By Festus Poquie
In the face of bitter accusations from critics that her administration has done little to improve the living conditions of Liberians, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Monday used her 11th State of the Nation Address to defend her government’s performance in the past ten years of governance.
In her address delivered at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, Sirleaf reported that notable progress has been made regarding her 2006 promise to transform the country.
“See for yourself the progress we have all made,” she said, adding: “There will be no apology for critics who are also benefiting from fruits of this success.”
Health, education, agriculture and the provision of basic social services such as electricity and pipe borne water are amongst sectors and programs, which the President pinpointed as achieved deliverables.
“I am excited for the growth of the agriculture process with financial support from African Development Bank and other foreign partners. We have begun to revive the fishery sector with the assistance of foreign partners,” the President said.
She indicated that from switching on the first streetlight in 2006, the administration has made available 10 megawatts with more than 3,300 people, including slum dwellers enjoying access to electricity.
The rehabilitation of the country’s main energy source—the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant—is in advanced stage and will go live at the end of December 2016, with corresponding increase in household connections.
With respect to infrastructure, the President disclosed 425 km of roads have been paved across the country, while more than 600,000 people are being supplied pipe borne water.
She highlighted reduction in under-five maternal mortality rate, a surge in the size of the national workforce, which has jumped from 4,000 in 2006 to 10,000 currently with improved income.
“We have improved health and its facility by 30%. We made primary health care delivery free. All counties have a government hospital. In addition to the existing health centers across the country, there are 7123 health facilities functioning in the country,” she said, thus insisting her government has no apology for critics who claimed she has made no progress.
However, she warned that the nation is in a difficult time with the economy under severe “stress”, causing the national budget to shrink and growth dipping to zero.
The Global Financial crisis of 2008, the Ebola Virus Disease and the ongoing global commodities price crisis were factors the President blamed for the ailing state of the domestic economy.
Johnson-Sirleaf told legislators that her administration’s foundation for the diversification of the economy was unable to absorb those external shocks.
The real effect of the domestic economic crisis is potential cut in public spending that will render government unable to meet public sector investment targets.
“It has been a tough time. As we face this time, it is required we come together in unity to meet the needs of our people,” the President urged legislators.
Concerning corruption, she said, “honesty can defeat it and all other national problems.”
A strong supporter of dual citizenship despite misgivings by many Liberians, President Sirleaf expressed support for extending Liberian nationality to peace-loving peoples in search for Liberian citizenship.
She added, “Make others citizens just as such rights are accorded by others to Liberians in their lands.”
Tax consciousness and compliance was a major cornerstone of the economic aspect of the annual message when President Sirleaf said, “Liberians must pay their taxes, especially real estate taxes, on time.”