Some pro-government pundits contend that the focus of the George Weah administration on roads, electricity and free public education amongst others—which represent the most adorable felt needs of the ordinary people of Liberia—makes public relations very easy for anyone wishing to promote the administration. Whether that assertion is true or not, fanatics of the regime are overly fond of the development platform called the Pro-Poor Agenda Prosperity and Development (PAPD) and which they say makes the government popular amongst the impoverished majority of citizens. Even the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Cllr Fonati J. Koffa, was heard trumpeting the PAPD success story during a major program in the United States. The Analyst reports.
Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Cllr. Fonati J. Koffa has said the main thrust of the Pro Poor Agenda, the flagship national development plan of President George Manneh Weah is to stabilize and equalize the society and describe the initiative as a “phenomenon program” that will endear the people to the President and make him to win the ensuing presidential and legislative elections in 2023.
Deputy Speaker Koffa made the statement over the weekend when he spoke at the induction ceremony of the Executive Committee of the United States of America branch of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change(CDC) and used the program to speak more on the progress made by the government under its Pro Poor Agenda.
The Grand Kru lawmaker who was speaking from the sociological perspective of the pro poor agenda said the initiative has its foundation in social passion and justice and is an answer to the many questions being asked why the country is poor.
“Now there are other Liberians who may have different interpretations of why Liberians are poor and indeed there are many of them. Neocolonialism could be one. The other may be corruption. But there has always been an attempt to find a solution.
“In 2018, upon coming to power, President Weah and the CDC launched the Pro Poor Agenda. What does this mean sociologically? It means we are no longer looking at middle classes, we are no longer looking to have a rising tide above every book. It means the first thing is to stabilize and equalize the society” he said.
To provide a better understanding of what a people oriented initiative such as the Pro poor Agenda, he discussed extensively, he quoted two former American presidents, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan who spoke about welfare of their citizens. For Kennedy he quoted thus, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich” and for Reagan he quoted, “How can we love our country and not love our countrymen; and loving them, reach out a hand when they fall, heal them when they’re sick, and provide opportunity to make them self-sufficient so they will be equal in fact and not just in theory”.
He slammed the development foundation of the country which he said was built on the model that has created and still continue to create masses of poor Liberians for so many years and described the country as a consuming society that barely produce anything where the economy is organized in such a way that the bulk of the foreign exchange goes to importation of consumable.
“Even the commodity that you exported before and you were proud of, Firestone will now tell you that the once graded largest plantation in the world produces less than 5% of the world production. Your mining sector where you used to mine iron ore is even in a state of where it is producing less than the quality it used to”, he said.
Touching on the major achievements of the government, Deputy Speaker Koffa began with the freedom of speech and Press which he described a radical transformation in the society because the government broke the barrier to press freedom by decriminalizing it, thus giving people the unhindered opportunities to air their views or write anything they like without being arrested or harassed like before the CDC dispensation.
Deputy Speaker Koffa also spoke about the increase in the size of the 2022 budget which he said was unprecedented and stated that the increase will spur the economy mentioning Agriculture specifically, the sector that will make the economy export based and generate income and create jobs for the citizens.
On dual citizenship, he said for some time Diasporan Liberians were struck in the rock, a situation where they had to flee the country for something they did not create and travelled to the United States to obtain status and then being denied citizenship. “The pro poor agenda said that is not fair, that was the initial angle before the Monrovia politicians began to join the bandwagon. But it was President George Weah who first initiated the process”, he said.
He said he and Representative Acarous Moses Gray of District #8, Montserrado County introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to change the immigration and naturalization laws to “once you are a Liberian, you are a Liberian” and was passed by the lower house of the national legislature.
Deputy Speaker also spoke about the housing projects being carried out by the government and said was different from past efforts because under the pro poor agenda initiative, the houses are being constructed and given to the poor people free of charge while those of the past like the Stephen Tolbert, Cabral Estates, etc were for the working class.
“The other people who are working and in the upper class will not see these things, they will not appreciate the impact but those who are the poor and not the incoming earners or the upper class will appreciate it. You should be proud that some of the interventions by the government are changing the lives of our people”, he said.
Going further with the achievements, the politician who was elected Deputy Speaker upon the election of Prince Moye as Senator for Bong County, also spoke about the free tuition scheme in public higher institutions in the country and said the government while removing the burden of the cost of education from struggling parents and students, was also promoting human capital development of its citizens and there has been commendation from across the length and breadth of the country as the first of its kind. He said before then, many students found it very difficult to enroll or continue their studies at tertiary institutions in the country.
Deputy Speaker who received applauses from the crowd repeatedly spoke of some welfare programs under the administration of President Weah and mentioned about the direct cash transfer program under the auspices of the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection that involves given money to poor rural women to take care of their basic needs as well as the construction of the 14th Military Hospital which is also providing free medical services to ex-soldiers unlike in the past where former soldiers have to foot their own medical expenses once they are out of active services.
The recent presentation of motorized Yamaha boat engines to fishermen by President Weah was also mentioned and lauded as one of the many achievements of the government. He said this will go a long way in boosting the fishery sector of the economy.
The lawmaker who was speaking without a prepared text was reminded of the road projects that he almost skipped and said that the road connectivity remains one of the cardinal projects of the government which was started from the various communities and expanding to major highways in the country. He said this is going to hugely impact the economy because people and goods and services will freely move from one destination to another.
The Deputy Speaker closed his e CDC speech with praises on the level of humility the President has displayed in his presidency which according to him makes the President go beyond official protocols to serve the people. He said during the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic when the Minister of Health went to see the president on the need to roll back the curfew hours, he called him (Koffa) to join him move around the city to see the impact of the curfew among the people and they all rode in the car with the president on the steering. He said after moving around, the President saw the need to roll back the curfew and the wish of the Minister was granted.
“That was an act of humility on the part of the President. We rode in the same car with just an EPS vehicle behind us and we went around to see how the citizens were feeling with the curfew in force. At the end of our tour, the President granted the request of the Minister and the curfew was lifted”, he said.