MONROVIA – As Liberians celebrate the advent of a new year on January 1, 2023 in which they will once again exercise their political franchise and elect their next corps of national leaders to steer the affairs of state, the Standard Bearer of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, has cautioned the citizens to be mindful, because 2023 represents a very important year that should bring real change, unlike the 2017 elections that brought former soccer icon George M. Weah to power but he failed on the mandate to restore hope and change to Liberians.
Addressing the nation on Monday, January 2, 2023 which is officially observed in Liberia as New Year day because January 1 fell on a Sunday, Mr. Cummings said 2023 presents another chance for Liberians to spend quality time with our families and loved ones; another opportunity to work on improving themselves, and another opportunity to create the Liberia that everyone wants.
“As we all know, we have elections this year. These elections present a powerful opportunity for you to make your voices heard. The 2017 elections represented hope for many Liberians who voted for much-needed change. President Weah was elected on a mandate to restore hope and change to Liberians.
“For many Liberians, especially the youth, he represented the possibility of a brighter future. Unfortunately, these last five years have seen a rapid decline in almost all aspects of national life. The decay cuts across all sectors,” the CPP Standard Bearer stated emphatically, as he listed key areas where the Weah government fell short of its promise to better the lives of Liberians.
“Take sanitation for instance. The government’s inability to put effective systems in place for waste collection has created a public health disaster, with mounting piles of garbage sitting all across the country.
“Our health first starts with the air we breathe. If the government cannot get something as basic as garbage collection right, to the extent that its citizens are forced to live daily facing significant health hazards, then we must question whether they can get the big issues right,” Cummings lamented.
Touching on how ramshackle the Liberian economy has turned under President Weah’s administration, as compared to his predecessors, Mr. Cummings said the Liberian economy today is in a much worse shape than it was when the current administration came into office.
“When Mr. Weah assumed office in 2017, GDP per capita was $721. Today, that figure is $673. What does this mean? Liberians already did not have much to begin with. And now, through blatant economic mismanagement and systemic corruption, the average Liberian has become even poorer under this administration.
“On top of this, prices of almost every single essential commodity continues to go up. This means that the average household is left with very little to spend on other things such as education and health, before we even talk about saving for the future. Meanwhile, the president and the members of his inner circle continue to build mansions and acquire wealth.
“Now, they are going to try to blame this on the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine. But let’s face it. Liberia is not the only country in the world. In fact, let’s look at our neighbors in the region. Sierra Leone. Ghana. Guinea. Nigeria. Every single one of these countries made gains in expanding their economies for their people within this same period. We elect leaders not to make excuses, but to deliver for the people.
“This is critical because our futures depend on it. A child who was born in 2017 will turn five years old this year. The question we should be asking ourselves is, is that child really in a position to become the best person they can be?
“Have we seen the kinds of investments in the education system to really prepare our children for the opportunities of this 21st century? Do parents have access to the kinds of jobs that will allow them to provide a decent livelihood for their children? Of course, we do not expect all of Liberia’s problems to be fixed within five years. But we expect to see forward momentum.
“We need to see basic systems in place. An economy that works for all Liberians. An equal opportunity for Liberian entrepreneurs to compete and to grow their businesses, in an environment that is totally dominated by foreign businesses,” Mr. Cummings averred.
Health, agriculture, education, others
Regarding issues besetting the health, agriculture, education and other critical sectors of the Liberian economy, Mr. Cummings lamented that the current health system does not provide a reliable standard of care for those who are sick.
“Hospitals like JFK should not have to turn patients away because they do not have money to pay up front, or because the hospital does not have beds available,” he said.
“We need to create opportunities for farmers to expand their farms, and to make money by being able to sell what they produce; a civil service that restores dignity and respect to those who provide honest service to our citizens, by paying civil servants a living wage and by paying them on time. But these are just the basics. Liberians deserve so much more. And we CAN achieve so much more if we work together.
“How do we provide our youth with the critical skills needed to be on par with their peers in the region and around the world? In the skills of the 21st century such as IT, computer programming and software engineering?
“How do we create an environment where our young people can have the resources and support that they need to start their own businesses, and to grow those businesses? To move from being job seekers to become job creators?
“This is why I am running for President, fellow Liberians. Liberia has got some serious challenges, and we need serious people to fix them. Don’t let anyone tell you that we Liberians are doomed to failure,” Cummings stated stoically.
