“Stealing Worse Under Weah” –Cummings -Provides Panacea for Good Governance When Elected

MONROVIA – Citing the flagrant abuse of good governance as a major driver that could plunge Liberia back into the abyss of pariahdom, the country’s key opposition figure, political leader of the Alternative National Congress and Acting Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Alexander B. Cummings, says the tendency for leaders to believe that the riches of Liberia belong to the President, lawmakers or ministers must stop, noting that in five years, stealing in the Weah government has gotten worse, with the country’s name no longer respected, no serious international investor wants to come to our country, and all of Liberia’s neighbors, including some that were behind Africa’s oldest republic, have now actually moved way ahead of Liberia in terms of development.

“For too long in our country, government and governance have been about government officials taking care of themselves by bleeding the country while ordinary people continue to suffer. We have to end this foolishness!

“This is why, for example, it is unacceptable to me that in the 2022 National Budget, the Offices of the President, Vice President, Pro-temp, Speaker, and Deputy Speaker take more money ($15,470,394) for themselves than they give to major hospitals (John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing, Jackson F. Doe Hospital, Redemption Hospital) ($10,731,784), or all teachers training institutes and community colleges combined, $9,324,454. This is irresponsible and an unfair distribution of our nation’s wealth.

“The cornerstone of a Cummings Administration will be that no President, lawmaker, or minister will ever receive more than what is given to a public hospital or school in the national budget, whether such allocations be disguised as “security money”, or “president project money”. The national budget is a tool that ought to say, transparently, what our priorities and values are. It is not an instrument, and should never be used as one, to legalize stealing,” Mr. Cummings said.

Making the pronouncement Monday, June 20, 2022, the ANC political leader and standard bearer noted that, while many Liberians have heard him say that the country is too rich for Liberians to be so poor, the lack of honest leadership in government combined with the mismanagement of the resources God has blessed Liberian with, including giving it away cheaply and selfishly, are responsible for the sad reality of the poor living conditions too many Liberians continue to face daily.

“If we do not change, we will continue to be poor, and beg other nations to do for us what we can, and should be doing for ourselves. I know that many of you do not need me to tell you that things are bad in our country. This is because across tribes, religions and political parties, Liberians are living the sad reality of worsening economic hardships every day and everywhere in our country.

“From food to gas, and from hospital bills to rent; the cost of everything is going so high while incomes are going down. People cannot find jobs. In the last five years under President Weah, no serious investor has come to our country but they continue to pour into neighboring countries, including countries that have fought wars like us.

“The President likes to excuse himself and his officials for the hardship in the country by blaming the opposition. However, the fact is that the Weah government has not behaved in any way for credible international investors to trust him and his government, to seriously consider investing in our country. Serious and credible international investors need to trust that their investments will be protected, that a government will respect its own laws, and that a government will not be trying to steal from and cheat them,” Cummings lamented.

He said, too many international reports continue to confirm that Liberia is amongst the most corrupt in the world; as serious investors have not forgotten that under President Weah, and for the first time in the history of Africa’s oldest republic, 11 foreign embassies, missions and international organizations wrote President Weah to tell his government to stop taking their money without their permission that they were saving in the Central Bank.

“The $16 billion, the $25 million mop up, the Global Fund, the Road Fund, the Covid relief fund, are all corrupt practices with no accountability. The stealing business in the government is too much. It is embarrassingly turning people away from coming to invest in our country, at a time when we need serious international investors to help us create jobs that will pay decent living wages to our people. Many of you will remember President Weah promising that his government would create fifty thousand jobs every year for Liberians, especially for our young people. The President even named his government “Pro-poor” which means that the Weah government would work to lift Liberians from poverty. But five years after making those promises, not only has the government failed to create the jobs they promised, but the Weah government continues to act in ways that will keep Liberians poor. For example, the government cut the salaries of civil servants and put pressure on private employers not to pay Liberians as they would like, or should be paying them,” the ANC leader said.

Noting that when people’s salaries are cut like the Weah Government has done, Cummings said it makes it harder for parents to take care of their children, and for families to care for those who get sick.

“Without jobs – and even for those who have jobs but their pay is not enough to pay their way to work for the whole month- Liberian families are living under serious pressure and stress every day. Under President Weah, more Liberians are begging today just to make ends meet, than since the end of the war. This is not right!

“As if things are not very bad already, and people are not suffering enough, the government has decided to increase the price of gas and fuel. This is not just a wrong decision; it is a wicked decision! The Weah Government knows that increasing the price of gas and fuel will force the already high prices of food, transportation, medicine, and everything else, to only go up. It means things are only going to get worse on people who are already suffering. A box of frozen chicken was LD$3,200 in December but is now about LD$3,600, even LD$4,000 in some places. Rice was LD$1,800 and is about LD$2,200 to LD$2,300 these days. Any government that says it cares for its people should never pile on the suffering of the people, especially when the government is able to deal with the problem.

“For example, the price of gas and fuel does not have to be so high. Actually, Liberia’s prices are amongst the highest in West Africa, and all of Africa. To keep the price low, and therefore keep the prices of food and transportation stable, the Weah Government can cut some of its charges on the importation of gas and fuel, so that importers do not have to charge suffering Liberians higher than they can afford. But the Weah government has decided not to do that. At this tough time in the country, they prefer to keep the government charges on imports high and have the Liberian people who are already suffering pay for the rising cost of importation.

