Far Removed From National Realities -CPP Responds to SONA; Wants Gov’t Change Course

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In keeping with the normal tradition of opposition political parties responding to major speeches by the President such as the State of the Nation Address (SONA), the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) has taken a swipe at President George Manneh Weah’s address to the nation on Monday, January 25, 2021, delivered to the 54th Session of the National Legislature. The CPP expressed serious disappointment by how far removed the President and his administration are from the realities of the country and the difficulties of many ordinary Liberians.
Speaking through its Chairman Alexander Cummings, the CPP started its response to the President’s address by scoring him low on the performance of the economy and regretted that despite all the indicators pointing to the downturn of the economy and the bleak future this points out, the government was still building false hope in the people that the economy will be improved in 2021. The CPP made specific reference to where the President reported that the GDP was revised downwards to negative 3.3 percent in 2020 from negative 2.5 percent in 2019, reflecting a decline but yet projected economic growth in 2021. CPP further said it was baffling for the President to say the economy was improving by what he described as the appreciation of the Liberian dollars compared to other currencies in the sub-region yet publicly admitted that 40 percent of the bank notes are mutilated and calling for the printing of new family of banknotes and that the CBL does not have control over 90 percent of Liberian dollars outside the banking sector, thus recognizing the lack of confidence or low level of confidence in the banking sector. “The President yet again failed to tell us what happened to new monies printed in the amount of 4 billion Liberian Dollars (LD) under his administration, and the missing 16 billion LD. This does not show an economy that is doing well by any measure or that is expected to do well according to his projection”, CPP emphasized.
Still on the economy, the largest opposition bloc, the CPP that is still in joyous mood from the resounding victories from the last Special Mid Term Senatorial race, went on to pick holes in the President’s speech about the budget surplus recorded in the Fiscal year 2019/20 and carried forward to Fiscal Year 2020/21 which the party said was conflicting. CPP said the President pronounced that the cash carried forward from FY 2019/2020 to FY 2020/2021 is US$7 million, but according to the National Budget of Liberia 2020-2021, Section 1.5 Fiscal Table, the unspent cash carried forward from 2019-2020 fiscal year recast budget is US$10 million and wondered what happened to the difference of $3 million.
“Given that the surplus budget was US$10 million, why are civil servants not been paid on time; and why are government contractors including beach and waterway workers or government employees including Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC), Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) employees, etc are yet to get paid. In spite of a so-called budget surplus, President admitted that our public debt portfolio has increased by more than $300 million USD in just one year. Yet, we cannot see what was done with the $300 million USD, when international partners are sponsoring all road construction, our entire COVID-response was paid for by the international community, and government workers salaries have not been current. So, what was the money borrowed for? The opposition demanded to know.
The CPP took a critical look at the job creation strategy of the government under the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) program that the government said would have created 1 million jobs in 3years but according to the opposition party, three years down the line the government has actually succeeded in implementing a job destruction strategy through the administration’s poor governance, lack of accountability and transparency, judicial interference, and general insecurity which undermines investors’ confidence. The party furthered that the President made no mention of new investment and confirmed that confidence in Liberia’s investment climate is poor.
On stimulus package COVID Relief fund, the CPP sharply disagrees with President Weah’s claims that 40% food distribution has reached ten (10) counties benefitting 1 million Liberians stating that according to a 2020 Afro Barometer report, not more than 16% of any social demographic group in Liberia has received said package and 78% of Liberians say the benefits to support people during covid-19 were not fairly distributed. The President also said his government gave LWSC US$1.5 million. Yet, employees at Water and Sewer are on strike for their salaries, and water supply has been cut off to Monrovia and its environs indefinitely. The President further said under the stimulus package COVID relief fund, his government gave US$1 million to the Liberia Electricity Corporation for COVID electricity relief. However, many communities are without electricity, and President Weah failed to state the communities that are benefitting from that relief. According to President Weah, a total of US$26 million have been used on the COVID-response. What we cannot understand is why are health workers still protesting for salaries and hazard benefits?
The opposition bloc stated that the President deliberately refused to mention why the Millennium Challenge Compact program ended without the possibility of renewal due to the same mediocre performance. The party said that the failure of the government to meet benchmark and performance indicators for the first time since 2009 and failure to heed to several warnings in 2019 led to a non-renewal of the MCC-2. The poor leadership of President Weah, according to the CPP has put Liberia at gross disadvantage of not receiving much needed funds. It was through the MCC-1 that nearly 400 million was sourced in grants that went to the construction of the hydro and power generation and road construction.
Taking another perspective of the much trumpeted Road Construction and connectivity projects of the government, CPP said while the President highlighted road projects, many of which were commenced and funding sourced by his predecessor, the President deliberately excluded any reference to the mismanagement of the National Road Fund which has created the loss of additional resources that would have supported the development of our National Road Network. According to the CPP statement released Tuesday, the past government worked with the international partners and established by legislation in 2015 the National Road Fund with the sole objective of generating domestic resources to facilitate major investments in the maintenance and rehabilitation of the national road network across the country. The opposition said the National Road Fund remains a viable domestic financial vehicle but has been abused by this government to the contrary that partners in the sectors who committed to support the program through Matching Fund have reneged due to proven mismanagement and failure to adhere to agreed governance protocols.
On the rule of law under the Weah led administration, the CPP said that it was not taken aback why the President remained silent on this very important aspect of our governance system because he has nothing to show that he ever believe in it despite the fact that the rule of law is the heartbeat and lifeblood of our Republic guaranteeing equality to all citizens despite our differences in tribes, religion, gender and economic condition. The party said citizens continue to fear for their safety in light of numerous unexplained and suspicious death, crimes, insecurity and the lack of adherence to our laws at all level. It said it has to take some external intervention to highlight to pitfalls in the justice delivery system under President Weah.
“However, while the President could not speak to the declining state of the rule of law in the country, it has not stopped ECOWAS from doing so loudly, clearly and with embarrassing effect for the reputation of the country. For example, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice recently ruled that the impeachment of Associate Justice Kabineh Ja’neh is illegal, and violates his rights and the constitution of Liberia”, the CPP stated.
The response of the CPP ended with a challenge to its partisans and well – meaning Liberians to remain steadfast in the days ahead as it will not be an easy task to uproot the ruling establishment .“The truth is that the road ahead to 2023 will be long and difficult, but I can assure you of the commitment of the CPP to remain engaged on behalf of the Liberian people. Together, we will get through the difficulties. All we ask is that our government act honorably and behave accountably. Our hands remain open and extended to the government to help improve the conditions of our people and we hope they can begin to take our many recommendations on how to change course and improve the lives of the people”, the CPP added.

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