President Weah Launches Re-election Campaign, Rallies Citizen’s Supports at Final State of Nation Address
CAPITOL HILL, Monrovia – It was a moment of celebration and a sense of fulfillment for President George Manneh Weah and his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) on Monday when he delivered his sixth and final state of the nation address to the joint session of the 54th Legislature.
While President Weah devoted most of his time on informing the Legislature about his administration’s achievements over the last five years of his administration, the President drew loud applause when directly addressing his supporters and the entire nation, announced that he will soon be going back to them to ask them for a second-term mandate to complete his development programs his administration has initiated.
“I will be coming to you shortly to ask you to renew, for a second time, the mandate that you gave me six years ago: a mandate to continue the good work we have delivered; a mandate for continuity and stability; a mandate for transformation; a mandate for development and growth; a mandate to consolidate and secure the peace, a peace that we – with your help – have perfectly preserved,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “This second mandate will enable us to consolidate the gains we have made in these last few years, and ramp up the trajectory of growth, development, and prosperity for Liberia. Regardless of your political affiliations, your religious beliefs, or your ethnic origins, I urge you to join us as we together wrestle back the years lost to civil conflict and war, and restore our country to its rightful place in the comity of nations, to a higher place of peace and prosperity for all. We can do this, and we must all do it together.”
President Weah wooed his party’s faithful when he said: “We will be coming to meet you in your, towns, in your villages, in your districts, in your clans, and in your cities, so that together, we can build a strong partnership for Liberia’s progress.”
His rallying call was similar to ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s last state of the nation at the climax of her first term 2011 when she rallied Liberians to re-elect her to complete her development agenda.
The difference is, Weah did not promise to lead only for a term. But like his predecessor back in 2011, he said that he and his team have done their part in delivering on most of the promises they made to the Liberian people, while preserving the nation’s peace and nurturing its democratic values.
“We are on an irreversible trajectory of sustainable growth that will necessarily and inevitably lead us to progress as a Nation and prosperity as a People,” he said, while adding that “The negative forecast when we first took on the mantle of leadership of this Nation in 2018, we have accomplished quite a lot, against all the odds,” he boasted.
And as he has often done in his past state of the nation addresses, Weah threw several jibes at his political nemesis when he said: “The naysayers and the prophets of doom are perplexed by the progress that we have made. Those who have eyes to see will bear witness to how hard we have toiled in fulfillment of the constitutional mandate that was given to us by an overwhelming majority of the Liberian people.”
The biggest achievement over the past five years, the President noted, is the consolidation of Liberia’s hard-earned peace; adding it is the ultimate goal of the country’s national undertakings.
Together, over the past five years, we have fought a good fight. Collectively, we have undeniably managed to preserve the peace of the Nation, which has become the ultimate goal of all of our national undertakings.
Transforming from bad to good economy
On the state of the economy, President Weah said the economy is doing far better under his administration then the one he inherited from his predecessor.
He stated: “When he took office, When I took the oath of office in January of 2018, the Liberian economy was in a state of major distress. The macroeconomic foundations were weak. The country’s net international reserve, which had been used by the previous Government to stabilize the exchange rate, was very low. The exchange rate had plunged into free fall, and the then Government did not seem to have the tools to deal effectively with stabilizing the currency at that time. As a consequence, inflation was increase at an alarming rate, while domestic revenue and development assistance were in decline.”
He pointed out that the development partners met with him during his first week in office and informed him that the Health Pool Fund, which had been paying the salaries of some 2,000 health workers, had dried up. The partners, he said, requested him to include the workers on government’s payroll at a cost of US$12 million per year.
Another setback his administration inherited was the departure of the United Nations Mission, which had been spending some US$115 million annually in Liberia, he addd.
He recounted: “The Government’s credit rating with commercial banks was at its lowest because the Government could not settle its domestic obligations to lenders. The total Government obligation to the Central Bank of Liberia was not even known because some Government debt to the Central Bank was not officially recognized. This was the bleak nature of our economy when we assumed responsibility for the leadership of the Government at the beginning of 2018.
The President added that he and his team did not realize the severity of the economic implication until they experienced a rude awakening when the decline in the exchange rate began to accelerate. “We had to get to work quickly, to re-think, to re-work and to re-establish the principles of macroeconomic fundamentalism as they are known around the world.”
Another economic policy that helped boosted the economy is the abolishment of government’s borrowing from the Central Bank of Liberia. This policy, he noted, forced the Government to depend on its own resources and to live within the means of the national budget; adding it helped contained inflation and reduced the Government deficit.
Repeating portion of his 22 Annual Message, the President said his government fixed “the broken and unfair wage system” in which Government workers were paid without any set rules or pay grades. To end this unfairness, the government abolished a general allowance system, he noted. The dividend, 15,000 civil servants received higher salaries, while some 7,000 were adjusted downward.
Unacceptable and unlawful
President Weah also announced that his administration will work with the Legislature to increase civil servants’ salaries above the minimum wage bill beginning this fiscal year 2023.
He said news that about 15 thousand civil servants are still being paid below the minimal wage bill was unacceptable and unlawful.
Promoting gender parity
The President also called on the 54th Legislature to speedily pass the Gender Equity bill to increase the participation of women in politics.
The bill is sponsored by the Women’s Legislative Caucus and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
It among other things, seeks to compel political parties to include more women in key position within their respective parties.
Currently there only ten women lawmakers out of the103-member 54th Legislature. Out of that number, eight are among 65 men in the House of Representatives and two are fighting for their space among 28 men in the Liberian Senate.