legislative engagement, respondents displayed a more positive attitude toward opposition legislators.
The report disclosed that “most survey respondents were satisfied with opposition legislators’ and opposition political leaders’ ability to hold the government accountable.” About 65 percent of respondents said that they are “very satisfied or satisfied with the way political parties are engaging and holding the ruling party accountable for commitment to service delivery.”
Regarding trust in the Armed Forces of Liberia, there was also a sharp decline in public perception from 93 percent last year, to 78 percent this year. It would, therefore, go without saying that the police also suffered a general decline in public trust.
From 75 percent last year, the Liberia National Police suffered a 19 percentage points decline as the “trusted and fairly trusted security institution in Liberia” between 2018 and 2019 surveys.
As for the government’s performance in managing or handling the health services, 90 percent viewed it as “very poor or poor.”
But there was, however, one bright spot in the report worth celebrating.
A majority of the respondents surveyed expressed general satisfaction over the state of democracy in the country. About 57 percent said they are “very satisfied or satisfied with the way democracy is working in the country.” Although this was a relative decline from the 2018 level of 80 percent, it still represented a majority of the population surveyed.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah