Johnson Sirleaf is leaving office criticized for doing little to improve the living conditions of the country’s poor. Increased bilateral and commercial debt, uncontrolled corruption, poor health and education systems, double digit inflation and 24% currency depreciation are amongst several national problems the first elected female President left behind for her relative handpick successor.
In its statement of 21 December, the Central Bank of Liberia estimated the economy would record a real GDP growth of 2.5 percent, up from a contraction of 1.6 percent reported in 2016.
This growth rate is 5.3% less than the 7.8% the International momentary Fund (IMF) projected in 2006 following Johnson’s election and inauguration.
But voters in the concluded 2017 elections do not care about the prevailing socio-economic conditions. For them the 12 years of economic hardship they claimed to have endured under outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ended with the election of George Weah as President.
They are right! Weah, the legendary footballer turned politician and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) told voters they have solution to the problems and that after victory they “will cry no more.”
Unveiling the party’s platform on January 22, 2017, Weah promised to make Liberia “prosperous and proud again” by fighting corruption, seeking economic revitalization, free education and maternity health care.
“Thank God that Oppong [Weah] is in the chair [presidency] we will not suffer again,” Marie Togba a 36-year-old public latrine attendant and mother of of three said at her job site on Monrovia’s Benson Street said.
“He will take care of our children. My life will improve because he will help us to make the country to be super. We will never have such life as was under Ellen’s government.”
Weah himself is aware of his commitment to the voters who gave him a landslide victory and has outlined the standards for his cabinet line-up.
Following his election victory the president-elect said “Over the next few days, we will assemble the government committed to fighting for the ideas that have inspired our campaign, and dedicated to delivering for the Liberian people. Those chosen to serve will and must be dedicated to the ideas of grassroots, social transformation. Person looking to cheat the Liberian people thorough the menace of corruption will have no place in my administration.”
Outside this pronouncement, what key task Weah and his first set of cabinet officials will have to tackle to create the paradise they have promised?
Mambu James Kpargoi, an independent public policy analyst and student of international criminal law based in the Netherlands said the incoming president must immediately fight against corruption and impunity and rebuild the economy.
About five days to Weah’s decisive victory, the Central Bank announced the economy between November 2016 and October 2017 lost US$449.4million United States dollars via individual remittances outflow. The Bank did not provide details.
“He [Weah] needs to set some examples to show clear signs to officials that corruption will not be tolerated in his government,” Kpargoi said.
“With high expectations from supporters, he is faced with the daunting task of jump starting the economy.
In a January, 2017 interview with this paper, Samora Wolokollie, the Coalition’s deputy secretary General said It will take the Coalition For Democratic Change (CDC) three to six years to deliver its socio-economic programs, which include free healthcare and education.
“This plan is a six-year plan. This is not going to happen in two years. It is a process and not an event. It will take the CDC three years to six years to revitalize the economy and improve infrastructure,” he said.
“It will take us a reasonable time. Liberians will have to understand the pictorial reality of the economy. Once they get it, they will appreciate the efforts that will be made in subsequent times.”
To finance the CDC’s welfare program, Mr. Wolokollie said they would rely on increased revenue inflow.
“An economic effective way to manage this situation is instead of doing what this government is doing by increasing taxes, tax value, we will increase tax base. We will encourage more people to get into that tax bracket and pay salaries;” the CDC official said.
“We will make investment into the private sector. We will encourage Liberians to make business.”
– Festus Poquie