The Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) has reacted to the State of the Nation Address by President George Manneh Weah, saying that the annual message to the 54th Legislature was flaunted with a package of lies, deceit and that it is a speech of no substance. The Commander in Chief of the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL), Emmanuel Gonqueh says the EFF has followed with keen interest, the 2019 annual message of the President and took key notes of what supposed to be a report on major achievements, innovative economic policy prescriptions and policy interventions in the country’s economy.
“But as expected, sadly so too, it turned out that the 2019 [address of the President] was a package of lies, deceit and a marathon speech of no substance with the president at one point even unrealistically saying the country’s economy has been stabilized but yet at another point saying the economy is struggling,” the EFF boss has said.
The he pointed out that the state of the nation Address was a conspicuous contradiction believed to be a calculated ploy bundled up in falsehood to deceive the unsuspecting citizens of a president who has shown beyond all reasonable doubt that he cares less about his people but seeks only his interest at the expense of the very people who elected him.
President Weah in fulfillment of his constitutional mandate to address the joint session of the National Legislature on the State of the Nation addressed on Monday, January 29, 2019.
Being an organization with the sole objective of ensuring the economic emancipation and socioeconomic wellbeing of the Liberian people, the EFFL group said it followed with keen interest, the 2019 SONA and took key note of what supposed to be a report on major achievements, innovative economic policy prescriptions and policy interventions in the country’s economy.
“To undress and make plain some of the deceits, lies and no-substance nature that the speech was shredded in, for the clear understanding of all Liberians,” the EFFL’s Commander In Chief Gongueh said his group will respond to the speech in order of education, health, infrastructure, trade deficits; monetary system versus financial System, corruption, agriculture, and international Pressure
Giving the educational analysis of the Speech, Mr. Gonqueh said a substantial portion of annual address of the President focused on highlighting what the President thought were achievements in the educational sector of the country which in reality were total sham and is a shame.
He point out that it is a shame for the President to have recited such things as the provision of chairs to some select public schools as one of the achievements in the all-important educational sector of the country, even though, just few days ago it was reported that government-run schools in Grand Kru and Grand Cape Mount Counties respectively protested in demand for the provision of chairs.
“For a national government to make available few pieces of chairs and the President catalogs same as part of its achieved deliverables for a whole year could go for him being voted the ‘Comedian of the Year’, as what his pronouncement of the provision of chairs to schools is only good to go as the ‘Joke of the Year”.
Regarding the President nationwide visit to schools across the country as an achievement, the EFF boss noted that in reality, such an exercise is gives no direct divided to the visited schools their respective administrators and the students, but a one purposefully intent to enable some top officials in the various ministries and agencies accompanying the president on such pleasure trips to put some of the Liberian people’s money in their pockets.
“Yet, the EFF Commander In Chief Gonqueh said the President claims that all of these frivolous political charades are in his words: “new measures and mechanisms for transforming and sustaining an educational system that is adequate to ensure that the constitutional obligation of the Government is met,” which he noted is sad.
On the waiver of tuition for all public universities as another achievement, the EFF boss noted that following a critical, the reality proves to the contrary, several public higher institutions of learning are finding it difficult if not impossible to operate due to the lack of budgetary support from the very government that has so loudly announced tuition-free for the acquisition of tertiary education.
The EFF named the Harbel College is an example, while the country’s highest medical institution, the A.M. Dolgloitie College of Medicine and Health Sciences is feeling the brunt of this bad policy pronouncement, with its doors now being reportedly shut down for the lack of the needed funding to keep it functional.
Admittedly, EFF holds that the few steps government took at improving the country’s educational system failed because of the lack of coordination from key sectors. “The Weah-led government’s strategy on education reform felt short of standard policy documents and can fairly be considered as a mere political project with the sole objective to manage public perception that the Government is working, adding, “but from a realistic standpoint, the government is doing nothing, as far as reform is concerned in Liberia’s educational system.”
Critiquing the health component of the SONA, EFF holds that in 2017 Liberia’s health sector began to grow with donor partners developing a post Ebola recovery plan for our health sector and as well as providing medical equipment and drugs to health facilities here.
“Disappointingly, under the leadership of President Weah and this government, the health sector experienced its worst decline since the Ebola crisis with so many health facilities being forced to shut down either because of the shortage of medication, fuel or manpower.”
The group said yet, the President chose not to say a word about these life-threating lapses on the part of his government, but he had the audacity to tell Liberians that during the reporting period, that government have sent several medical practitioners away for advanced training.
He added, “But what is more mindboggling is that to what good are trained men and women in the medical field, when the government cannot do the first things required of it like making budgetary allocations to health facilities so that they operate smoothly and don’t be forced to close down for the lack of basic things such as medical drugs, staff remunerations and fuel, etc., etc.”
Considering the infrastructural sector of the SONA, the EFF said the President limited the infrastructure development to roads, mostly in Monrovia and its environs, as if Monrovia alone is Liberia when the nation is battered by a civil war that left it in tatters for over a decade.
“In as much as road construction is good for the country, roads in themselves do not lead to development. Transport economics tells us that roads are necessary but not sufficient conditions for economic development evidenced by the economic woes being experienced under this regime,” Mr. Gonqueh said.
He said worst of all, the government’s road projects are politically motivated, and it’s intended to help save the image of a government that is increasingly becoming unpopular in no time – even if the failed and dubious ETON and EBOMAF loans, which were being noisily trumpeted by officials of the government as being secured to build roads had succeeded, they were intended for the southeast where the President and most of his top officials in government hail from.
