20 May 2019

Liberia: The Daily Observer Wishes You Well Mr. President, Just Take Charge and Do the Right Thing!

The verdict is now out on the US$25 million intended for the mop-up exercise as the GAC has now made public its findings from an audit commissioned by President Weah. The report is now before Justice Minister Musa Dean, presumably for possible action. It now remains to be seen whether Justice Minister Musa Dean will follow through on this report.

This is important because the Justice Minister, having served as a member of the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT), which oversaw what was to be the infusion of the US$25 million, cannot escape blame even in the face of new suggestions being parleyed that the mop-up exercise was solely the prerogative of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), which handled the infusion.

Meanwhile some local dailies have been vigorously pushing a new narrative about the CBL's exclusive handling of the infusion exercise absent the direct involvement of Finance Minister Samuel Tweah. The new narrative also maintains that the infusion exercise was done through the commercial banks which completely contradicts accounts given by the Finance Minister himself who had declared that he made the decision to have the US$25 million infused not through the commercial banks but through local money exchangers and businessmen.

The Finance Minister had at the time maintained that his decision was informed by his conviction that to deal with money exchangers and local businessmen would have yielded better results than had it been done through the commercial banks. But it can be recalled that former CBL Deputy Governor Charles Sirleaf told members of the investigating teams that the CBL had nothing to do with the infusion exercise as it was under the direct supervision of Finance Minister Tweah.

In a rather bizarre twist, the CBL is now claiming to have given its assent to the use of money exchangers to infuse the money rather than through the commercial banks as should have appropriately been done. The public is thus left wondering just how in the world can the CBL justify its snob of the commercial banks to which the Government of Liberia is indebted and resort to the use of informal non-financial institutions.

The Liberian people deserve better because they are fully aware that such shenanigans are meant to shield those officials from further public scrutiny. In a surreal way it is akin to former President Sirleaf's "I take responsibility" reaction to the theft of NOCAL funds under the watch of her son Robert Sirleaf.

In similar fashion, it appears, has CBL Governor Patray stepped forward to take the fall for his team leader who is the star player in this corruption wahala. And for this, Governor Patray, perhaps without realizing it, has impugned his integrity and that of the TEMT, the CBL leadership and probably the very institution.

As things stand, the TEMT has lost its integrity and its relevance and President Weah should reconstitute the body and send its current membership packing. This newspaper notes that the head of the LRA, a body responsible to collect government revenue, is also a member of the TEMT as well as the Minister of Commerce who is a seasoned banker, and the Justice Minister, amongst others. Just where they, in all this, were is the question begging answers.

It can be recalled that prior to the TEMT commencing its exercise in July 2018, the exchange rate stood at 163 to 1 which was alarming and worrisome. Finance Minister Tweah said at the time, "We are taking short term measures in that direction and this is one of the reasons the President commissioned the sitting of the Technical Economic Management Team. When the team began after the President's economic speech, it (team) started with a major plan in mind".

He further disclosed, "At the time the team was sitting, the Liberian dollar had depreciated by 25% and it was on a trend that was extremely upward. So, the immediate goal of the team was to reverse that and stabilize the economy". Further according to the Minister, their analysis showed that that the country would have continued an upward path based on the team's intervention.

But one year later, the economy is caught in a virtual tailspin largely due to inflationary pressures caused by woeful economic policies and extra budgetary spending and by what appears indistinguishable from outright theft of public resources amidst excruciating hardships on the people. To say that something needs to done urgently is an understatement.

It is in this regard that the Daily Observer has repeatedly called on President Weah to act decisively as the man in charge. Current economic conditions are imposing severe hardships. Too many families are finding it extremely difficult to secure a daily meal let alone afford school fees or simple medication for common illness. This is why talks about public protests is sweet music to the ears of many.

This newspaper, as a firm believer in the democratic process, would not support calls for President Weah to abdicate. This is because a premature departure from office could have dastardly consequences for sustained peaceful future democratic transitions.

That said, this newspaper is constrained to remind President Weah that he must play his part to restore sanity to the nation's finances and reassure the nation through concrete examples of his intent to truly serve the interests of his people. His former national teammate puts it succinctly in the following words:

"George has achieved a lot in football and the people love him for it. But should he become president of Liberia, the public will forget his performances on the football pitch and judge him by what he achieves in office. People in the country are yearning for change and want it very quickly. If he doesn't deliver it, the people could turn on him. It is a big risk he is taking, and I wish him well".

The Daily Observer does indeed wish you well Mr. President, just take charge and do the right thing.

Liberia

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