MONROVIA – If there are Liberians who lavishly celebrated President George Manneh Weah’s Annual Message to the nation on Monday, it would be government workers whose salaries fall below US$150. From time immemorial, civil servants had continued to lament low salaries, and concurrently, many a Liberian leader paid deaf ear. But President Weah proves once again to be a listening president, as he made a historic move to do something about the situation. Delivering his State of the Nation Address Monday, January 30, the President decried the humiliatingly low salaries for some government workers, describing it unaccepted. As The Analyst reports, the President declared increment in the wages of some 15000 government workers who, against the spirit and intent of the Decent Work Act, were making far below that amount.
At long last, thousands of civil servants are granted relief from extremely low monthly salaries which were woefully incommensurable with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country.
Though the issue of low government workers’ salaries comes from time immemorial, there are those who were blaming it on President Weah administration, thinking it is all a residue of the harmonization policy of Government.
It seems that wasn’t the case, because as state revenue reported stepped out of bounds, the President saw the need to respond positively in the interest of the affected person.
Making the pronouncement, the President said: “As domestic revenue improves, we remain committed to enhancing the welfare of Government workers. I have been informed that some 15,000 Government workers still make below the minimum wage of $150 US dollars, as mandated by the Decent Work Act. This is completely unacceptable.”
He stressed that no Government worker should make below the minimum wage mandated by public law.
“I have therefore directed that, as part of the 2023 budget, the wages for all such workers be raised at or above the minimum wage. I am informed that the cost to achieving this is estimated at $6 million US dollars annually,” Dr. Weah said to his applause-groggy audience during the delivery of the Annual Message.
He said further that “as we accelerate the discussion for the 2023 National Budget, I urge you to make the securing of this amount of $6 million US dollars for these 15,000 workers one of your highest priorities. I look forward to engaging you further on this.”
Weah: Man of Peace
The President used his Annual Message to sermonize peace and prepare Liberians for a tough year in which elections are expected to be held.
He reaffirmed is readiness to continue to preach, “the virtues of peace, from this high platform, as an extension of my well-known career in peace advocacy, which began long before I ascended to this Office.”
The Head of State noted that his peace nature was recognized many years ago by the international community when he was appointed as a Peace Ambassador of the United Nations during Liberia’s war years.
He said a further manifestation of his passion for peace was when he was invited by my predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to serve in her government as her Peace Ambassador, even while he was in opposition.
He said he is inclined to preach peace, because he realized a long time ago that there is, and can never be, any victor in a civil war.
Dr. Weah spoke passionately spoke to the need for peaceful coexistence and against war.
He said: “When brothers kill sisters, and sisters kill brothers; when parents kill their children and children kill their parents; when friends kill each other; and citizens with a common patrimony turn violently on each other; no one wins. Instead, everyone loses, either directly, or indirectly. There is not one single Liberian family that did not lose a relative or friend to this terrible fratricidal war that was both senseless and brutally uncivil, almost demonic.”
To ensure that we never return to those dark days, President Weah said “we must give peace a chance to create the space in which we can begin the dialogue that will resolve our differences.
“We must hold the conversations to discuss how we can maintain our peace in a sustainable manner, so as to be able to develop our country.”
He continued: “I have observed that it is mostly young people who are the ones that are used to agitate. These young people have had little or no experience of war. We have now enjoyed 20 years of unbroken peace, and it can readily be seen that young people, who are coming of voting age for the first time since turning 18 years old, have had no experience of war. They are quickly and easily manipulated to do harm and instill violence. We need to guide our young people and inspire them to reject violence and conflict as a means to express their grievances and dissatisfactions.”
President Weah recalled that when the rice riots took place in 1979, he was a teenager and first saw violence and destruction on such a massive scale.
“As a young man, I was confused and perplexed,” he said, adding: “That experience left an indelible impression on me about the horrors of civil unrest that can lead to violence, and a lasting distaste for violence that is unleashed for political reasons. The thought occurred to me at the time, that there was no political leader among the hundreds of young people who had been killed during the rice riots.”
He Chief Executive said the moral lesson for all of Liberians who were around during these civil wars and domestic riots, is that “we should never allow our young people to be contaminated by everyday politics. No political leader should ever put the life of a single young person at risk in order to assume political office”.
“It is often said that experience is the best teacher,” he continued: “But I vigorously disagree with this. While experience has certain undeniable merits, one does not have to repeat an experience to learn from it, especially if it is not a positive one. Rather, one should revert to history for one’s education, because, as is often said, those who ignore the lessons that history teaches us about our past mistakes, are bound to repeat them.”
President Weah said “without peace, our world will be difficult. With peace, we can find the collective wisdom and consensus to become the best that we can be as a Nation and as a People.”
Of 2023 National Budget
On the issue of the 2023 National Budget which was already submitted before the Annual Message, President Weah said he had sent the budget of $777.9 million US dollars to the House of Representatives for review, which is consistent with the total resource forecast for the period.
According to him, the estimated domestic revenue is US$667.9, or 85.9% percent, while external resources are projected at $110 million US dollars, or 14.1% percent.
Consistent with his administration’s commitment to support public investment projects, the Chief Executive of the country said, “we have increased capital expenditures in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2023 to $154 million US dollars, up from $143 million US dollars in the last fiscal year.
“Public investment is focused on key infrastructure investments, such as roads and bridges, and the CLSG transmission line. Other programs include the upcoming General and Presidential Elections, election-related security, county tour implementation, the compulsory primary education policy, the At-risk Youth Empowerment Fund , and support to vulnerable small businesses.”