“This was going to be a glaring political move with no economic justification – and we must state here without stupor that having started off on such deceitful footing, this government is well on the course of going down in history as the worst ever in the history of Liberia,” Gonqueh said. EFFL Contended economically that roads should be directed to economic corridors and economic clusters with growth potentials, saying, “In our view, and rightly so too, because it’s an internationally accepted practice, and what this does is that it would help spur and facilitate economic growth.”
On targeting 517 km of paved primary roads in the next couple of years without as stated by the President in the annual address. EFF said the government has expressly intimated this cause without providing any justifiable means and ways through which that would be achieved.
“Looking at the critical nature of infrastructure to the development of any economy, the President needs to be focused, serious and strategic in addressing the infrastructure deficit the country is faced with,” Mr. Gonqueh added.
Speaking about trade deficits, the EFFL boss states that President Weah clearly demonstrated his ignorance when he reported on the country’s trade deficit.
“The President unrealistically to the nation that “Liberia’s trade deficit stood at $561.8 million United States dollars for the period January to November 2018,” he added.
“Although this represents a 17.1 percent improvement, as compared to $677.3 million for the same period in 2017, it is important to note that the weak performance of the real economy has for so long been characterized by low export earnings as compared to payments for imports”. The EFFL therefore wants to make it categorically clear that for the President to have reported the reduction in the trade deficit as an achievement or improvement in the current economic climate in the country is unfortunate and an embellishment of the truth.
Another area of deceit in the President’s State of the Nation Address, Gonqueh said, was when he shamelessly reported on the monetary and financial systems of the country and how it is faring.
“Clearly, he noted, the President and possibly some members of his economic team do not know the difference between the monetary system and the financial system of the country or they just dishonestly connived to deceive the Liberian people, and the latter, in my mind is the case here,” he maintained.
He said in continuation of his lies and deceits, the President stated, “as a short-term quick-fix, the Government approved $25 million United States dollars to enable the Central Bank to intervene in the foreign exchange market. As of December 2018, a total of $17 million United States dollars was used for the intervention, which was significantly contributed to the general stability in the exchange rate for the past six months (July to December 2018). The balance $8 million United States dollars is reserved by the CBL as a precautionary intervention fund.”
The EFFL noted that the reality is that the USD25 million was never infused into the economy and while the President was reciting his SONA, the exchange rate stood at LD161 to USD1, and has even risen further to 168 LD to a single US dollar, as we speak.
“We defy the president to give us a realistic and comprehensive list of names of financial institutions and/or individuals with whom the government sincerely transacted to have carried out this mopping up exercise of excess liquidity of the Liberian dollar for which the President reported in his SONA that $17 million United States dollars was infused in the economy,” Gonqueh said
The group noted that the speech of the President did not have the moral rectitude nether has he been able to muster the political will to tackle corruption, a national menace that has so early begun to rear its ugly head in his administration, adding that the President said absolutely nothing about corruption, yet he and scores of his officials stand accused of being corrupt, as the signs are clearly written on the wall, with the early acquisition and construction of properties by the President and his cronies in government.
“To demonstrate that the Government of Liberia is not interested in the fight against corruption, the President blatantly refused to mention the negative impact of corruption on our fragile state because he and many of his officials are direct punishment for Liberians. Under one year, the President and his government have and continue to disregard our Constitution and other legal instruments for the purpose of short circuiting the system to loot our country,” he said. On the agriculture segment of the SONA, the EFF boss said the agriculture sector received the usual lip service from the President with no clear mention of how the government will actually revamp and revitalize the sector.
“It is now agreed among experts and practitioners that the agriculture sector has the greatest potential for economic development, employment opportunities and food security. To have given this sector the usual lip service without any substantial policy interventions announced is unfortunate,” he said.
He noted that globally, the agriculture sector accounts for 70% of new jobs, saying that under this sector in one year, the Government of Liberia performed poorly.
“The Government failed to announce a single agriculture company that expressed interest in Liberia’s lucrative rain forest, which plays host to about 65% of the total rain forest within the MRU basin. However, during the year under review, due to the lackadaisical approach to the country’s governance process by President Weah and his group of unprepared officials of government, investors couldn’t find the conditions for investment particularly in the agro sector and generally in Liberia,” noted government.
The Weah-led government, Gonqueh said, can keep indulging in all the early missteps and close its ears to all the good pieces of advice the EFFL and other well-meaning Liberians continue to give, while they continue to lie to the Liberian people for all they want. “But one thing that is certain, is that we will not rest in keeping their feet to the fire, even at the peril of pour lives,” he said.
“Just in one year of the CDC-led government rule, the International Justice Group (ICG) is currently documenting the situation concerning the misappropriated US$25 million and the missing 16 billion Liberian dollars, as well as circumstances surrounding certain elements with fake foreign security credentials within our country’s security management system that are using state resources to organize gangs to attack defenseless citizens, he averred.
Besides, he noted that the IJG investigators are documenting and recording human rights violations allegedly committed by the Liberia National Police using force with batons on the restricted body parts of individuals accused of throwing rocks at Honorable Yekeh Kolubah’s organized children’s party last month.
“Based on EFFL and collaborating organizations’ demand for accountability in the governance process of Liberia, the US Embassy near Monrovia and other development partners agreed to aid Liberia with the investigation concerning the misappropriated US$25 and the disappearance of L$16 billon saga which report is expected at the end of this month according to the president.”
The EFF boss aid his group is informing the public that investigators of the IJG are still here, along with other international investigators, and they are profiling those with western citizenship and resident cards but are working in this government and are committing economic crime against the already impoverished people of Liberia, he said at a press conference held in his Airfield residence.