MONROVIA: Still basking in a celebratory mood having made a significant pass of the Millennium Challenge Compact scorecard, including breaking the ceiling of a 16 year elusion in scaling the hurdle of the fiscal policy component, the government of Liberia through the Minister of Finance and Development Planning(MFDP) has said the feat is an indication that the level of development has been trending upward which implies that there are more achievements under the leadership of President George Manneh Weah.
Speaking at a major media briefing hosted by the Minister of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism yesterday, Wednesday, November 8, 2023, said one of takeaways of the report is that it effectively killed the vicious propaganda that has been orchestrated against the government since its inauguration in 2018, asserting that on several occasions whenever he attended some of the meetings with the country’s development partners, he was confronted with some of the negative news about the country, such as the controversial missing USD100m or LD16bn and others which according to him adversely impacted on the country’s quest from its international development partners.
Minister Tweah lamented that while the government was faced with so many challenges occasioned by inheriting governance with no solid foundation to begin from, the media space fed the people across the country with lies, “coming at the time of difficulties in the circumstances that aided and abetted all the misinformation because of the serious global economic situation at the time which the government of Liberia did not have control of.
He said having learned from the bitter experience of misinformation, the government has decided “to outpace the negative information by doing more and not listening to the media because Liberians tend to believe the media more than they would believe or trust the government”
“The environment has been quiet today because people are now focusing on using information for the election purpose and the United States government through the MCC has killed the propaganda with the release of the scorecard where Liberia did exceptionally well”, he said.
Before proceeding with given details of what the report said and the implication on the governance setting and the stewardship of President Weah, Minister Tweah first commended the President “for his extraordinary leadership quality he has been over the years especially with respect to this latest scorecard of the MCC which is a clear indication that he understands the needs of the citizens of this country”.
Minister Tweah then set the basis for his deliberation on the MCC scorecard by going down memory lane how this dispensation had to endure all the obstacles it met on the way from the beginning of its tenure by “taking the hard decisions” to weather the storm which have paid off by the way the economy has been stabilized after the previous government mismanaged it.
He contended that unlike the government under President Weah which has to work out its own path to reset the economy with “tough decisions”, the 12 year rule of the the Unity Party benefited immensely from the international goodwill it enjoyed due to the country coming out of a brutal civil war thereby discounting the impression that all the international assistance that came in the country were through the efforts of the UP leadership. He said despite all these interventions, the UP government failed seriously to deliver the dividend of democracy to the people.
Tweah cited the 2011 Annual report of the Central Bank of Liberia to buttress his claims that the UP destroyed the economy with the depletion of the reserves of the country which stood at USD337.9m in 2011 and was reduced to USD110m by December 2017, a drain of USD227.9m which according to him was not spent on the country and its people but was squandered. He said Boima Kamara who served as a former Minister of Finance and who at the time was an executive at the CBL and who is now a critic of the government was one of those who took the decision to deplete the country’s reserve.
“So this election is about the depletion of our reserve, the wasting and mismanagement of USD227.9m which George Weah inherited; the net reserve George Weah inherited was 110 whereas the net reserve as of the last Central Bank of Liberia under George Weah reporting was USD332 million.
“So George Weah has restored and put back USD212m, Joseph Boakai took USD227.9m away and George Weah put it back. That is why we are going to vote on Tuesday.
“And someone says the man who put back USD227.9 m back in the country reserve should be replaced by the man who took away USD227.9 millon and wasted it in the country and we got nothing to show for it. Ask Joseph Boakai what did he do with the money?” he said
Tweah said just like the former regime under former President Ellen Johnson who experienced the ebola epidemic, President Weah also faced the Corona Virus which according to him was ebola in terms of global impact, plunging the entire world into crisis.
He said despite the setback to the global economy, President Weah performed exceptionally well including the rise in government revenue while inflation was kept down dramatically.
“One of the policies was to stop borrowing from the Central Bank, unlike in the past when the government borrowed from CBL to pay salaries, that was how the reserve came down as well as using the reserve to trade the local currency which was exchanged at LD55 to USD1 in 2006 and left it at 125 in 2017 when it left power but they did not pay back what was borrowed”, he said
Minister Tweah further making comparison between the two leaderships, said unlike the UP government that remove about 5,000 Liberians from payroll and threw them in the labor market, President Weah in demonstration of making his administration people friendly, increased the fiscal space by putting more Liberians on the government payroll including 2,000 health workers who were hitherto on the payroll of some international non-governmental organizations.
He said the fact that those health workers were not on government payroll, that should have made the government to spent that the money on other critical national issues, “but again ask Joseph Boakai what did they do with the money, it should have been used to build the Lofa road.”
Turning to the MCC scorecard, the tough talking Minister said it a testimony that the development profile of the country has been trending upward with the potential of further growth in terms of size just as he said it was about the quality of governance in the country and the other benefit being it has given the country a good chance to apply for another compact grant.
Looking at the result of the report, Tweah then played around the numbers that came out of the report, stressing that they were all linked to something spiritual or divine about the life of President Weah.
