Pro Tempore Chie named the agricultural, engineering, medical (health), infrastructural among many other sectors that have failed and continue to fail under successive governments despite huge local and international supports in those areas.
On the agricultural sector, the head of the Senate leadership pointed out that despite the bountiful rain, vast stretches of land, trained manpower, an array of programs well-funded by the National Budget and international donations and contributions, the country has failed in agricultural production.
The Grand County Senator spoke Wednesday, March 16, 2022 at program marking the 102nd combined graduation convocation of the T.J.R. Faulkner College of Science and Technology and Climate, School Nursing and Midwifery Program, William R. Tolbert Jr. College of Agriculture and Forestry and the College of Engineering of the state-run University of Liberia (UL) held at its Fendall Campus in Montserrado County.
The Protempt spoke on the topic: "Science as a basic ingredient in a Political and Economic Recipe: Are you ready to change the narrative"?
"We import almost everything, including oranges and pepper. Self-sufficiency in the production of rice, our staple food, remains elusive. On the average, Liberia imports approximately 250,000 metric tons of rice (or 10 millionof the 25 kg bag) at the cost of US 140 m $ annually; This importation continues to dwindle our foreign exchange reserve and impacts negatively on our balance of trade position and the achievement of macroeconomic stability. Leadership in the agriculture sector also remains elusive," indicated Protempt Chie.
"One President after the other has tried various qualified personnel to run the agricultural sector, including managers from the private sector. Still agricultural productivity remains very low. What are we doing wrong? My young prospective graduates, are you ready to change the narrative in the political and economic recipe?" He furthered.
The Senate also vented his frustration at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) for its miserable failure to providing stable power supply to the people of Liberia amid huge budgetary support and hundreds of millions of foreign donors' funding.
"The Government and its partners have spent hundreds of millions of US dollars since the end of the civil crisis to now in an attempt to provide reasonable and affordable electricity to our various households and businesses. Power supply still remains elusive.
The Government has taken steps to reform the sector: In 2015, the Legislature passed a new electricity law that unbundled the sector, that is, opportunities for private sector investment were created, and monopoly by the LEC was to have ended; The reform, done in line with international best practices, saw thedesignation of the Ministry of Mines and Energy as the institution for policy setting, the creation of the Liberian Electricity Regulatory Commission as the institution for regulation and the LEC as an operator. Windows were also opened for more operators," he intoned.
"The donors brought in management contractors, pumped in millions and the Government also contributed millions through the national budget. Since the end of the civil crisis, our people in the various communities and businesses are crying for legitimate connections, transformers and reliable electricity. Due to its failure to deliver, Liberians have named the LEC (Liberia Expecting Current); or (Liberia Emergency Current); Some of the problems in the power sector can be put squarely at the feet of engineers and technicians," the Pro Tempore expressed.
Predicated upon these vexing failures, he wants prospective Electrical Engineers to take the front role to make a change for the country.
The President Pro Tempore did not also mince his words against civil engineering, whom according to him, have also failed in the construction of quality roads, something which continue to impede development.
"The civil engineers have even more challenges: poor quality of roadwork and other infrastructure. Poor road designs . The Ministry of Public works gives out road contracts and the responsible engineer who should monitor the progress and quality of the roadwork goes to sleep. Consequently the country does not get value for money."
Like the other sectors, he believes that the mining sector is not exempt from the many failures and poor administration as illicit mining continues to take center stage with the government its people being denied their just benefits.
"For the mining engineer and geologist, illicit mining throughout the country has become a national emergency: foreign nationals have taken over the small-scale mining sector, often mining legally, with little or no return to the affected communities and the country.The Government has tried various methods to control this illicit mining, but the situation is still pervasive, because many of the technical person are not up to the task," the Pro Tempore indicated with a call to the prospective graduates to change the narrative.
"My prospective graduates, these are some of the challenges in the mining sectorbthat are negatively impacting our economy and macroeconomic stability. We are waiting for you to help change the situation around. Foresters, Forest Engineers, Woodscience specialists: You have often heard that the Southeastern part of the country is cutoff from the rest of the country during the rainy season. The primary road to Lofa county is in our bad state as well as other primary roads throughout the country. In the 1970's and early 1980's there were more than fifty logging companies that used to help maintain the primary and feeder roads. Where are these companies? Logging used to contribute significantly to the country's forest exchange earnings. Presently, contribution from the logging sector to the National Budget is almost negligible; New reforms in the forestry and logging sector that pay blind eyes to destroyers of the world's climate cover without just compensation to affected countries like ours, are some of the factors leading to this dwindling foreign exchange earnings; You graduates have to be part of policy design to ensure that while the climate system is being protected, Liberia reaps benefits from its forest resources," the lawmaker urged.
"We should not be made to reserve our forests to absorb gases and other pollutants produced from factories of industrial countries, all in the name of mitigating the effects of climate change. They pollute the atmosphere and make money while we keep our forests to absorb the pollutants from the atmosphere and remain poor."
The health sector is one of the many areas that needs transformation so as to match the resources being allocated annually in the National Budget.
"The Health sector of which nurses and midwifes are a part: the story is not different; Funds from the National Budget to the health sector was 47.8 m in 2018/2019, increased to 58.5m in 2020/2021 and projected at 66m in 2022; As you see, the amount goes up every year, This is besides other funds from other sources," he noted.
"Despite this revenue allocation, the situation at JFK has not improved much, neither are the health delivery systems throughout the country. Another predicament facing the sector is that specialists are in short supply. Many doctors want to be county health officers instead of practicing at the hospitals. Sometimes, nurses and midwives will come to Legislators that they need jobs in the various counties, as soon as their names get on payroll, then they soon start finding all the excuses to take transfers to Monrovia and other urban areas," the chief administrator of the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature lamented.
"Please, you graduating nurses and midwifes, don't join the bandwagon. At the higher level, the Government is trying hard to fund these sectors, but the challenges remain there. A lot of the technicians and technocrats in these sectors are not up to the task, and this is negatively impacting economic growth. I therefore challenge you, my fellow students, to come to the labour force with a new determination to change the status quo," he among other things added.
In remarks, the President of the UL, Dr. Julius S. Nelson, lauded faculty staff for helping to mode the young minds of the new generation of Liberia, who he believes will contribute positively to the growth and development of the nation's economy.
"Thanks the faculty of the job well done. Thank you for molding the minds of these students to be able to graduate today. They will now be able to contribute to the growth of the nation. We are happy with the team of professionals for working with us in helping us to brighten the light," Dr. Nelson lauded with disclosure that a total of 789 students formed part of the combined graduation of the four colleges.
The UL President maintained that investment in human capacity development, especially for the youthful populations will in turn pay off in the effective management of the country.
"We are cognizant that we will not make progress if we do not invest in the young generation for the effective management of our country. This will enhance sustainable development as our country is grasping with development challenges," President Nelson noted.
He then called on the new graduates to make proper use of their knowledge acquired in closing up the gaps.
"Liberia is in need more scientists, agriculturists; more engineers, more nurses and you name it. Let your light before all men so that they can see your impact. Go our and shine; go out and make the difference, go out so that your impact can benefit our society," he charged the graduates.