Liberia: Weah's Gains Under Spotlight

Photo: George Weah
President George Weah.
22 January 2019

Today makes it exactly one year since President Dr. George Manneh Weah assumed the mantle of authority of Liberia.

On January 22, 2018, President Weah was sworn in as Liberia's 24th president, a ceremony that was witnessed by thousands of Liberians who stormed the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, near Monrovia, to be part of what they described as history making.

Hundreds of foreign guests including about 11 heads of state also formed part of the inauguration ceremony which was the first time in 73 years that the country witnessed a peaceful transition from one elected president to another.

Liberians, who jammed park the Sports Complex, could not hide their joy to have been part of such a historic occasion.

One year into the president's administration, The NEWS has decided to highlight major gains/achievements during the period.

Since the ascendency of Dr. Weah to the helm of leadership of Liberia exactly one year today, his government has undertaken activities that have direct impact on the lives of the people.

Though Dr. Weah took over the leadership of Liberia under a difficult period, especially as it relates to the economy, he has been able to steadily steer the affairs of the country.

There were many doubts that the president could not lead Liberia considering his 'limited' knowledge in governance.

But the president during the period under review demonstrated that he has the capability and tenacity to lead post-conflict Liberia.

Immediately following his historic inauguration, the president kicked the ball rolling by announcing 25 percent reduction in his salary, pointing to the downward trend of the economy.

This decision was applauded by the people.

The president also announced that no official in the Executive Branch of Government will make more than US$8,000.

He also effected cuts in the salaries of his officials as part of efforts to cut waste and reinvest in other areas.

Dr. Weah, for the first time in the history of Liberia, announced and paid the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) fees for all 12th graders across the country.

When he first made this pronouncement during the presidential and representative elections, critics thought it was just another campaign promise that will not be fulfilled.

Critics claimed that government does not have money to do so.

But the president was able to get the funding to underwrite the WAEC fees for the more than 30,000 12th graders.

He has also announced that government will pay WAEC fees for 12th graders again for the next six years.

As part of efforts to improve services for the Armed Forces of Liberia, the president on February 12, 2018, during the official celebration of the Armed Forces Day, announced that his government will construct a military hospital exclusively for members of the AFL and other security apparatus.

Six weeks later, the president broke grounds for the construction of the hospital, named after his number 14 jersey he wore during his active football days.

The construction of the hospital is now in progress with phase one expected to be completed in the latter part of 2019.

President Weah during the period under review also took some critical steps to address the country's economy that was in shamble.

Few months into his presidency, the exchange rate began to increase almost on a daily basis which also had serious effect on the prices of goods, thereby negatively impacting the lives of the people.

To mitigate this situation, the president announced the infusion of US$25 million into the economy as an austerity measure to help address the exchange rate. As a result of this, the exchange rate to date has been relatively stable, unlike prior to the infusion of the US$25M. The president also announced reduction in tariffs of more than 2,000 goods.

Since this pronouncement and its implementation, prices of the affected goods have been reduced or dropped on the market.

The president also announced the rehabilitation and pavement of several community roads in Montserrado and Grand Bassa Counties.

Again, people thought this was just another bluff, but since this pronouncement, the Ministry of Public Works immediately began the rehabilitation and pavement of more than 20 community roads in Montserrado and Grand Bassa Counties, thus easing traffic congestion in those areas.

Prior to this pronouncement, the President broke ground for the pavement of the Doe Community Road through Clara Town. This project, which is said to be dear to the president's heart, has been completed and dedicated. The president during the period under review also made a major policy pronouncement that positively impacted the student community.

As Visitor to the University of Liberia, the president announced tuition free for students at the university and all public universities and colleges. This pronouncement was greeted with joy among students of the state-run university. It is worth noting that Dr. Weah is the first president of Liberia to make such policy pronouncement in the country's history.

Though Liberia's economy is still struggling, but the president has been able to steer the affairs of the country without any major contestation. He has kept the country peaceful and stable.

The president has allowed people to protest against his government and even guarded protesters in the process, something that was rarely seen under other governments.

Dr. Weah during the year in review has been able to attract donors' support to his government.

The President and his government have been able to attract financial support from the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), the United States Government through USAID, French Government, Government of Germany, European Union, and others to support his pro-poor agenda, with the recent being the US$112 million grant from the United States Government.

The Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Commerce and Industry headed by Prof. Wilson K. Tarpeh hit the ground running by meeting with rice importers to reduce the price of rice on the market.

Following their discussions, rice importers agreed to reduce the price of rice by US$2 (25kg) and US$4 (50kg) respectively.

Thereafter, Prof. Tarpeh and team embarked on an exercise geared toward ensuring that goods sold in the Liberian commerce are of acceptable standards.

In this direction, the minister led by his Inspectorate Division began vigorous inspection exercise of business entities particularly in and around Monrovia to ensure that they are in compliance with government's mandate relative to selling goods of quality.

During the inspection exercise, several business entities were caught selling expired goods.

Minister Tarpeh and his team did not hesitate to punish those entities.

The ministry in collaboration with other government agencies disposed of those expired goods and fined the entities for engaging in such act and warned that licenses of entities that will engage in the sale of expired goods would be revoked.

Since then, business entities are now reporting expired goods to the Ministry of Commerce for disposal, something that was never done in the past.

Prior to these inspection exercises, Minister Tarpeh and his team fined Fouani Corporation US$25,000 for hiking the price of eggs on the market.

When the fine was announced, people thought it was business as usual, claiming that the entity will not pay.

But Prof. Tarpeh and his team ensured that the fine was paid into government's coffer, with a warning that such act by the entity should not be repeated.

Another achievement of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry is the reduction in the time for one to acquire Import Permit Declaration/Export Permit Declaration.

Unlike in the past where it was difficult to acquire IPD/EPD, the Minister and his team have reduced it to about 24 hours and in some instances far less than that.

And this time around, once an entity/individual IDP/EPD is ready, the ministry will inform you through email or text, something entrepreneurs say were never the case.

During the year, Prof. Tarpeh worked with the president to ensure that tariffs on over 2,000 goods were reduced thereby leading to the reduction in the targeted goods to some extent.

Minister Tarpeh's administration also collaborated with the Swedish National Board of Trade (NBT) and the World Bank Group (WBG) to launch the LIB Business Hub/service sector website, which will provide an e-government solution to the business community and the general public during the year in review.

The hub is intended to make it easier for people to do business in the country.

Prof. Tarpeh, among other things, has compelled business entities to place price tags on their goods both in Liberian and United States dollars.

This, the Minister said, is for the buyer to have an option as to which currency he or she wants to use, unlike in the past where he or she was forced to use a particular currency.

Prof. Tarpeh's administration has also created easy access for Liberian entrepreneurs to have discussions with officials at the ministry whenever the need arises.

It was under this government through the Ministry of Commerce, Liberians got to know that Heineken has expiration date.

All along, consumers of Heineken in Liberia never knew this until Minister Tarpeh and his team stormed a local supermarket and discovered it.

The government through the Ministry of Public Works has begun the pavement of several roads earmarked by the president with some already completed. One of the heights of our Minister of the year is the completion of the Doe Community road which was recently dedicated by the President. For decades, residents in the Community have been crying for good road to connect them with Clara Town. Their cries over the years did not yield good results until Dr. Weah, who once lived in Clara Town, became president and paved the road in the community. Minister Nyenpan, who was charged with the responsibility to ensure that the president's mandate is implemented, ensured that the project is now completed to the satisfaction of residents who could not hide their joy during the dedication ceremony.

Currently, the ministry has completed several feeder road projects in Montserrado County with some at the point of completion.

In his first year, the president has also embarked on the construction of a new VIP Lounge at the refurbished Roberts International Airport, giving new face to the country's first point of contact.

The new terminal at the airport is nearing completion with state of the art equipment befitting an international airport. The runways of the airport have also been worked on.

On the fisheries front, the government through the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) has awakened this sector which has been dormant for decades. Led by its Director General Madam Emma Glassco, this entity is now generating huge revenue for the government. Recently, Madam Glassco's leadership was able to attract US$3.1 grant from the Government of Iceland, intended to support the development of fishing industry in Liberia.

The grant is expected to affect 7,500 fish mongers (fish processors or fish sellers) by funding modern fish smoke-oven which will improve the current traditional process in drying fish that have both health and environmental challenges.

The new NaFAA under Madam Glassco was able to get commitment from Japan to support local fishermen through training and usage of motorized boats.