“Historically the country has not passed the 14 indicators since the assessment of the compact has been made. George Weah is the first president to do so, you can see that 14 waste, his number is 14, they people are going to vote for him on the 14th, all the mathematics in his favor, he is #2 on the list , 2 is for two terms, 14-2 is 12 years, it is like divine grace, divine blessing”, he said.
He said what was significant in this year’s report was that for the first time since 2007, a period of 16 years, the government was able to pass the Fiscal Policy component of the MCC, terming the toughest of the indicators.
Providing more insight, he said the component has to do with the prudent management of the economy, especially being disciplined to the core where resources are properly managed and the government being able to spend within its means as well as managing its debt properly.
“So the fiscal policy is about whether the government’s borrowing more money or not. Every country on the IMF program is to keep its deficit at 2 or 3 percent. This is a very difficult indicator. They added the first two previous years to this and averaged it so when you passed it is shown.
“It shows the President’s commitment to fiscal discipline, to the IMF program and to the development of the country”, he said
The Minister also expanded on the trade policy component which was one of the indicators that recorded successfully, stating it is how the government was able to encourage robust commercial activities including removing bottlenecks to trade such as reduction of check points on the major roads of the country were goods pass through.
He also mentioned the acquisition of two giant sized cranes at the Freeport of Monrovia to hasten the offloading of vessels, thereby cutting the time vessels used to stay at the port, and saving some costs in the process. He said those costs would have been passed to the end users or the final consumers and would have as well affected their purchasing power.
On civil liberties, Tweah said it was not surprised that the government passed the component of MCC because President Weah “has magnified the freedom of expression in Liberia than any other leaders before him and can be proven by the way people openly challenged and criticized the President Weah without being harmed and that there is “no political prisoner in the country, a big plus to George Weah”.
He said another significant mark in the scorecard has to do with the rule of law, which is a clear manifestation that there has been serious reform with the country’s justice system where a renewed confidence has been built within the mind of the citizens that they can get a fair trial and on the business climate side, contract agreements can be enforced whenever there is a breach especially transactions involving foreign businesses investing their capital in the country and want to rely on the judicial system of the country.
Speaking on the corruption component, Tweah has the fight against corruption by the government is not a fluke, beginning with the enactment into law the most effective instruments and amending some aspects of the Liberia anti corruption laws making the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC) very independent where none of the commissioners cannot be dismissed or suspended arbitrarily by the President without seeking the senate’s consent.
He said the government was encouraged to do more in the areas that it still had challenges including expenditure and girls leaving primary schools and going further. He reasoned that eradicating poverty in societies is positively linked to provision of education and acquisition of skills by girls as it will avert the situation of bearing children at tender ages without formal education and increasing poverty in society.
On government effectiveness, he said it is one of the most difficult components of the compact because people are interested more about tangibles and not about intangibles that people do not see physically, terming them as the processes that produce the actual outcome.
“Liberians are not used to paying attention to intangible things, they are used to roads, electricity, and physical things that people see. But the processes that lead to the construction of physical government buildings are the ones you put under government effectiveness.
“What system you put in place to have the building is what constitutes government effectiveness”, have not been passed and these issues affect
He said to solve the problem, the Government needs to improve the administration of the resources and the mechanism on monitoring to ensure that whatever is committed to a process is pursued to the latter.
He hit back at former Finance Minister Amara Konneh who for some time now has been critical of the government’s policies and projects, saying Konneh tends not to understand most of what he has been criticizing the government because “his government did not do those things we are doing for which he is launching a number of criticism on us”.
He mentioned specific the success rate of both governments, that is the administration of Madam Ellen Johnson and that of the present leadership under President Weah, and said throughout the tenure of the former leadership, there was no record that the government passed the MCC least to talk about passing 14 indicators out of the required 20.
He warned Liberians to be very wary of some people who will want to distort facts in this election season to win the hearts of innocent and gullible citizens adding, “I maintain that data available, President Weah is the best president ever than the rest of the other former presidents.
Earlier, the Minister of Information Ledgerhood J. Rennie who hosted the program in his introductory note said Liberia should be proud with the level of achievements President Weah has recorded over the years, stressing that the report from the MCC which was independently done without the input from the government of Liberia shows that his stewardship is being evaluated positively out there.
He said the report has debunked and termed baseless all the allegations against him but his detractors for no reason, adding that some of the allegations are out of “innate hate for the President”.
“Just the fact that Liberia is admitted to the program tells the commitment of our President and his leadership to ensure a meaningful development and life changing system to the people of Liberia.
“Is it an innate hate for this young man whose country did not provide him the opportunity to explore his greatest talent to become prominent but now that he has become somebody and has decided to dedicate his life to his people and returned home and said I want to contribute to the development of my people, is it now that people are beginning to hate him.
“It is only George Manneh Weah who spent his hard earned money from the football field to sponsor students at the University of Liberia, went on refugee camps and gave our mothers, brothers and sisters support”, he said.
He said on the political front, the report is a positive swing for the President as he goes to the runoff on November 14, 2023 and optimistic that Liberians will see reasons to reelect him for the development and prosperity of the country.