Politicians enjoy the luxury of dishing out promises to the people to get elected. However, there is a burden that comes along with it for the politician to fulfil their side of the bargain especially so when they intend to back the people when the re-election bid comes knocking.
The promises are binding covenants between the people who hold the trump cards to either vote for or against the politician on one hand and on the other hand politicians who in their quest to remain in the position of relevance must fulfil their promises.
The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) finds itself in this situation. With a high risk (to quote the President himself), Liberians massively voted President George Manneh Weah and his CDC over other “traditional” politicians, some of who have spent years in the politician terrain and public service. The anticipation there then was that it represented a radical departure from continually voting for the usual politicians who promised and failed the people and that Mr. Weah represented the real change the people have been yearning for in a long time.
Well years have gone and the scorecards have been coming out; the citizens have been reviewing them and will respond in 2023. Interestingly, the President made his official nationwide tours recently to meet with the citizens, thanking them for the support they gave him in 2017 and promised to deliver on his promises. The promises were added to the requests from the citizens and he again reaffirmed the various promises. With time ticking fast against 2023, the question now becomes can President Weah fulfil his promises before that time? The Analyst surveys the challenges, the possibilities, impossibilities and the impulse from the citizenry:
President George Manneh Weah was quite well aware of the many challenges that lay ahead when he decided to contest the presidency in 2017 and eventually won. Throughout the campaign trail which was anchored on the mantra of CHANGE FOR HOPE, Mr. Weah went all out to sell his candidature on the ticket of the Coalition for Democratic Change, telling the electorates that he was the right man for the job, to the extent that he overstated his promises.
Three years into his 6 year tenure and with his eyes set on seeking re-election, his scorecards have been put in the public space for scrutiny with the view of knowing if he has delivered on his first promises for which he is asking for another 6 year extension.
The debate for his chances for 2023 was recently rekindled during the recent county wide tours that have taken him to 14 out of the 15 counties where while responding to the many requests made to him, he promised not to disappoint them and will make sure their demands will be met.
What is interesting in the whole scenario is in 2017 when he was gunning for the presidency he promised the people but this time around people are making additional requests in addition to what he promised when he was seeking their votes. Though he must have stylishly succeeded by shifting the burden of the legislature to appropriate money in the budget for his approval the stakes rest on him because it is he that will want to be re-elected.
“Mr. President, I speak for my people. They are saying if you do this for them, they will not forget about you in 2023”, Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe said when the President Visited Bomi County. The statement though met up with wide criticism and understood from those who were not happy with it as an endorsement of Mr. Weah ahead of 2023, it captured the total conditionality other citizens in the various counties are attaching to voting for the President in 2023.
A prime democratic advancement think tank institution , NAYMOTE for Democratic Development reported in her annual President Meter Project for 2020 that out of the 108 promises made by the President only 8 were fulfilled , representing just 7%, 47 promises (43%) ongoing while 54 others (50%) have not started. It called on the government to identify priority areas of her promises for execution so that they will impact on the citizenry.
Mr. David Kantu, a local social worker told this paper that he read the report from NAYMOTE last year and got too disappointed and wondered where under this world will this happen for a government to promise the people 3 years ago and can only come back with 8 out of 108.
“I think this government is toying with the Liberian people so I don’t want to dignify their additional promises. You mean you did only 8 out of the 108 promises and you want people to take you seriously”, Mr. Kantu said.
Mr. Myers Toweh, a former civil servant at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and an aide to a lawmaker said while it is true that the government out of some challenges beyond its control might have not been able to fulfil some of the promises, that does not give anyone a license to come up with unsubstantiated claims of the government’s performance. He said the government had done more than what she promised the Liberian people.
“We didn’t promise free tuition at tertiary level; we didn’t also promise to roof the dilapidated structures of poor people in Gibraltar; likewise reconstructing the entire community of burnt houses in the Borough of New Kru Town. But the President did all these things and the opposition do not want to take them as resounding achievements”. Mr. Toweh said.