Liberia Needs Serious President
Touching on his own humble beginnings, Cummings said he grew up right here in Liberia, and received his early education in Liberian schools, from Monrovia Demonstration, to CWA and then Cuttington for two years before going abroad to advance his studies.
“After college, I came back and started my career right here at LBDI. It was only after the coup and the years of political instability that my career took on an international dimension.
“At every single place I worked, I left those companies better than I met them. I entered the Coca-Cola system as Deputy Managing Director in 1997, and by 2001 I was the President for the company for the whole of Africa. When I assumed that role, the Coca-Cola workforce was 70% expats, non-Africans. By the time I left that role, it was 70% African – creating job opportunities for about one million Africans.
“Due to the results I delivered as President of the Coca-Cola Africa Group, I was promoted to become the Chief Administrative Officer of the entire Coca-Cola Company worldwide, managing teams around the world.
“What does it take to manage operations of a giant global corporation with more than 35 billion dollars in revenues? With hundreds of thousands of employees?
“You’ve got to be focused. You cannot be everywhere at the same time, and so you’ve got to build the right systems. You’ve got to hire the right people. You can’t do everything at the same time, and so you’ve got to understand strategy. You’ve got to be able to prioritize. You’ve got to be able to monitor performance. To hold people accountable for getting the work done.
“But most importantly, you have to be able to deliver results. I would never have gotten to where I got in my career by making promises I couldn’t deliver on. To go from a Deputy Manager in one country, to becoming the global administrator of one of the largest companies in the world.
All of us have our own unique talents and gifts. Some of us have talent for music. Some have talent for sports. For me, it’s a talent for management, leading large teams, and consistently delivering results. No excuses,” Cummings said.
The CPP leader said with such wealth of corporate backgrounding, he brings a breadth of experience to the table, with the ability to provide a clear vision, build a team and to build systems that will allow Liberians not just to get their beloved country back on track, but to finally realize Liberia’s true potential as a people and a country.
Why the presidency?
Liberia’s challenges are huge, Cummings noted, but agreed that those challenges are not bigger than the resilience of the people.
“My political opponents have termed me to be “desperate.” And guess what, I AM desperate. Desperate to see a Liberia where children aren’t out of school because their parents can’t afford it. Desperate for a future where parents don’t have to go through the pain of seeing their children going to bed hungry at night.
“Desperate for a country where people don’t have to die of simple, preventable diseases. “Desperate for a country that works for all its citizens. And you know what, if you are a patriotic Liberian, you should be desperate too!
“I have traveled throughout the country and have seen it. The longing on the faces of people for a better life. For a government that works for them. For a government that isn’t just focused on squeezing citizens’ pockets to collect taxes, but to use the state’s resources to actually create wealth for its citizens before taxing that wealth.
“I may not have had experience working in the government, but Liberia’s problems cannot be solved by government work experience. If government experience is what’s required, then Liberia should have been one of the most developed countries by now. Just as a reminder, Mr. Weah served in the senate for three years before he became president, and many of the officials in the current administration also served in previous administrations. The fact that this administration has performed so poorly shows that prior experience working in the government is not a necessary condition for national leadership. In fact, in some cases it might even become a hindrance, if people become too used to the culture of corruption and mismanagement that characterize much of our current administration.
“What Liberia needs is someone who knows how to lead. How to manage people. How to inspire people to deliver results. Liberia needs public servants who are honest, disciplined, and are prepared to do the work. The challenges are many, and the road ahead is long. But our collective will to succeed is stronger.
“In the coming months, I intend to travel to every county and district, every corner of Liberia to make my case to you, the Liberian people. I will sit with you, listen to you, learn from you, and share my own ideas with you on how we all can work together to create the Liberia we want.
“I have managed people and highly successful teams all around the world. Achieving success in any leadership team requires a set of skills that I have mastered in my 40-plus career in business.
“Trust me when I say this. Liberia’s problems can be solved. And we will solve them. We may not be able to do everything, but we will tackle the most important issues to build a solid foundation for the future.
“We will do this by working with all Liberians from all backgrounds, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender. Anyone who has what it takes, and is willing to work, we will work with you in the interest of our country.
“Indeed, as it is written in our national anthem, “In Union Strong, Success is Sure. We Cannot Fail.”
“President Weah and his people have done enough harm to our country. But the dawn is on the horizon. Change is coming. Very soon. On behalf of my dear wife Teresa, my family, and the CPP, I wish you and your family a peaceful, blessed and prosperous new year. May God continue to bless us all and protect the nation,” Cummings stated.