The deliverance of the Annual Message by the Liberian leader to the 54th National Legislature is in fulfillment of Article 58 of the Constitution of Liberia, which is regarded as the organic law of the country.
This provision of the Constitution mandates the President, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, to present the Legislative Program of the Administration for the ensuing session, and report to you on the State of the Republic, covering the economic condition of the Nation, including expenditure and income.
The CPP include: the All Liberian Party ALP), the former ruling Unity Party(UP), Liberty Party(LP) and the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
Addressing a press conference held at the ALP Head Office on the Old Road, outside Monrovia on Tuesday, January 28,2020, the political Leader of the ANC, Mr. Alexander B. Cummings, asserted that President Weah’sspeech on Monday offers no real roadmap for national renewal and economic recovery.
“And like the last two years of failed policies, his speech provides no hope and assurance to our people in these difficult economic times. It has been two years of no substantial success. Two long years of untold sufferings while the president and his officials live in luxury and splendor. Two years of foreign exchange rate increase. Two years of increase in the prices of basic household commodities. Two years of nothingness except wanton looting and rampant corruption. This is totally unacceptable! And should be to you as well,” Mr. Cummings further asserted. .
The ANC Political leader continued: “Again, our people have suffered for too long. They have been made beggars in their own country just to survive. Their children are forced out of schools because they cannot afford school fees. Conditions are very bad for our people. In Monrovia and many places around the country, children have left schools to sell at street corners and the busy traffic”
According to him, most of our youths have been exposed to substance abuse, averring that pregnant women are forced to walk miles only to receive substandard treatment.
He accentuated that hospitals and clinics are in deplorable conditions and on the other hand, taxi drivers and motorists are parking their vehicles because they cannot afford the exorbitant price of gasoline and fuel and that the same can be said for “Pen-Pen and Keh-Keh riders”.
The prominent Liberian opposition pointed out that it is time to act. The President’s message has heighten fears and deepen whatever tinge of any hope that was left as we waited to hear practical policy prescription on how to revamp the economy, return to good governance and avert further financial disasters that still lie ahead. We must act with some urgency to prevent the situation from degenerating into benevolent devastation,” Cummings further accentuated. .
However, Cummings noted that the CPP has been active in contributing ideas and solutions to solve the economic crisis unfolding in our country.
He recalled that at the recent UNDP funded National Economic Dialogue, “we submitted a set of policy recommendations to stimulate the private sector, create jobs and promote investment. Therefore, today we are again recommending the following policies to jump start the economy:
“We welcome the move by the president to address the following recommendations we previously made and request the government to make adjustments that will ensure greater impact.”
1. Focus on Domestic Revenue Generation
⦁ by staffing the LRA with competent people and provide them with adequate operational funding.
⦁ Ensure we are receiving our fair value share from our natural resources like iron ore, rubber, gold, diamonds, etc.
2. Our economy is an import-based economy. Everything consumed here comes from abroad. Though the goal is to change that to an export-led economy, until that transition can occur, we are calling for the creation of an Import and Export Credit Facility to enable Liberian-owned businesses to access capital and financing to compete and participate in the economy.
3. Review all resources and tax policies with regards to ease of doing business as a means of making it easy to start new businesses and creating employment opportunities.
4. Remove or substantially lower tariffs and other import cost at the Freeport. This will lower the cost of imports thus lowering the cost of goods and services sold to Liberians.
5. Removal of all monopolistic and import restrictions in the economy, particularly on key import commodities like rice. Under this current government, Liberians are still restricted to the percentage of rice they can import in their own country. Enough is enough. Stop restricting Liberians in their own country and let them freely and fully participate in their economy.
6. Setup a special Agriculture Investment Fund to provide financing to small and medium size farmers and agro-businesses to encourage and boost local rice production. With one of the most fertile lands in Africa and the World for growing rice and other commodities, it is unacceptable for Liberians to continue to rely on consuming imported rice.
7. Resume funding to and staff governance and integrity institutions with competent people of integrity. Review acts establishing various ant-graft institutions to to give more power to fight corruption in government.
8. Investment in the Health and Legal Systems to address the issue of Sexual and Gender Based Violence. It is not a women issue but rather a national issue. Declare RAPE an national emergency and institute immediate reforms to address its prevalence. Our women and girls are dying.
9. Reduction in government wage bill and increase in Public Investments. Last year this government invested only US$27M in the economy. This amount is far below the estimated US$150M annual investments needed to stimulate this economy. Cutting back on lavish foreign trips and riding private jet, high wage bill, and ending the stealing will leave more funds for increased public investment.
Meanwhile, the CPP opined that, if these recommendations and others are considered and fully implemented, “we assure you that Liberians will move from being spectators to starting players in their own economy and that the state of our nation will become.”