MONROVIA – In what has been described as her reawakened vow not to be a “parked Vice President” in constitutionally discharging her duty and function as well as being a working and useful deputy to her boss, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor rose to the occasion on the eve of Christmas to catalogue some of the major achievements of the President George Manneh Weah-led administration in critical sectors of the economy despite daunting challenges. She also used the occasion to make a strong case for the second term bid of the administration so as to “consolidate on the gains of the first term and deliver more for the betterment of the country”.
Speaking on the live program hosted on the Spoon TV Network during the evening hours of Saturday, December 24, 2022, the first female vice president of Liberia who was in one of her best moments first extended her festive message to all Liberians and residents in the country in this joyous season and urged the citizens to welcome the ensuing 2023 with vigor, renewed hope and the anticipation to work harder in the new year, especially being peaceful and positive in the year that happens to be crucial to the democratization process where a general election is expected to be held to elect a president, vice president and 88 lawmakers.
The first major question of the day was to ascertain both the political and personal relationship existing between her boss, President George Manneh Weah and herself, coming from the background where there were rumors of rift that reportedly existed between both of them on policies and other administrative issues. The Vice President stated that just like in any other relationship where there are some ups and downs, there were also some issues that needed both of them to be on the same page, but such did not negatively impact on the robust relationship both of them have built and sustained over the years.
“The relationship with the President is okay. We are working together. We are making the impact that we should and I am grateful to be the first female vice president of the Republic of Liberia.
“If you look at relationships, there are always ups and downs, but our interest remains or looks similar, that is not about my personal interest or the President’s personal interest, but whatever we can do for Liberia and I think that is the relationship I want to talk about.
“We are strong, we are working, and I am just grateful to have such an opportunity. I have not said this before on the international scene, if I didn’t believe in him, I would have not given up my destiny to support him which I have done.
“So, I believe that together, in spite of all of the things that have happened; and I always say President Weah and I have not argued, never raised his voice at me, has never been abusive to me, there was never a time we had difficulty working together.
“I am his deputy and my job is to assist him and that is what I have been trying to do to the best of my ability”, VP Taylor said in an assuring tone.
Responding to the next question to give a synopsis of the achievements of the administration since 2018 which could be the parameters to determine its electability for the second term, VP Taylor said there has been a lot going on in almost all the sectors of the economy that has not been happening for a long time, insisting that these deliverables are enough evidence why she was making a case for a second term for the administration so as to enrich the development space in the country.
She spoke glowingly of the progress that has been made in the health sector, focusing on the construction of new hospitals and other facilities throughout the country as well as the massive investment in training and the employment of more medical professionals with enhanced pay packages.
“The health care system is much better than it has been in the past; there are many beautiful hospitals that have been built, adding training facilities in areas that never had those facilities.
“We brought on board many doctors and nurses. We sent a lot of them across the African spectrum for specialization. I think at the end of this year or beginning of next year, a lot of them will begin to come back.
“We will have more than 20 specialized doctors that we will send to our new hospitals. We have built more hospitals in recent time”, she said.
VP Taylor mentioned the construction of the new Emirate Hospital in Bopolu City, Gbarpolu, which she described as “modern and state-of-the-art”, which she expects to be dedicated by President Weah early next year. She also spoke of the construction of hospitals in other parts of the country, saying it was in line with the government’s program to bridge the gap and address the imbalances of healthcare delivery in the country.
On education, VP Taylor lauded the government for the giant strides made to improve the sector by encouraging enrollment of students and removing some of the burden of the parents and students with respect to paying the WASSCE fees across the board for 12 graders, be it in public or private institutions; as well as the reduction of registration fees to the barest minimum for other strata of the grade school system, making them affordable for parents and students throughout public schools.
She said there has been other unprecedented investments in the sector through the provision of learning materials, equipment, among others in seven counties; noting about a planned donor meeting to source a whopping $1bn to be ploughed in education early next year, which is being spearheaded by the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
“The government has been investing a lot in the education sector because this is a major priority to develop the human capital of the country, especially the young people. We are taking up the burden and with time the story will completely change. Right now, in seven counties, as I went around the country, I have seen that schools are being provided the necessary support that they need to enhance the learning process and they are happy.
“There is a serious intentional decision of the government and our development partners remain supportive to this process. Next year we are looking at holding a program where we, along with our partners, will be launching a billion-dollar project to support education”, she said.
Considering infrastructure, especially road construction, Madam Howard Taylor said the government has matched its words with action by making road construction and connectivity as a signature sector, naming some ongoing roads in the country such as the Robertsport-Medina Highway, which is expected to boost economic activities and tourism around that corridor; the Ganta-Zwedru Highway as well as the Lofa road which just got additional funding from the Qatari government.
