Boakai’s SONA Outlines Bleak Challenges -But Assures of High Hopes for Renewal

MONROVIA: In fulfilment of his constitutional obligation, President Joseph Nyuma Boakai on Monday, January 29, 2024 delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) within the rotunda of the National Legislature, where he spoke extensively about the bleak state of the economy that he inherited from his predecessor George Manneh Weah, ranging from poverty, drug epidemic, corruption, poor infrastructure, and an underperforming economy marred by a $80 million budget deficit. However, despite the mounting challenges his new government faces, President Boakai assured Liberians that the current problems present his government with a unique opportunity to embark on a new journey of hope.

“This is our commitment to rescue the nation!” President Boakai stated reassuringly as he outlined his government’s redemptive plans to resuscitate the economy through its visionary ARREST platform.

“Our vision, as revealed in ARREST (meaning, Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation, Tourism) shall guide the preparation of the new Medium-term National Development Plan for the welfare of our people. We must harness opportunities in agriculture, roads, and other infrastructure development; improve the rule of law, rethink the education sector, improve sanitation, and unlock the potential of tourism.

“We believe that creating economic linkages between these development facets and reinforcing them will help reverse years of economic downturns,” President Boakai stated emphatically.

The State of the Economy

Speaking specifically to the woeful state of the Liberian economy inherited by his government, President Boakai noted that the state of the economy is a cause for concern, with many of the citizens facing perennial unemployment and economic instability.

“We must not just recognize the pain and frustration that permeate our society, but also work together to introduce and pass legislations that will prioritize economic reforms that foster sustainable economic growth and job creation.

“Distinguished Legislators, economic growth slowed between 2022 and 2023, from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent. The rate of growth averaged about 1.5 percent, compared with 3.1 percent between 2012 and 2017 due in part to an underperforming economy and the existing geo-political global environment. During the past six years, the economy faced challenges in terms of growth, job creation, and poverty reduction.

“Inflation during the period 2023 rose to 10.1 percent at the end of December, from 7.6 percent in 2022. Revenue collection as reported for 2023 stood at US$710.23 million while expenditure totaled US$796.32 million; hence, a large budget deficit of over US$80 million.

“We intend to change this state of the economy by thinking “outside the box”; a paradigm shift away from reliance on primary commodity export to focusing on value addition with the private sector as the engine to drive the economy.

“Under my Administration, the empowerment of Liberian entrepreneurship through more support will help bring back THE MADE IN LIBERIA quest for inclusive and sustainable growth and jobs. In our quest to expand the economy, we will leverage Information Communication Technology (ICT) in creating jobs, especially for our youth.  To achieve this, my Administration will train up to 10,000 young people in various digital skills in the first half of 2024. The Liberian middle-class goal must be a reality in the next 6 years,” President Boakai vowed.

Delving further into the economic woes confronting the nation after Weah’s exit from power, President Boakai provided Liberians a clear picture of their country’s economic outlook, by x-raying and presenting a succinct summation of reports from the Central Bank of Liberia.

“The net international reserves position reported at the end of December 2023 was US$220 million. The report of US $40 million as the GoL’s consolidated account balance as at January 19, 2024 is not supported by the fact. The balance reported by the CBL as of the same date was US$20.5 million, highly encumbered, NOT US$40 million. To this end, we re-emphasize our earlier commitment to audit and ensure that regular audits will be a culture across all branches of government, not only the Executive.

“The stock of public debt at End-December 2023 stood at US$2.21 billion, an increase of 8.67 percent compared to end-December 2022 stock of US$2.08 billion. This represents a sharp increase of US$1.33 billion compared to the end of December 2017 stock of US$878.17 million (representing 601.8 percent rise). Our debt burden has clearly grown astronomically. Certainly, the rescue mission was a necessity for Liberia’s transformation.

“As I am speaking, Liberia is under sanction for lack of payment of dues to the African Union and the African Development Bank. Also, a default in payment of about US$650,000 to the European Investment Bank is preventing a disbursement of over US$13 million for the Sanniquellie-Loguato road,” President Boakai stated.

With regards to actualizing one of the government’s key pillars under his AAREST platform, President Boakai said under his watch, Agriculture will be prioritized by harnessing the right resources and strengthening collaboration with international partners and local farmers to improve production.

