2 January 2018

Liberia: President-Elect Weah's Colossal Challenges

editorial

The word colossal simply means enormous, huge, massive.

This, we believe, is the description of the challenges facing our President-elect when he takes office later this month. We think that amidst all the euphoria (jubilation, joy) that followed his election, it is necessary now to sit and reflect on some of the major challenges which not he only, but all of us Liberians must deal with in the coming days, months and years.

Mr. Weah has been seeking this office--the nation's highest--since 2005. Now that he has attained it, we, the media, especially the Daily Observer, are indeed obligated to help acquaint him with some of the major and very serious issues at stake in the country today.

The first is Education, which during a Thinkers Village Cabinet retreat nearly four years ago, the incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said sorrowfully was "in a mess."

Alas, in the years following that dismal pronouncement, the system has not been fixed, and is in an even worse shape than then. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of our children are not in school. Most parents have no money to finance their children's education. There is also the lack of transportation to get the children to and from school. Most of our elementary and high schools have no science laboratory or library, hence the massive failure our students encounter following each West African Examination exercise. Nor do we have yet a national library, when we should have libraries spread over each county.

It is understood that Mr. Weah has promised free education for our students, but this has to be explained and after that, implemented. Will the government, which he is inheriting broke, be able to find the money to provide free education?

There is, then, the problem of teachers which are direly lacking in the public schools. We will need a crash program to fix that problem.

The second problem is health. Election results show that Mr. Weah swept the entire southeast, where pregnant women have to walk for miles seeking medical attention. But the entire country is direly in need of clinics, health centers and hospitals to treat our sick. There is also the sanitation crisis, especially in Greater Monrovia, the capital, but also in many places around the country. They say "Prevention is better than cure." But prevention is distant when sanitation is neglected. See how Ebola swept the country, especially Monrovia, so quickly due to vastly poor sanitation.

Next is the economy, which is in shambles. Even the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) concede that Liberia is in an economic crisis. Ellen is leaving the country broke, plus in approximately a US$ 1 billion debt. Government is seriously indebted even to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), whose reserves, we understand, are now low.

There is a serious liquidity (cash) crisis, thanks to the government's economic mismanagement, coupled with the fall in the world prices of our primary commodities (iron ore, rubber, etc. The government staff is bloated (over filled). Will President Weah be able to fix that, with all his supporters depending on him for jobs? This, too, is a very serious challenge.

Many government officials in all branches of government are used to a lot of travel. What will President Weah do about this big money spender--official travel?

Because many GOL agencies have resisted comprehensive computerization, there are still many ghosts on government payroll. Will President Weah have the political will and determination to deal with that?

Agriculture is the bedrock of the economy, but it has never been fully supported by the outgoing government. The government will need to promote seriously local rice and vegetable production, cocoa, oil palm, meat, including the encouragement of cattle, pig and poultry farms to make Liberia self-sufficient in meat.

We call on President Weah to cancel out Executive Order #84, by which President Sirleaf surrendered Liberia's fish production to foreigners, dramatically raising the cost of fish, the rapid depletion of our fish stocks and depriving our children of protein.

The Information, Culture and Tourism Ministry will need serious attention because it can be a money maker, especially in culture and most especially, tourism. If President Weah can deal effectively with national infrastructure, especially all-weather roads and bridges, investors and tourists in the hundreds of thousands can be attracted to Bong, Grand Cape Mount, River Cess and Maryland counties, where tourism potential abound. Tourism is a money maker and a JOB CREATOR--tens of thousands of jobs! Meanwhile, how long will it take President Weah to restore the Ducor Intercontinental Hotel and the Executive Mansion that President Sirleaf could not do in 12 years?

This word on tourism leads us to one primary subject, CORRUPTION, which President Weah MUST tackle, if he is to succeed at anything. Liberian tourism did not take off after the erection of the Ducor in 1964, during the Tubman administration, because of corruption. President Weah must do everything possible to prevent his officials from seeking kickbacks, which have DRIVEN, and will continue to DRIVE tourism investors away.

These are but few of the urgent challenges facing the Weah administration. We hope and pray that he will take heed. We at the Daily Observer are here to help.

Liberia

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