5 February 2013

Liberia: Liberty Party Criticizes Ellen's Message

The opposition Liberty Party(LP) has criticized President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's Annual Message saying most of the President's speech was spent on a litany of accomplishments. The LP said in as much as the President highlighted many noteworthy accomplishments, the speech was equally noteworthy for disappointments in crystallizing and articulating the broader national vision.

Liberty Party National Chairman, Cllr. FonatiKoffa giving the party's response to the President's Annual Message said,"While the President spoke under the theme and banner 'Agenda for Transformation'," the Liberty Party will deliver its response to her under the theme and banner "Option for the Poor," because our constituency is damned, disrespected, inherited and despised.

He said after ten years of continuous peace his constituency has yet to cash in the peace dividend in the form of jobs, education, healthcare and housing, saying "they are restless and seek relief."

The Liberty Party Chairman said for those at the bottom of the ladder, the rural poor and unemployed urban youths, there was much to be desired in the President's speech as poverty level remains alarmingly high. "At 7 percent annual reduction, it will take 27 to 30 years to bring poverty level below ten percent. And that does not take into consideration social inequity or distribution of wealth. How to accelerate poverty reduction should be key to an agenda on transformation," Cllr. Koffa said.

The Liberty Party Chairman further said the tax regime remains regressive and unaddressed while taxes that impact the poor disproportionally(trade, goods and services) totaled US$219million.

Speaking further the Liberty Party Chair said "Inflation, an unofficial tax on the poor, is 7 percent which means, the real net growth in Gross Domestic Product(GDP) is only 1.7 percent(GDP per capital minus inflation.

He said while this is a largely inherited phenomena, no measure is being considered to reform the tax code with the goal of leaving more discretionary income in the hands of the poor, saying " the poor will continue to rely on donor handouts to meet their survival needs with no end in sight."

Cllr. Koffa said, "We will seriously discourage the President from considering a price control regime except in areas of national staples; price control does not work but only creates shortage, scarcities and black market."

Touching on the agricultural sector, the LP Chairman said the effort in agriculture appears back to the future and reads like President Tubman's "Operation Production", which states if they want to grow more, give them seed, train them to grow, give them farm to market road among others, saying "it did not work before and it will not work now.

The Liberty Party Chair instead said, "We need to rethink how to link local producers to the production and marketing system of the large plantation throughout grower program. We need to shut down LPMC and replace it with a quality inspectorate under the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Commerce. Open the produce export market and the local market to competitive buying."

He said government should accelerate the development of the value chain for crops where there is a comparative advantage in order to get more money into the farmers' hands through open and competitive farm gate buying prices.

On the Educational Sector, Cllr. Koffa said, "The president lamented our current education system. But where is the road map? Where are the new ideas? We need to create a professional standard and licensing regime and give more incentives to teachers and students to achieve."

On the health sector, the Liberty Party Chair called on government to build more technologically advanced health delivery system at the J.F.K Medical Center and just commission Medical center in Tappita, backed by a robust system of mobile health centers in the rural areas and community health centers in urban areas.

"Our people must be taught the proper method and techniques of good hygiene. Those practices that prevent one from getting sick and imposing additional burden on the system must be taught in schools and in the communities," he said.

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