Neatly dressed in his white pro-poor gown, President George M. Weah marched to the podium to be sworn in as Africa's first footballing Head of State on January 22, 2018. Greeted by a jam-packed stadium, he was not cheered this time around for scoring a goal as a Soccer Legend, but was cheered after taking the oath of office "to preserve and defend the Constitution of Liberia and faithfully execute the law".
As the masses continued to queue and troop their way to SKD Sports Complex, everywhere in Monrovia, including rural communities, stood still especially when President George Weah was about to deliver his inaugural address. The atmosphere was abuzz with the sound of CDC's popular music titled "Move on the Road, the Country Giant Coming Again". The cheers and claps were indeed thunderous as the President read his speech.
Key among his priorities, President Weah promised:
a) To fight corruption and improve the lives of the people;
b) To pay civil servants 'a profitable living wage';
c) To create jobs, attract investors, and open Liberia's private sector for business;
d) To ensure that Liberians are not spectators in their own economy.
As the new President read, it seemed like he had no idea of what he was getting into. He had no clue of what would had happened in 22 months. The masses appeared optimistic of a new beginning as President Weah delivered his address. Their hope seemed rekindled at that moment. They had no idea that such historic moment being jubilantly celebrated would had propelled them on a dais of national catastrophe and paralysis.
The harsh realities are now setting in after 22 months of Weah's Presidency. The promises made in his inaugural address, which are also captured in the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity Development, remain largely unfulfilled. His government has lost public confidence due to widespread corruption. US$25 million, L$16 billion, and donor's fund cannot be properly accounted for while high-ranking officials, including President Weah himself, are amassing wealth (gigantic private properties).
President Weah is yet to even audit the past government and most officials of his government haven't declared their assets which is in violation of the 2014 Code of Conduct Law. Judging from today's realities, his inaugural address was just another full package of populist rhetoric and pageantry only intended to woo the poor and seduce the illiterate.
Far before edging year two (2) under this pro-poor government, the masses remain hopeless more than ever before. Their discontentment was publicly expressed when President Weah was greeted by an empty stadium on this year's Independence Day, 16 months after his jam-packed inauguration on the same stadium. Is President Weah still a 'Country Giant' or he has metamorphosed into a 'Country Ginna'? The latter would suffice.
It is a fact that Liberia is not only failing, but falling due to leadership bankruptcy and governance breakdown under President Weah. Good governance, through equity, accountability, openness, probity, transparency, and the rule of law, is a phenomenon of the past. The President is playing politics with the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court even though he promised to fully implement the TRC Report far before ascending as Head of State.
Civil Servants are yet to take pay for more than 4 months (Some haven't taken pay for even 11 months). Health workers and public school teachers, including university lecturers, are on strike everyday as a result of the unjustifiable cut and delay in their salaries/allowances. Thousands of school-going kids are out of school due to the hike in tuition and fees. Foreign companies and local businesses are shutting down due to economic downturn. More jobs are being lost.
The economy is on life support as inflation and the depreciation of local currency are at an all-time high. State plunder has become an entrenched culture. President Weah and his cronies are buying/building huge private estates and palaces. Increased electoral violence, mysterious deaths, police brutality, armed robbery, rape, and repression of critical voices, including The Press, have fast impugned or injured the democratic reputation of Liberia under President Weah.
There has been zero Foreign Direct Investment as a result of the lack of investors' confidence in Weah's government. Banks are gradually running into insolvency as a result of the drastic decline in savings. These banks cannot even meet depositors' demand. The artificial shortage of LRD, which is a poor contractionary measure, is making matter even worse. Cost of production and tariffs on imports remain unreasonably high.
Hence, hardship is at an all-time high while basic social services are lacking. Electricity is being rationed in Monrovia and its environs. Pregnant women, AFL veterans and widows, students, zogos, pensioners, persons with disabilities, albinos, activists, unionists, etc. have all protested against the Weah-led government. This is an expressed 'Vote of no confidence' by THE PEOPLE.
Things are falling apart and Mr. Weah seems to have no concrete answer to the increasing outcry of the people. The government seems clueless in terms of finding remedial pathways to prevailing socio-economic and political nightmares. Can President Weah turn things around amidst internal contradictions in his Party (CDC)? The Country that Mr. Weah presides over is beyond crisis point while his Party (CDC) is in deep feud (The Mulbah Morlu's faction is in conflict with the Jemima Wolokollie's faction). This is a 'CATCH 22' situation which President Weah is yet to show leadership in handling. Is CDC cracking within?