NaFAA has also announced plan to help local fishermen export their fish thereby increasing their income generation.

NaFAA, during the year under review, was able to bring all local fishermen together under one leadership, which resulted in the election of officials who will steer the affairs of the group.

On the economic side, the government through the Ministry of Finance has been able to attract financial support. It was rumored that when the CDC led government takes state power, Liberia's partners will cut their support to the country.

But contrary to this, Liberia's international partners continued to engage the country evidenced by the financial support they are giving the country in several sectors.

International partners are assisting with the pavement of several major roads in the country.

They are as well supporting the health, educational and agricultural sectors.

During the year, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning consistently ensured that civil servants take pay despite the struggling economy that was inherited by this government.

Had it not been for the able leadership of Minister Samuel D. Tweah, things could have been different.

This Minister has ensured that projects earmarked by his boss are funded, as indicated recently by Public Works Minister Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan. He and his team have been able to raise the needed resources for the government. As a result of his astute leadership, the Minister of Finance recently assumed the presidency of the Network of National Authorizing Officers Support Unit in West Africa of the European Development Fund (ROAC-FED) in West Africa.

Minister Tweah took over from his predecessor, Ansumana Touray, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in The Gambia.

As for the educational sector, the government through the Ministry of Education has made some gains geared towards improving the sector.

The Ministry, led by Prof. Ansu D. Sonii during the year in review, instituted several measures to reform the school system especially as it relates to improving the performance of the students in public tests.

The ministry organized extra classes for 12th graders in an effort to improve their performance in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

The government is 100 percent funding the extra classes including the payment of teachers for the extra classes.

On health delivery system, the government has also taken several steps to improve health care delivery to the people. As part of this effort, President Weah recently dedicated a newly constructed Central Medicine Store (CMS), formerly National Drug Service (NDS) located in the Township of Caldwell, Montserrado County.

Making remarks at the official dedication ceremony of the newly constructed Central Medicine Store, President Weah called on authority at the Ministry of Health, CMS authority and other health sector partners to ensure that needed medicines are placed at the Central Medicine Store (CMS) to meet the health needs of the country.

CMS is the government of Liberia central medicine hub responsible for the storage and distribution of medicine to all government hospitals and health centers across the country.

Unlike in the past, Liberia now has an active surveillance system that makes it easily to detect any disease.

Beside, Liberia also has good standard laboratory prior to the Ebola outbreak.

On investment incentive, the Liberian Government through the National Investment Commission (NIC) recently signed US$250 million Gold-Mineral Development Agreement deal with Hummingbird Resources Inc.

The deal will see Hummingbird develop the largest gold mine in the Southeast of the country.

Also, the government through NIC, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, Ministry of Agriculture, and Golden-SIFCA recently signed a 28-year Investment Incentive Agreement (IIA) for the development, construction and operation of an oil palm processing plant in Pleebo, Sodoken District, Maryland County.

Golden-SIFCA is a joint venture between Golden Veroleum Liberia Inc. (GVL), and Maryland Oil Palm Plantation (MOPP), two existing oil palm concessions with operations in Sinoe and Maryland counties respectively.

A statement from NIC said the MOPP Concession Agreement requires that the Concessionaire builds an oil palm processing facility capable of processing at least 20 tons of crude palm oil per hour by the ninth year after the effective date of the MOPP Concession Agreement.

The agreement also requires GVL to build an oil palm processing facility by the tenth year after the effective date of GVL's Concession Agreement.

Security sector, the government through the Liberian National Police (LNP) has been able to maintain peace that it inherited.

There has been no major security threat during the first year of this government.

The police force, during the president's first year, to a larger extent, protected lives and properties.

Unlike in the past, this police force under the leadership of Col. Patrick Sudue, Inspector General provided maximum protection for protesters especially during the 'bring back our money protest' staged by several civil society organizations.

The police have been robust when it comes to responding to issues that required their intervention.

This current police force has cordial relationship with motorcyclists, unlike in the past where they were also in confrontation.

Nowadays, the administration of Col. Sudue has ensured that police officers who commit or engage in act inimical to the force are punished.

The Liberian National Police to a large extent has minimized armed robbery across the city and its environs.

On Foreign Relations, the President through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been able to maintain and expand Liberia's Diplomatic relations with the outside world.

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