‘Good Start, Rescue Falls Short’ -CPP Dissects Boakai’s First Annual Message

MONROVIA: One of Liberia’s opposition political parties, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), has also taken a shot at the first state of the nation oration delivered by President Joseph N. Boakai on Monday, January 29, 2024 at the Joint Chambers of the National Legislature.

In a statement of assessment of the President’s oration, the CPP expressed shock that Liberia “is evidently weakened, lumbering under an over US$2 billion public debt stock, US$80 million budget deficit, double-digit inflation, sluggish growth, high unemployment, and increasing poverty. The primary focus should be THE ECONOMY, both rescuing and transforming it.”

The CPP, of which President Boakai’s Unity Party was constituent party until they party company, said: “While we commend efforts in the agenda laid forth in that direction, namely empowering Liberian entrepreneurship (MADE IN LIBERIA), leveraging Information Communication Technology (ICT) in creating jobs, and the National Tourism Authority to name a few, yet a clear direction of how this new government will set out to alleviate these economic ills was missing and no answer given to the ‘bread and butter’ questions.”

“Therefore, we call on the president to make the economy and jobs, jobs, jobs his number one priority,” the CPP said further:

“In that vein, we call for initiatives to spur local economic stimulus/empowerment including prioritized agriculture sector revival with special agriculture loan schemes for smallholding farmers (targeting women and youth), microfinance schemes for medium, small, and micro enterprises (MSME), and supporting entrepreneurs/enterprise development with incentivized SME (small and medium enterprises) business incubation.”

Also, in line with the president’s MADE IN LIBERIA push, the CDC called for prioritizing the enforcement of the “Liberianization” policy which will further spur Liberian businesses, the adoption of a “Buy Liberian” procurement and maintenance policy by all government apparatus and parastatals to support domestic businesses, and the enforcement of the government’s 50% procurement localization target.

“We also call on the government to focus on initiatives to boost youth economic opportunities, particularly immediate policy actions to better aid disadvantaged youths (Pen-Pen boy, Keh-Keh boys, etc.)”, the Party said, adding that economic revival and accountability are interrelated and that the revitalization of the economy rests on issues of accountable governance, and its bad twin of corruption in the form of fraud, waste and abuse.

The CPP emphasized that “while we again commend efforts in the agenda laid forth in that direction, specifically comprehensive audit of all government institutions, reintroducing Fiscal Rules and Travel Ordinance and establishing Office of the Ombudsman, we also call for Executive Orders to immediately require all presidential appointees to comply with asset, liability, and income declaration requirements without any preconditions prior to taking office, led by the President and Vice President publicly declaring their assets.”

The Party further called on the UP administration to: review concessions and licensing of natural resources; review port operation fees, tariffs, and charges to streamline import and export cost, a major factor in reducing inflation and the high cost of living; review of all tax waivers and exemptions, and revisit the tax code for simplification, towards enhancing revenues; freeze all taxes and regulations at current levels to review and optimize for a more business-friendly (tax and regulatory) environment; freeze all non-essential government travel, except those related to economic development objectives with all approved travel restricted to economy class; and reduce by 50% until further review all allowances for government officials’ perks (gasoline, scratch card, etc).

The CPP also implored the UP administration: “Lastly, revitalizing the economy is also dependent on improving the rule of law. The current drug epidemic is a national emergency and a national security issue, we commend the President for recognizing it as such. The inherent toll on the young people of our country, furthers the need to invest in our youth. In that vein, we call on the president to go a step further and launch an aggressive WAR ON DRUGS campaign, targeting interdiction of drugs and legislating against drug smuggling / trafficking and related charges as non-bailable (potentially rising to capital) offenses.”

The party requested commitments on a couple of nation actions: establishment of War and Economic Crimes Court, which was somewhat conspicuously absent from the president’s agenda for the year; gender Equality Empowerment with at least 40% inclusion of women in the cabinet; and passage of the 30% minimum women legislative participation / membership; decentralize Public Administration, which we commend the president on pushing both the Local Government and Revenue Sharing legislations; and Other systemic structural reforms toward strengthening democratic governance and unity of the Liberian people: Law Enforcement Reforms particularly police reforms; Judicial Reforms; and Liberian Constitution review with a view towards Electoral Reform to avoid the repeat of numerous electoral fraud complaints.”

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