MONROVIA: The Political Leader of the Opposition Liberty Party, Madam Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence, has disclosed that inflation and high unemployment continue to hurt Liberians under the leadership of President George Weah.
She said under the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government, many citizens cannot afford their basic needs, either because they have no jobs or the little they earn cannot sustain their needs.
According to her, after five years of failed promises, including the promise to create one million jobs, Liberians citizens have become beggars in their own country.
Giving the Liberty Party’s Response to President Weah’s Sixth State of the Nation Address (SONA) which he delivered on Monday, January 30, 2023, before the Joint Chambers of the 54th National Legislature, the Liberty Political leader, who is also Grand Bassa County Senator, noted that, the President’s Message appears to be boasting about reduction in inflation.
She, however, observes that when there is reduction in inflation, it must benefit prices reduction but contrarily, Liberia’s situation, as pronounced by the President, is on the reverse.
“No one living in Liberia will understand that prices of basic commodities on the market remain very high, quite unaffordable by the average Liberian citizens, most of whom do not have any source of livelihoods,” she said.
Senator Lawrence indicated that since President Weah came to power, Liberians have experienced a 30 percent increase in the price of the 25kg bag of the nations’ stable food, rice, ( from $13.00 to $17.50) and that the price of gas is hovering around $3.00 to $3.50 while we are selling it for over US$5.00.
She said these prices have direct impacts on every Liberian and ultimately impact prices of other basic commodities.
“We should all understand that what appears to be a reduction in inflation is basically attributable to the intervention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” she stated.
In specific cases, she contended that the IMF has been bailing out Liberia since 2019 with loans because of the terrible state of the Liberian economy. Sen. Karnga-Lawrence: “For example, in 2020, Liberia received $200,000,000 and U$350,000,000 in 2021),” she noted.
The Grand Bassa County Lawmaker pointed out that the Liberian nation has become commonplace within his circle, as the President presented an appraisal of the state of the economy upon his ascendency to the state power five years ago.
“You went on to say that the economy, before you took over was in a state of distress, the exchange rate was in free fall and inflation rate was skyrocketing. But here are the facts, before you assumed the presidency, domestic and international debts stood at U$900,000,000 after Madam Sirleaf’s twelve years” she stated.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence, however stressed that just within five years of President Weah’s administration, Liberia has accrued a total debt burden of U$835 million in domestic debt and $1.1 billion in external debts.
This development, she said, represents an increment of $1billion and could be an impediment to the next administration’s economic recovery agenda.
Senator Lawrence: “So, Mr. President, how much more distressful was the economy during the twelve years of the previous regime than it is now under your administration?”
Commenting on Corruption and Patronage which she associated with the Weah Administration, she noted that, compounding the nightmares of the Liberian economy is the issues of corruption and patronage which have become a cancer in the Liberian society because of the Government’s blind eyes on corruption and misuse of public funds.
“This is the most poisonous venom in our country, yet this government has yet to investigate allegations of corruption and prosecute those suspected to be involved. We see government officials living lavish lifestyles far beyond their earned income, walking around with impunity” Senator Lawrence stated.
“During the State of the Nation Address to the 53rd Legislature, President Weah, made a resounding declaration of fighting graft. But the Senator noted that “We must continue to show strong gains in the fight against corruption, money laundering and illicit financial flows.”
She further said no matter how many political declarations President Weah has made, he doesn’t seem to see that corruption and patronage are standing in our way of progress as evidenced in the last five years the Government has displayed reluctance to fight corruption.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence indicated that, ranging from the “dubious’ Domestic Debt profile to the unexplained disappearance of U$13 million dollars which was approved by the Legislature to ameliorate the incidence of rice shortage, “the government continues to swim deeper into the ocean of corruption.”
She cautioned Liberians “not to be deceived because those who steal public funds and public assets are stealing from Liberian taxpayers who must endure to survive in a hostile economic environment. They are stealing the future of our children, and will not go with impunity.”
“In an attempt to portray his administration as performing in the eyes of the Liberian People and our international partners and in ensuring probity in government, Mr. President maintained in his Annual Message that audit opinions have improved from disclaimer to adverse,” she said.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence than used the occasion on behalf of the Liberty Party to challenge the Weah Administration to “prove itself worthy of the trust and confidence of the Liberian People by going beyond these rhetorical comments and face the real issues surrounding the question of audits.”
“For instance, we would like to have an audit report about the U$13 million that was allotted in the budget to stabilize the price of rice. To date, the government has provided no explanation regarding the U$13 million,” she stressed.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence stated that she was also interested in the President instituting an audit of the sanctioned officials, something she said, would give substance to his vaunt about maintaining cordial relations with the Government of the United States of America.
“It is no telling that the Weah/CDC-led regime has significantly failed over the last five years to empower Liberian owned businesses,” she said.
She noted that, the president promised that Liberians would no longer be spectators of their own economy, but today, the regime has done little to do business with Liberians as evidenced by the fact that records of domestic debts paid to businesses for the past five years cannot be displayed despite uncountable requests and demands by courageous Members of the Liberian Senate to establish proof of inclusion of Liberian businesses.
She emphasized that the only list presented by the Executive Branch entailed $25 million for Government’s failed mop-up exercise that showed transactions of exchange with few streets money exchangers who did not exist or have not been found, because such transactions did not occur, noting that, “We still await accountability in this matter”.
She stated that with the dim state affecting Liberian businesses, the President, in his SONA, “went on with another wide promise spree to cajole the public about his government’s policy regarding the Legal Power of Attorney.”
Senator Karnga-Lawrence stated that the Liberian leader tended to elevate the national profile of his administration by projecting the positive impacts of the LPA scheme.
Senator Lawrence mentioned that the reality check is that government has failed to meet up with its LPA obligation to businesses, thus suffocating the intended purpose of the policy. She added that an available example is the ERA Corporation and other businesses.”
Torching on gender issues, the Grand Bassa Lawmaker also said the Weah-led regime has failed on gender issues, especially justice for rape victims.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence: “So many of our mothers, sisters and daughters are molested and raped across this country and their cases go nowhere in the judicial system for so many different reasons, including the lack of support to the structures that are responsible for investigation and prosecution.
She said that the Weah regime has not invested in an expedited judicial process for rape cases, thereby allowing alleged rapists to go about their lives with impunity.”
She used the occasion to recommend support to the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGSP), the Women and Children Protection (WACP) Unit of the Liberian National Police (LNP) and also called for recruitment of more women, and training and logistics for the Justice Ministry (MoJ) but with programs, structures and systems that will take into consideration decentralized coordinated efforts.
Commenting on the National Security, Justice, and the Rule of Law, the Grand Bassa Lawmaker said, as expected, the President again has fallen short of addressing the question of national security and rule of law as issues of critical concern.
According to her, National Security, Justice and the Rule of Law are indispensable to the building of a truly democratic culture and, by extension, a guarantor for increased sub-regional and international cooperation.
She expressed the belief that a country like Liberia that is still in transition from a lawless state to re-entry amongst the community of civilized nations, must be deliberate about how it handles these matters.
“Our task as leaders of this country is to strengthen the foundation for sustainable peace and shared prosperity for today and in the future. These cannot be achieved by putting armed men on the streets of our cities,” she said.
She also said it can only be achieved when those who are charged with the honor of public service respect the dignity of the people and when government pursues policies that deepen the sense of justice, equal opportunity, and shared prosperity. “Sadly, the Weah Administration doesn’t seem to care,” she declared.
By T.R Dixon