(Wednesday, February 6, 2019)
SONA 2019: A Package of Lies, Deceit and a Speech of No Substance
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians. In fulfillment of his constitutional mandate to address the joint session of the Legislature on the state of the nation, President George M. Weah, on Monday, January 29, 2019 delivered the State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Being an organization with the sole objective of ensuring the economic emancipation and socioeconomic wellbeing of the Liberian people, the Economic Freedom Fighters of Liberia (EFFL) 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.
But as expected, sadly so too, it turned out that the 2019 SONA 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 – wow! What a conspicuous contradiction, but a one we believe is 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.
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, especially the ones who are now being oppressed today by people who cried and carried caskets in the streets and complained of being oppressed yesterday, the EFFL will respond to the speech as per the following:
- Trade Deficits
- Monetary System vs Financial System
- International Pressure
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians; a substantial portion of the State of the Nation Address was focused on highlighting what the President thought were achievements in the educational sector of the country. However, in reality, it was a total sham; something we believe is a shame, for the President to have recited things that could only qualify as achievements for a High School Student government. For instance; the President mentioned 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’.
Similarly, the President counted as another achievement, his nationwide visit to schools across the country. But in reality, ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians, what such an exercise in itself does, is that it gives no direct divided to the visited schools, their respective administrators and the students, but a one purposefully intended 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 money in their pockets, in the form of DSAs and stipends. Yet, 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”. This is sad!
The President also mentioned the waiver of tuition for all public universities as another achievement, but following a critical analysis by the EFFL, the reality proves the contrary, as since the president made his policy pronouncement, 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 – ironically, and sadly so too, 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 for the lack of the needed funding to keep it functional.
Admittedly though, during the year under review, the Government of Liberia took few steps aimed at improving the country’s educational system. But sadly, those policy attempts 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 of managing public perception that the Government is working but from a realistic standpoint, the government is doing nothing, as far as reform is concerned in Liberia’s educational system.
However, we would have thought that considering the critical importance of the educational sector to the economic development and advancement of the country, the President would have rather told the Liberian people about innovative and well thought through policy interventions intended to revamp the sector to be able to provide the labour force needed for economic growth and development. What a sad day in our country, for without the proper handling of the nation’s educational system, we as a people are doomed, and left to the mercy of few rookies in politics who rose to state power on the popularity of a footballer who is only good at using his legs to score success.
In 2014, the Ebola virus exposed the weaknesses of our health sector including lack of capacity for health workers, lack of ambulances and well equipped health facilities across the country. However, in 2017 our 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. 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, government sent several medical practitioners away for advanced training – 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.
It’s so sad how national leaders play deceit and so much so that they even dare play politics or should I say politick with the lives of the people, as they pay lip service to the health sector.
Members of the press, fellow Liberians, in his speech, the President limited the infrastructure development of a nation battered by a civil war that left it in tatters for over a decade, to roads renovation/rehabilitation, specifically the rehabilitation of feeder roads, mostly in Monrovia and its environs, as if Monrovia alone is Liberia.
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. 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.
What the EFFL wants to let the President know is that economically, roads should be directed to economic corridors and economic clusters with growth potentials. 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.
Furthermore, the President mentioned that they have targeted 517 km of paved primary roads in the next couple of years without expressly 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. Roads cannot and must not be the only focus of this government in the nation’ quest to achieving its infrastructural development agenda from one of the most infrastructural archaic, though it is Africa’s oldest republic.
In this area, ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians, 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. 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 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. What the truth of the matter really is, is that the reduction is due specifically to significant reduction in economic activities in the country; meaning both imports and exports have reduced, and this is the reason for the reduction in the deficit. To say it plainly, the President lied or he was grossly misled about something he knows absolutely nothing about, simple!
Monetary System Vs Financial System
Fellow Liberians, another area of deceit in the President’s State of the Nation Address was when he shamelessly reported on the monetary and financial systems of the country and how it is faring. Clearly, 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.
In continuation of his lies and deceits, the President stated and I quote: “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.”
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians, 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. In the first place, ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians, as the terribly deceitful and the miserable liars the President and his officials in the Executive Branch are, they initially told a boldface lie that the mopping up exercise was done with commercial banks, but only to later shamelessly retract such falsehood after several banks in the country distanced themselves from such black lie – they then told another lie, when the commander-in-chief for telling lies, in Finance and development Planning Samuel D. Tweah said monies were disbursed to “money changes”, without stating who such “money changers” are to date – how then can the Liberian people be sure that what the President reported in his State of the Nation Address about their money is even true, when this very government has in the past told naked lies about the same money.
It was clear from the speech that the President does 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. So what did the President do? He 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. The President suspiciously failed to mention anything about corruption or the “looting” and gang-raping of the state coffers that is currently having an adverse effect on the country’s economy. Considering the damaging impact of corruption on the national economy and the appalling living standard of most Liberians, it was truly an imperative for the President to have at least mentioned how did his government fare in the war against corruption in its first year in power, and what plans are being formulated to sustain such fight against this menace called corruption, but he failed miserably to do so. It seems to the EFFL, that Mr. President found it so difficult to talk about corruption in his State of the Nation Address, because he too is uncomfortably wrapped in the corruption blanket, where he has not stood up to bulk of his officials to declare their assets, after he himself had to unlawfully delay to do so but had to bow to public pressure to have reluctantly done so, even in secret, with no member of the public having access to his reportedly declared assets to date.
Fellow Liberians, 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.
Fellow Liberians, during the 2019 SONA, 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. Globally the agriculture sector accounts for 70% of new jobs and 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. Hence, the president’s promise to create more jobs remains elusive, except where he continues to unreasonably cram partisans of the CDC and his supporters in public offices and make way for a blotted government.
Ladies and gentlemen of the press, fellow Liberians, the Weah-led government 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.
We are pleased to announce here today that we are constructively engaged with the international community aimed at making this government that has proven so far to be undemocratic, to know that national leadership is a place to serve your people for the betterment of their lives and not an opportunity to steal and enrich yourself overnight.
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.
As we speak, 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. We also want to inform 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. Knowing that economic crime amounts to war crime, we have requested our partners on Capitol Hill, U.S A to progressively monitor situations of financial indiscipline in the public sector, and we can safely say that they are very busy in the U.S on Capitol Hill discussing too many important issues about growing insecurity in Liberia, as a result of broad daylight thievery at the hands of those entrusted with state power to promote the economic advancement of the Liberian people.
ISSUED BY THE ECONOMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS OF LIBERIA:
Contact: Ernest K. Moibah Jr (Deputy Secretary for Press, Publicity & Outreach): 0778464711
Contact: Emmanuel Gonquoi (Commander-In-Chief): 0776771111
Motto: “Owning Liberia Together”