With just a year between now and the elections in 2023, some experts, politicians, the media and the other stakeholders have been looking at the cost implications of some of the projects he promised to deliver to the people for which the citizens are attaching conditions on completion of projects to reciprocate their votes.
Of all the projects requested, road construction dominated, followed by health centers, youth vocational and recreational centers, etc. Interestingly this road construction occupies the main thrust of the President’s development agenda for which he was nicknamed BAD ROAD MEDICINE.
“It is sad to be living in the 21st century and we are talking about roads for our people to be connected to the various towns and cities. How do our people take their produce to the market when we don’t have roads. You call me BAD ROAD MEDICINE and so I will not disappoint you, we will build the roads for you. Please talk to your lawmakers to put the money in the budget, I will approve it and we will use the money to build the roads”, President Weah told a jubilant crowd in most of one of the counties.
An expatriate who had worked with most of the road projects executed by donor agencies speaking on conditions of not want to be quoted in the media said that obviously there is no way the President can deliver those projects before 2023, and by extension may not be able to deliver half of them even in his second term if he wins in 2023.
“I have been involved with the road infrastructure since 2011 and the detailed research done on the estimated cost of doing Liberia’s roads, which will also include some feeder roads, is consecutively put at $3 bn. Liberia’s annual budget is around $500 million annually, with the propensity of even going down further due to the Covid 19 pandemic and its impact on developing countries like Liberia. So you see that it is very unrealistic that the President will fulfil his promise to the people”, the expatriate said.
Mr. Allen Bartuah, a social critic concurred with the expatriate and spoke from the perspective of the discouragement development partners and funding agencies are going through from the government lack of clear focus to execute projects whose funding have even been made available.
“The President is not being sincere to himself to talk less about the citizens. The wonderful Lofa Road that lays fallow for 3 three years now, a project that the President himself broke ground for in 2017, cannot be executed because the government has failed to pay just $1.3million to resettle the people along the road whose properties will be demolished. Let him focus on his last years in power and vacate the stage in 2023.
Our financial desk looked deeper into the President’s promises and agreed with those who feel that the ambitious promises are bogus that cannot hold water.
This paper submits that in the first place, since 2018, there has been draw down on donor support to most of the projects that were being executed in the country and repeatedly the same donor agencies have been calling on the government to look inwards to raise funds.
If that will be the case there will be just little that the government can generate from the exercise as can be seen from the paltry $300m mid-year budget submitted to the national legislature recently and which is expected to be sourced from the government revenue mainly through taxes.
“Let him forget about re-election because he has failed us, especially us from the SouthEast. We came out enmasse to support him as our own brother but see where he has put us. I am going to Maryland right now but where is the road?” A furious Tarpeh Swen told our reporters at the Redlight packing station that he normally boards vehicles going to the SouthEastern part of the country.
But with all the negative descriptions roping around the President’s chances in 2023, some of his ardent supporters do not want to buy into that but remain defiant to the core that the ensuing election is a foreclosed conclusion that the president will win the election flat down.
“We are upbeat about the race towards 2023 and nothing is going to change the story. We have delivered what the people want which has never been done in the last 170 years. Our footprints are all over the places in the various counties we are not talking about Montserrado County along that we have done so much for”, Said Mr. Joseph Fokoe , an opinion leader in Foya, Lofa County, unarguably the strong hold of former VP Joseph Nyumah Boakai who is billed to squared up against Mr. Weah in 2023.
A top CDC partisan speaking to our correspondent via a whatsapp call said people are misinterpreting the President’s messages he delivered to the various counties about promised projects and it is high time they go back and educate themselves.
“When he said we will build the roads he was not saying he will complete the projects but they form part of the larger platform for the Liberian people. The projects will start and will be ongoing while we are into the election season, some will be completed and dedicated before the election and some will be completed and dedicated between the election period and the inauguration. Take it to the bank. I can tell you”, the politician said.
He furthered: “For your information some of the projects you are talking about are already ongoing like the gigantic hospital projects in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County, and Zwedru City, Grand Gedeh County, these are monumental projects that cannot be refuted. So are you telling me if these projects are completed and the roads components are not completed, the people will be that ungrateful and reject our President?”