With regards to his government’s Legislative Agenda, President Boakai furthered that he will work with the Legislature in doing the business of the people for which he proposed a series of legislations that will be submitted in the coming months.

Among the plethora of incoming legislations outlined by President Boakai were the Presidential Transitional Act to provide the appropriate legal framework for the seamless transition from one democratically elected president to the other; the Bill for the Establishment of the Ministry of Local Government to fast track Government’s decentralization program; and the National Tourism Bill clothed with the authority to draw up regulations and the appropriate governing framework for the tourism sector.

Speaking further on his government’s Legislature Agenda, President Boakai vowed th operationalize the Revenue Sharing Law so that it can be synchronized with existing laws including the Project Financial Management Act (PFMA), and the current Revenue Code, specifically because the Revenue Sharing Law (passed in 2022) and these two other instruments were designed for different systems of Government.

“While the new Revenue Sharing Act is designed to facilitate fiscal decentralization in a decentralized system of governance, the other two cater to a centralized system where the sub-national bodies do not have any authority to use a portion of locally generated revenue. This has left County Service Centers that should be functioning and raising revenue, often stranded to raise operational costs. We will work with the relevant institutions of Government to align the new Law with the existing Law; popularize the Law and ensure adherence and enforcement across the Country,” President Boakai vowed.

The Liberian leader also promised to establish the Office of the Ombudsman, because the passage of the Code of Conduct for public officials has not had the full effect of the Law.

“A major hurdle is a lack of ‘implementation infrastructure’. To this end, there is a need to establish the Office of the Ombudsman. When established, this office will supervise the enforcement of all provisions of the Code of Conduct and will also impose sanctions for infractions. We must begin looking at appointing an individual with the requisite moral standing to head and run the office,” President Boakai vowed.

Other legislative engagements envisioned under the Boakai administration include an Amendment to the New Financial Institution Act; a review of the Amended and Restated Payments System Act; and passage into law of the Liberia Insurance Regulatory Commission Act.

Climate Change and the 2015 Paris Agreement

With regards to the issue of climate change and the 2015 Paris Agreement, President Boakai observed that the threat of climate change to “our environment and way of life is becoming obvious by the day, which is why we must join the rest of the world to address the causes of this phenomenon. I call on the legislature to work with us to begin looking at the Paris Agreement including the carbon market to ensure our national interest is protected.”

Road Infrastructure Development

President Boakai said expanding and improving the road network in the country remains a top priority for his Administration, noting that while there has been some progress in the road and transport sector during the reviewed period, there remain considerable challenges in road development.

“Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, Honorable Legislators, Ladies and Gentlemen: The total paved roads in our national road network amount to only 1,131.1km, representing 8.7% percent of the 13,000 km road network we need. This fact underscores considerable challenges in road infrastructure and the urgent need to fund road development in the country.

“With assistance from friendly partners, the country made notable progress in paving some primary roads, including the corridors: the Gbarnga to Salayea, the Ganta to Saclepea, the Ganta to Yekepa, and the Sanniquellie to Loguato. In addition, as of now, 37.7 percent of work on the ELWA to RIA Road Project has been accomplished.

“To access all county capitals, my Government will work to alleviate the problems faced by commuters using our primary roads, especially during the rainy season. This situation also causes major impediments to the economic development of our people, as these primary routes are major economic corridors to all parts of our country. The restoration of the County Road Maintenance Stations will be a key deliverable.

“This is why we have commissioned a “NO CAR STUCK IN THE MUD” 100-DAY DELIVERABLE to make all major primary corridors pliable. Our flagship road delivery program will include the Freeport to St. Paul Bridge Road. Having received funding through the Government of Japan, we will begin construction of a 4-lane road from the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to the Freeport of Monrovia. Additionally, the Government of Japan is expected to provide funds to expand the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to 4-lanes. The Government has also secured additional support from Japan for the conduct of feasibility studies for the expansion of the Freeport to St. Paul Bridge corridor. My Government will allocate funds to complete the 6.5 km Freeport to St. Paul Bridge Road.

“My Government will ensure that funding from the National Road Fund is utilized to maintain and rehabilitate roads for the good of the public. Through the contribution of Liberians who pay their fuel levies from every gallon of gasoline or fuel oil they purchase; we will continue to expand our maintenance program in maintaining our existing network and the construction of new community roads.