“This is despite the fact that some of these government charges are not being fully accounted for anyway. Recently, we heard about the government misusing $25Million of the Road Fund which is collected from charges on the same gas and fuel. This is really embarrassing. The government has misused $25 Million that should be used to fix our roads when too many of our roads connecting the counties are continuously bad and impassable every rainy season. In some places now, a one-day journey is taking 4 to 5 days!” Mr. Cummings reiterated.

He said for five years, President Weah and his government have shown that they do not know what they are doing, and that they cannot and will not change.

“We need to believe what President Weah and his government have shown themselves to be because for five years, they have broken good things down, made bad things worse, and continue to increase the suffering of the Liberian people.

“In five years, stealing in the government has gotten worse, our country’s name is no longer respected, no serious international investor wants to come to our country, and all of our neighbors, including some that were behind us in development, have now actually moved way ahead of us.“I am running for President to end this bad chapter and change this sad story. Liberia cannot continue to fall behind because it will only lead us into harder times than we are already in, and harder times without solutions will risk our long-term peace and security. We can, and we must do better for our country, our children and ourselves,” Cummings avowed, noting that at a very early age in Point Four and Fiamah, his mother taught him not to steal other people’s money or to cheat them.

“The lessons she taught me, as I helped her manage her small dokafleh business, have stayed with me throughout my professional life. It was useful to me when I worked in leading, managing and accounting for billions of dollars at Coca-Cola, without a single audit report ever accusing me of impropriety, misconduct or wrongdoing. This is the level of integrity in leadership I am looking to inspire in our government.

“Talking about Coca-Cola, I have heard some of my critics say leading at Coca-Cola is different from leading the Liberian government. They argue that Coca-Cola is more systematic, organized, and that people are better paid. They are right – things are more organized and systematic not just at Coca-Cola, but as any serious business leader will tell you, things are more organized in a well-managed business. But systems do not work themselves – people do. Therefore, from business to government, systems are only as good as people with integrity and responsibility to lead and keep them functional. Without the right leader, ultimately, the best system will break down.

“The other point is that the Liberian Government does not have to be chaotic, disorganized, erratic, incompetent and wasteful. Government officials do not have to be self-serving and corrupt. In business or government, people will follow the example of their leader. A corrupt leader will inevitably create a corrupt business or government.

“The mindset that we have to continue to keep our government disorganized, incompetent and corrupt is outdated and wrong. It is this backward mindset that has led us to where we are today, so that our country is counted amongst the most corrupt and poorest in the world, although God has blessed us with natural wealth. A Cummings Administration will build accountable systems in government, and will lead by the required good examples so that others will follow. We will end the stealing in the government,” Cummings stated emphatically.

Concluding, Mr. Cummings said the Liberian government needs to pay decent living wages and salaries – not just payments to politicians at the top of the government who in many cases are already making more than they deserve, for their level of performance.

“Instead, a Cummings Administration will prioritize paying decent living salaries and wages to janitors, drivers, gardeners, messengers, secretaries, teachers, police and other security officers, as well as doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

“Let no one tell me that we cannot do this – that we cannot pay Liberian civil servants and workers better than is being done today. The truth is that we can pay more. But to pay more, we must first stop the stealing in government, and stop the wasteful spending. We must negotiate the right deals for the country, manage our natural resources with more transparency and accountability, and invest through the national budget, in those things that will help us grow the economy and fight poverty,” he said.

2023 and beyond

Realizing the importance of the 2023 elections which will be critical to Liberia, Cummings said the citizens will not just be voting for a President, Senator or Representative, but they will be choosing the direction of our country for more than the next six years.

“This is because the deeper the hole President Weah and his government dig the country into, the harder and longer it will take to climb our country out of it, after they leave. Right now, the hole is already very deep. Things are already very bad. The work ahead to take our country out of the Weah government hole is already hard enough. We therefore have to stop them, in 2023, from digging any deeper than they already have. Importantly also for our country, 2023 will mark the 20th year since we signed the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement to end our war. After 20 years, we have to now stop making excuses for why things are not working as they should, and change the things we are doing wrong, so that things can start to work better.

“Twenty years later, rather than continuing to repeat the marginalization, corruption, exclusion, disunity and division that caused us to fight each other and destroy our country, we must now come together knowing that really and truly Liberia belongs to all Liberians. We must begin to walk a new road to a better future for our country.

“This is why 2023 is not just another election year for Liberia. It is really a turning point year for our country. The elections in 2023 will define our country for generations to come. Such defining elections cannot just be about the parties we like, the friendships we have, the desires of our tribes, or the aspirations of our religions. The 2023 Election is really about the country we love, a country that desperately needs all of us to rescue it and turn things around for the better.

“Liberia is hurting. Our country is bleeding. As Liberians, it is our duty to rescue Liberia from the failures and broken promises of President Weah and his government. 2023 is the time to rescue our country. 2023 is the time for Real Change. Liberia deserves better. Liberians deserve better,” Mr. Cummings averred.

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