Weah Says Liberia ‘Far Better’ Than a Year Ago

MONROVIA, Montserrado – President George Weah delivered his second state of the nation address to the 54th national legislature on Monday, covering the first year of his administration.

Weah reported that during the first year of his administration, the government stabilized the country’s “broken” economy, preserved peace, and protected the fundamental rights of its citizens.

“Today, I can state with understandable pride, that we did not disappoint our people; neither did we fail them,” he said.

The president also noted that despite an economy suffering from a slowdown due to the uncertainty of the 2017 democratic transition, the collapse of the country’s major export commodities prices on the global market, UNMIL’s withdrawal, and lingering effects of the Ebola epidemic, growth in GDP was at 2.5 percent in 2017 and was projected to rise to 3 percent at the end of 2018.

“By 2023, we expect the economy to grow by a further 4.7 percent, on account of further expansion in commercial gold production, growth in the agricultural and forestry sectors, a formation of Special Economic Zones, and other economic reforms envisage under the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development,” he said.

The president also reported that even with the optimistic recovery forecasts, the country’s projected growth rates are still below the pre-Ebola period, when the economy grew on average by 7.5 percent annually.

He noted that, of US$25 million approved to help stabilize the exchange rate, US$$17 million was already used as of December 2018, which he said significantly contributed to the general stability in the exchange rate for the past six months of 2018. According to him, the balance US$8 million was placed in the reserve of the Central Bank as a precautionary intervention fund.

The Liberian leader disclosed that his coming to the presidency was not only the beginning of a new era for the country, but also an opportunity to right the wrongs, address the plights of citizens, heal their wounds, and confront the challenges and obstacles that prevented the transformation of their livelihood.

However, Weah did not address his questionable decisions that appeared to violate the constitution or other laws, including his late declaration of assets that are still unpublished amid his rumored acquisition of several properties.

The president also recently appointed and commissioned George Patten as ambassador to the U.S. without being confirmed by the Senate, as required by the constitution. When he first took over, he violated the labor law by arbitrarily deducting the salary of over 4,000 government workers, including civil servants, without any written consent from the employees. He also did not only illegally remove the head of the secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or LEITI, he also made appointments that he had no legal authorization to make.

In his address, the president reported that public funds would be used to construct 150 km of community roads in 57 communities in Monrovia and around Monrovia, Gbarnga, and Buchanan. He said 65 percent of the community roads are near completion.

During the period under review, Weah said more than 8,000 new households and 324 new businesses, including 80 new large users, had been connected or were being connected to the Liberia Electricity Corporation power grid. However, he said LEC loses more than US$$35 million to power theft annually.

Already, he said as a constitutional mandate to provide education for all citizens, the government has undertaken new measures and mechanisms for transforming and sustaining an educational system that is adequate to ensure that its obligation is met.

He said the Ministry of Education has carried out a review process that included an evaluation of the existing legal and administrative framework, nationwide visits to schools across the country, and the hosting of a national stakeholder’s summit.

As a result of this process, he said several activities were implemented in a bid to enhance the education sector, including the revision of the curriculum to emphasize skills delivery, early career pathway, and addressing deficiencies in literacy and numeracy. He also mentioned a payroll cleaning exercise which netted savings of US$2 million as of November 2018.

With these interventions, Weah said the country is now far better than it was when he took office.

“With the support from our two other branches of government and our international partners during the course of our first year in office, I can confidently state that Liberia is far better today under our leadership, than it was 12 months ago when we were entrusted with the mandate to serve our people,” he said.

“This is also because of the diligence and tenacity that we brought to the process. We were resolved for change, and we remained committed to that cause during our first year of service to our people.”

However, a few hours after the president addressed the nation, four political parties issued a joint critique. The Alternative National Congress, the All Liberian Party, Liberty Party, and Unity Party said the president has failed to meet his campaign promises.

They said Weah failed to “assure us that he is committed to serving as president for all.”

The opposition parties said public corruption has gone out of control. They also said violation of the constitution and laws of Liberia had become commonplace and was pervasive throughout the administration.

“The president and his officials are above reproach, violating laws and tearing down systems and procedures with impunity,” the parties emphasized.

“Despite his declaration in early 2018 that he inherited an ‘empty’ treasury, a claim later refuted by his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President Weah and his officials have only worsened Liberia’s woes. Daylight robbery motivated by insatiable greed is on the rampage. This has caused a total loss of confidence and trust in the governance system.”

According to the parties, Liberia is now a society where those perceived to be against the president are viewed by senior members of the administration as “enemies of the state.”

“His message showed no indication that his administration was committed to reconciling Liberia. Nevertheless, the president tried to deceive the world that Liberia is either still the country it was when he assumed office more than one year ago,” they noted.

Featured photo courtesy of Orlind Cooper

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

The Bush Chicken is a young operation and we need your support to keep bringing you great content. Please support us.

Monthly   Yearly   One time

Gold Level Supporter—$250/year
Silver Level Supporter—$100/year
Bronze Level Supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Gold Level Supporter—$250
Silver Level Supporter—$100
Bronze Level Supporter—$50
Or pick your own amount: $
Contributions to The Bush Chicken are not tax deductible.

Related posts