“Honorable Legislators, I would like you to join me in extending sincere gratitude to our development partners, which include the European Union, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Aid, the German Government, KFW, and GIZ. I would also like to thank our Arab partners, including the Saudi Fund, the Kuwaiti Fund, and BADEA as well as the Japanese Government and JICA, the Swedish Government, the Chinese Government and its China Aid program, the Norwegian Government, the Indian Government, the African Development Bank (AfDb), and ECOWAS for their many contributions to our infrastructure development,” President Boakai stated.

The Liberian leader also vowed to honor the country’s obligations to continental and multilateral institutions and foster cordial relations with other countries in the community of nations as a means of achieving Liberia’s policy agenda.

Other areas of concern to the new government included a Civil Service reflective of the economic constraints.

President Boakai expressed concerns over health and sanitation as key priorities of his government, for which his administration will ensure the availability of needed medical supplies and logistics in all public health institutions throughout the length and breadth of the nation; regular, efficient, and robust monitoring and evaluation of health services in the country to accelerate the reduction of Maternal and Newborn Mortality; the establishment of regional diagnostic centers; and the regulation of Health Care and pharmaceutical institutions in the country to meet international standards.

War on Drugs

With regards to the drug menace facing the country, President Boakai declared Drugs and Substance abuse as a Public Health Emergency, and in this direction has established a multi-sectoral steering committee comprising the Ministry of Health as Chair; the Ministry of Justice – Co-Chair; the Ministry of Youth and Sports- Member; the Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection – Member; the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) – Member; and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) – Member.

“In this fight, me and my Vice President, we will be the first to take a drug test and I urge all others to follow,” President Boakai vowed.

The Liberian leader also zoomed in on Education and Good Governance, assuring that his administration will invest in education infrastructure and provide adequate resources; while vowing to fight corruption and build institutions that serve the people’s interests – a government that is accountable to its citizens, a government that can truly serve the needs of its people.

Mr. Vice President and President of the Senate, Mr. Speaker, and members of the Legislature, our justice system which is meant to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, has been marred by inefficiency, corruption, and lack of public trust. I am counting on this honorable Body to pass effective legislation and support financial appropriations that will help us win the fight against corruption. Anyone caught in the act of corruption will face the full weight of the law, with swift and non-discriminatory enforcement.

In closing, President Boakai delved in the complexities and bottlenecks that confronted Liberians during the conduct of the just-ended presidential and general elections, vowing that his government will strengthen the National Identification Registry (NIR), among others.

He also showered praises on Diaspora Liberians for being stakeholders in the democratization process; rounding off by commending the 54th Legislature for recognizing the importance role that Diaspora Liberians continue to play by removing

the unfair burden of citizenship against Liberians who have chosen to explore opportunities in other parts of the world.

MDFP Counters SONA’s Dire Economic Outlook

Meanwhile, sources from the Ministry of Finance have hinted this paper that contrary to what President Joseph Nyuma Boakai said in his first SONA, with respect to President Weah leaving only US$20 million and not US$40 million as Consolidated Cash, President Weah was actually factual in his farewell speech when he stated that his government left US$40,044,365.90 as consolidated cash in USD for Fiscal Year 2023-2024.

  1. Jake Doe says

    Look, Boakai, let sound people hear their ear. You are here pretending to be incorruptible, and ranting such rubbish about under your leadership, Liberian will be a different country, BUT THERE YOU ARE SEIZING NOCAL AS YOUR PERSONAL PROPERTY, IPSO FACTO YOUR NEPOTISM AND TRIBAL NATURE AND MENTALITY AS YOU APPOINT YOUR NEPHEW AS HEAD OF NOCAL.

    And you would even go further to appoint someone as your Minister Of Justice amid the truth that this very individual (Cooper Kruah) you are appointing as Minister of Justice is a notorious criminal as far a court record are documented.

    You and your gang have so far given the country the overwhelming impression that you all are a bunch of bandits, with you Joseph Boakai as the HEAD BANDIT!

  2. tvbrackets says

    obviously like your website but you need to test the spelling on quite a few of your posts Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very troublesome to inform the reality on the other hand Ill certainly come back again

Comments are closed.