While thunderous applauses accompanied most part of the State of the Nation oration delivered by President George Manneh Weah yesterday, there came something chilling, though subtly, that a lot of those who served at his will and pleasure might have taken to bed to cogitate all night all. The President, in most part of his three-year regime, had hardly uttered words that put his appointees on notice—at least not publicly. Having ignored persistent pleas to shake up his government and to show the backdoor to sluggish public servants, the President appeared to have drawn the tip of the sword from its shell when he said, “there will no more be room for error; there will no more be room for laxity.” Though he did not elaborate, many pundits see this strange utterance on the part of the President as a “cup running over” warning to all and sundry, something the signals the end of the honeymoon between him and his cabinet. The Analyst reports.
For the fourth time of his first six-year term, the President of Liberia, Dr. George Manneh Weah, mounted the podium in the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature to, in line with the Constitution of Liberia, divulged to the nation what he did during the previous year regarding the improvement social, economic and political welfares of the people.
There are multiple takeaways from the one hour thirty-four-minute speech, but what would certainly claim the ears and minds of most Liberians, both supporters and critics of the President, is the warning to men and women he appointed to serve along with him achieve the national agenda.
It was indeed a surprising declaration to many when he said. “I have mandated the entire machinery of my administration to recalibrate and enhance the focus on finding lasting solutions to the bread and better issues facing our people.”
Then he growled: “Therefore, there will be no room for error, no room for laxity. All ministers and officials.” Then, most thoughtfully, he growled.
It is not clear whether the President is now ready to flex the axe, as he has been under immense pressure from his supporters as well as opposition forces to reschedule his government, some said dissolve, and reconstitute.
The public calls have from the backdrop of clear complacency and near-competence by some prominent members of the Cabinet to show result or for the public to see tangibles from their duties and functions assigned them by the President.
All calls for the President to do something have proven to be water wasted in a duck’s back. No action, even despite the fact the populace, including his admirers and partisans of his Coalition for Democratic Change, continue to show their anger against Government through serial protest votes at major elections.
At midterm, and practically two years left to work, the Liberian leader’s warning of “not room for error and no room for laxity” is widely believed to be the beginning of the end for nonperformance officials.
“My Administration’s commitment remains unwavering when it comes to the transformational development of Liberia within the framework of an accountable and functional democracy,” the President said after issuing the implicit warning.
He continued: “This is not only my ambition, this is my determination. In order to do so, however, it will require that you rally to the cause, and make your own personal commitment to national development.”
“This is our country. Just as it belongs to all of us, it will require the collective effort of all of us to improve it. No one person can do it for us, and we must not expect any one from outside to do it for us.”
Dr. Weah further indicated: “As I have often said, I have my vision, and I will fulfill my mission. That vision is fully set out and captured in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, and my mission is to fulfill that vision through the development of this country and the betterment of the lives of the Liberian people.”
Reporting of Economy
President Weah took much part of his speech to dwell at length on the state of the nation’s economy which he noted, and rightly, was hampered by the novel coronavirus.
Regarding budgetary issues of the reporting period, the Liberian asserted that the total revenue received for the calendar year under review was $653.9 Million US dollars of which amount comprises $475.5 Million US dollars in domestic revenue and $178.4 Million US dollars in external resources from our development partners.
“Total expenditure for the same period amounted to $606 Million US dollars,” the President. “In the period under review, the National Legislature recast the 2019/2020 National Budget twice: first to address perceived revenue challenges, and secondly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He said the first recast took the National Budget from $525.9 Million US dollars to $505 Million US dollars. The COVID recast subsequently increased the National Budget to $518 Million US dollars.
The Government spent the amount of $518 Million US dollars for the Fiscal Year 2019/2020 and carried forward the cash amount of $7.0 Million US dollars for enactment in the 2020/2021 National Budget, which the National Legislature subsequently passed at an amount of $570 Million US dollars.
According to President Weah, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Liberia signed a Development Objective Grant Agreement of $640 Million US dollars that will be programmed to support various projects that the Government of Liberia and USAID will agree on as priority areas of need over the next five (5) years.
These resources are supporting key sectors and will be critical to sustain growth, going forward, he stressed, adding that during the period under review, a total amount of $399 Million US dollars was announced and committed to various projects as Official Development Assistance to the Government and people of Liberia.
Additionally, the amount of $178.6 Million US dollars was received as total budget support, which came from both traditional and non-traditional partners, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the African Development Bank and the United States Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
President Weah reported that a major feature of the year under review was a support program which was approved by the International Monetary Fund. In December 2019, a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies was signed with the IMF to address various issues of our macroeconomy.
He recalled that in approving the recent disbursement of $48.8 Million US dollars to the Government of Liberia under the IMF-supported program, the Executive Directors of the IMF praised the Government of Liberia for the effective measures that have been undertaken so far to transform fiscal and monetary policy and restore macroeconomic stability.
He said the IMF praised Government for demonstrating commitment to fiscal discipline and further improvements in cash management, transparency and accountability in spending, and domestic revenue mobilization to finance their development agenda.
“The monetary policy stance is appropriately aligned with the inflation objective, and significant progress has been made in strengthening central bank independence,” the President quoted the IMF.
The 24th President of Liberia also reported on Liberia’s fight against the novel coronavirus disease, recalling the country’s success story.
The President said the most significant factor that negatively impacted the Liberian economy during the year under review was the Coronavirus pandemic, which has afflicted tens of millions of people in all nations.
He reported: “Liberia has not been spared the impact of this global pandemic, which started in late 2019 and spread across the world in 2020. Liberia recorded its first case in March 2020 and as of today’s date we have confirmed 1,927 total cases with 1,722 recoveries and 109 active cases. We have also recorded 84 deaths, with only 13 deaths occurring in treatment facilities.”
He said prior to its first case of Coronavirus, Liberia was probably the first country in Africa to begin to quarantine travelers from COVID-19 infected countries.
According to him, the health authorities also launched massive testing and contact tracing programs that have proven quite successful.
The President said, to date, Liberia has 1637 infections, and more than 1,360 persons have recovered from COVID-19, with 13 persons dying in a treatment facility. These numbers represent one of best COVID-19 responses in the world.
He thanked the pro-active leadership of national Government, working together with development partners and other stakeholders, Liberia’s leadership in containing the COVID-19 virus has been globally recognized.
Said the President: “For example, the former head of the United States Center for Disease Control has recognized Liberia as ‘Best at Learning form a Recent Epidemic’. Liberia, hard hit by the Ebola epidemic in 2014, was one of the first countries to start screening for COVID-19 at airports and to adopt other control measures, such as rapid testing, complete contact tracing and quarantine” This recognition and praise, the Chief Executive noted, “is reserved for the thousands of medical practitioners, doctors, physician assistants, nurses, mid-wives and all other categories of healthcare workers from all over Liberia, who place their lives on the line so that Liberians can be safe. We owe them an eternal debt of gratitude that we will never be able to repay. They are our heros and heroines!!! And we say thanks to them from a grateful Nation.”
He also thanked all of our development partners for their strong COVID-19 support to the Government and People of Liberia.
Through both direct budgetary support and indirect support, the international community has rallied to Liberia’s defense, and continues to be a reliable ally in our struggle to protect our citizens from this deadly disease, the President said.