Sadly, his team of economic advisors are now running to the IMF for miracle and rescue. What is the essence of the "PAPD" then, I wonder? Can it produce 1 million jobs in 60 months as promised? This PAPD is more of a vulgar economic plan characterized by overambitious and ambiguous indicators. In my opinion, it has already experienced miscarriage.
The fact of the matter is that the Weah-led government is currently suffering from these 6 major conundrums:
a) Credibility Deficit
b) Confidence Crisis
c) Innovation Deficiency
d) Brain Scarcity
e) Leadership Bankruptcy
f) Wealth Anxiety
Economic Paralysis under Weah:
The Weah-led government has lost total control over the economy. The nation is engulfed in economic paralysis. Stagflation (low economic growth + high inflation + high unemployment) has become the order of the day. The Millennium Challenge Corporation Scorecard for this Weah-led is terribly awkward. The government failed in almost all 20 indicators that are often used to measure the policy performance of countries in difference sectors including economic freedom, rule of law, education, health, government's effectiveness, gender equity, justice, social welfare, fiscal policy, agriculture, technology, trade, energy, land rights and access, etc.
The current outlook of Liberia's economy is scaring according to latest reports from the Central Bank of Liberia and the International Monetary Fund. These are a few facts:
1. Depreciation of Local Currency (LRD) against USD - 20.3 percent
2. Trade Deficit - 17.7 percent of GDP
3. Current Account Deficit - 23.3 percent of GDP
4. Trade Deficit - 17.7 percent of GDP
5. Fiscal Deficit widened from 4.8 percent of GDP in 2017 to 5.5 percent of GDP in 2018
6. Growth Forecast - from 4.7 percent to 0.4 percent
7. Inflation Rate - 28.5 percent
According to CBL November 2019 Report, output in terms of economic activities has declined from 0.8 percent to 0.1 percent. This shows that our economy continues to slump. Off-budget spending and high recurrent costs in the 2019-2020 National Budget have even worsened the situation. How can recurrent expenditure account for over 87 percent? Why should just 7 offices receive over US$7.7m in these tough times? See what the seven (7) highest offices are receiving this fiscal year 2019-2020:
1. President George M. Weah - US$2,103,675
2. Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor - US$1,837,246
3. Speaker Bhofal Chambers - US$1,043,265
4. Senate Pro-Temp Albert Chie - US$1,188,444
5. Deputy Speaker Prince Moye - US$722,942
6. Chief Justice Francis Korkpoh - US$179,844
7. Humanitarian Outreach for First Lady - US$700,000
8. Total for just 7 offices - US$7,775,416
Are they pro-poor leaders or pro-rich looters? Let the public judge.
Resignation Wahala under Weah:
The plethora of resignations from high-ranking officials of Weah's government is an evidence of governance breakdown. Before the ship can completely wreck, key passengers onboard are escaping from the captain. This is happening in less than 2 years. What has gone wrong in just 22 months? In less than a week, four (4) high-profile officials have resigned after Shoniyin and Patray's resignation:
1) B. Elias Shoniyin - Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs - May 6, 2019
2) Nathaniel Patray - Executive Governor of Central Bank of Liberia - October 24, 2019
3) Dan Sayeh - Deputy Managing Director of LWSC - November 18, 2019
4) Gregory Coleman - Director General of NBC - November 24, 2019
5) J. Bernard Nagbe - Comptroller of LACC - November 25, 2019
The prevailing resignation wahala sends four (4) key messages:
a) The system of governance is breaking apart or has broken down (It is not getting better anytime soon);
b) There is no prospect for growth and development under President Weah;
c) The lack of confidence and trust among public officials as a result of incompetence, indiscipline and arrogance;
d) The lack of political will and leadership to remedy existing crises (patronage and partisanship have beclouded the CDC-led government).
Credible information from authoritative sources suggests that President Weah has rejected the resignation of the Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean, but the Minister is bent on resigning due to gross insubordination and indiscipline. It is more than a fact that the CDC-led government is cracking inside and outside. The problems confronting CDC seem compound-complex and incurable at the moment. Worst of all, leadership and innovation are lacking to cure them as CDC crumbles under its own weight.
The cracks are increasing and becoming visible. CIC Weah is in a state of perplexity while the masses are in the state of paranoid. There is no answer to looming catastrophes in the motherland. The masses are left to hopelessly wander in the wilderness! The bubble might burst anytime soon - history will be made - and the masses will reshape their socio-economic and political destiny.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist. He studied Economics (Cum Laude) at the University of Liberia. He is an outgoing Standard Bearer of the Student Unification Party