She did admit that there have been some challenges, mentioning the ELWA-RIA Highway which has come under serious criticism, but promised that the issues around it have been discussed for possible and quick solutions so that the project will be given the expeditious attention it was expected to have.
VP Taylor also highlighted the government’s achievements in agriculture and its resolve to attain food security for the population but said the challenges remain with processing the products into new ones to ensure value addition. She said the sector is one of those being highly supported by donor institutions with equipment and other machinery to boost production, especially rice production, and the acquisition of milling machines to process them will be key to enhancing the contribution of agriculture to the national economy.
The former Bong County Senior senator while responding to a question of the rationale of building more hospitals and other health facilities when the main hospital, the JFK Memorial Hospital, was struggling, said while it is true that there could be some challenges with JFK, and that the state-run largest hospital needs to be supported to reach its full potential, yet it is the intentional decision of the government to decentralize development of infrastructure to cater to the growing demand of services throughout the country, because JFK alone cannot serve the purpose.
“Building new hospitals and providing infrastructure throughout the country is an intentional development initiative of the government in line with its decentralization policy because we cannot continue to concentrate everything in Monrovia alone and abandon the other parts of the country.
“If you travel to other countries, local areas have their own hospitals, schools and other infrastructure to cater to the needs of the people.
“JFK as we know may have some challenges but it is almost autonomous, has its own board and system to work with. The last time I was there, I saw that there were so many things added to improve its service. I saw a new trauma and emergency ward and other facilities.
“If you go to the Jackson F. Doe Hospital, you will see that they are doing quite well. They have all the various departments besides the orthopedic department. That hospital is catering to a lot of people outside Montserrado County; people nearby like Cote d’Ivoire go there to receive medications. I hope to go there next year when I am doing my next physical,” VP Taylor stated emphatically.
Madam Taylor who is expected to pair with President Weah during the 2023 general election on the ticket of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) said that it was wrong for people to say that they are now seeing a rejuvenated Vice President in terms of being visible in the governance process than in the past. She disclosed that she has been working with the president to execute the mandate freely given to them by the Liberian people.
“When the census business was under serious challenge to the extent of people losing hope on having the exercise, we came in and convened a meeting with all the stakeholders, including the development partners, LISGIS, and everybody. The President was in the country then. We were able to ask everyone involved what were the issues at stake and where the gap was in terms of what was put in and what is lacking.
“At the end of the day, we were able to identify some of the pressing challenges and additional intervention was made to keep the process moving. We may not do 100% but we are sure of doing up to 90% or more, and from what we have been told, we should be able to have a progress report on Tuesday, December 27, 2022 which should be the end of the exercise. We will be able to give a preliminary figure on that day. The President will have to make that report to the National Legislature for its legislative action”, she said.
She said Liberians should not only look at the census to be related to the electoral process but a necessary tool that will inform the government on how it can pursue its development projects. She said the census will also be able to address some of the gaps in terms of information about the socio-economic status of the country because the lack of this information has led the country to be wrongly characterized.
She defended President Weah’s response to the statements made by the opposition community where they critiqued the president in the wake of his long stay out of the country for which they had asserted that it was a wasteful journey and distraction.
“I will not want to add flame to the issue but I believe the President was responding to the way his trip abroad was misconstrued and dismissed by the opposition, some saying it was a wasteful journey, others saying he had abandoned the country and that nothing would have come out of the whole trip.
“So, I think the President’s response has to do with what the people were saying that nothing would have come out of the trip; and some even were saying nothing has happened since he became President. If they are saying nothing has been happening, then how come we have a new and working hydro project? Why are there new hospitals being built? Why are there new roads, etc?
“But I am happy he came back with good news; so their argument can’t be taken seriously and I think it was from the angle the President was speaking”, she said.
Madam Howard Taylor asserted that the government was not bothered about what she called the negative propaganda being mounted against it from the opposition community because it is the occupation of every opposition to render the incumbent irrelevant in the eyes of the people in order to secure victory at the polls.
“For us as a government it is our duty to continue working for the people and do less talking. That is the mandate we have from the people. As for the opposition, it is their occupation to continue to work to make the government unpopular with all the negative propaganda. We are not going to be bothered by what they say or do”, she said.
During the interview, photos of most of the infrastructural projects being executed by the government under the leadership of President Weah were displayed on the screen which included the ultra-modern Emirate Hospital in Bopolu City, Gbarpolu County, the Robertsport-Medina Highway, among others.