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Unity Party Official Response to President Weah January 30 , 2023

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, members of the Press, Fellow Liberians,

Let me begin by congratulating President Weah on his final state of the Nation Address. Come next year, we will have a new Commander-in-Chief, someone up to the task of building this country. Someone with the compassion, skills, integrity, and experience to restore our faith in our country.

Today, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Nation address on behalf of the Unity Party.
Our response will focus on the substantive issues and most importantly, the state of our people; the people who are feeling the brunt of the current state of their nation.

While en route to deliver this response, I met Ma Sarah. She is a market woman who sells food items. Ma Sarah complained that Liberia is the toughest she has seen since the war. Her grandchildren cannot go to school and they can barely afford daily meal. She further indicated that the price of a cup of rice has risen so much that they’re forced to cook it soft in order to expand it. And they usually eat it with red oil and pepper as it is difficult to afford soup kinds. “I walk many days because I cannot afford car or kehkeh-pay”, she said. As she explained her story, I could see tears dripping down her cheeks. She had lost faith in her government. She believes that the current administration has failed her and many others. This to me is the real state of the nation that President Weah didn’t report. The harsh economic conditions faced by our people across the country speaks to the core of the real problems confronting our people. They can barely afford a stable meal. No jobs and many have turned to beggars in their own country. This story of Ma Sarah is the story of the vast majority of our people, many of whom have lost confidence in their government. The Unity Party government under the stewardship of Joseph Nyumah Boakai can change this, and we MUST.

On the economy, the President made several broad promises and is yet to fulfill them. Additionally, he has continuously violated laws that seek to curb corruption.

For instance, last year during the President’s State of the Nation Address to the Legislature, he reported the passage of the 2022 National Budget in the tune of Seven Hundred Eighty-Five Million Six Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$785.6) and promised to make it a transformative budget. The president’s address fell short of showing the transformative effects by making specific reference to the changes in the budget execution. It is quite interesting that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has not published fiscal outturn or budget performance reports since the 2020 publication. There is no indication that the government generated $640.5 million United States Dollars as 81.5 percent of the revenue component as proposed in the 2022 National Budget. The budget performance report should provide a detailed explanation as regards revenue receipts and expenditures during the period under review. Without the President clearly reporting on these indicators and his claim that his government introduced the largest National Budget in the history of Liberia remains unrealistic.

During the delivery of his 2022 Annual Message; President Weah emphasized that strong revenue measures would have been taken to rigorously increase domestic resource mobilization through the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) resource mobilization strategy to give back 50 percent of all real estate taxes collected to the counties, districts and cities where the real estate taxes are collected. The President did not mention any progress in his 2023 Annual Message and we have no evidence of this program being successfully implemented nor have we seen evidence that the local government and or communities are receiving a percentage of the real estate taxes collected. The revenue sharing law was passed in 2022 but it has not taken effect. All we saw was wastage of public resources through workshops and seminars.

Of striking significance is the government’s inability to remit Social Development Funds (SDF) collected from concessional multinational firms operating in Liberia to the local county authorities. This clearly exhibits a high degree of insincerity and unwillingness on the part of the Executive branch of government to uphold the Local Government Act and the MDAs as laws. For example, the Executive received 7.5 Million United States Dollars for Nimba County, 3 Million United States Dollars for Bong Country, 5 Million United States Dollars for Grand Bassa County as Social Development Funds. The government has callously not remitted those amounts to the respective counties thereby depriving the counties of the needed development. What have the people of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa done to you Mr. President for which you and your government are depriving them of money from their own natural resources? The president also allocated County Development Funds to himself for the Presidential County Tour for the sole purpose of gaining praises. Interestingly, recently Senator Prince Johnson of Nimba county had to threaten President Weah and his administration that his county will withhold support to his presidential bid if the 7.5 million USD is not remitted to the county. We find this to be disingenuous on the part of this government to keep our counties stagnated from their legal revenues only to be traded for votes. This, for us, is a blatant abuse of power.

Recently, the Government annnounced to the public that the Western Cluster Concession agreement ratified in 2011 was being activated using an illegal MoU. The were several breaches in the MDA which only qualifies it for renegoatiation. Western Cluster owed the three counties 24 millions, didn’t meet the exploration deadlines, didn’t established any production sites and have not commenced the development of the agreed infrastructures (the construction of a road from Bomi Hill to Mano River, the construction of a rail and the construction of a port). The government used an illegal MoU and waived 14 million of the SDF and allowed Western Cluster to lift the Direct Shipping Ore for shipping on the illegal MoU. This is Stealing!!!!!!

Liberians expected to have heard the President speak about his government’s approach to avoid the progressive abuse of over $300 million U.S. dollars in duty-free privileges granted prior to the delivery of his 2022 Annual Message. The President deliberately and callously decided not to speak about this very important issue as he had committed to do in the last State of the Nation Address. We believe, President Weah and his government didn’t mention anything about stop gap measures taken to prevent this linkage in the system. He and his government continue to abuse the granting of duty- free priviledges which could’ve amounted to more than 300 million as we speak.

Additionally, the President mentioned less about the progress of restructuring our domestic debt. According to the President in his 2022 Annual Address, all legacy debt owed the Central Bank of Liberia was restructured totaling $487.5 million U.S. dollars. The total public debt stock stood at $1.69 billion U.S. dollars on January 1, 2022 increasing our public debt stock since 2018. Yesterday, the president told the nation that his government has increased our total debt stock to almost TWO BILLION United States Dollars just under SIX years while for 12 years the Unity Party total debt stock was about 900 million US Dollars having secured an unprecedented waiver of over 4.7 Billion US Dollars historical debt.

The President’s report on our current total debt stock has shown a growth of 7.9 percent as compared to 6.29 percent in the previous year. Majority of this growth accounts for the disbursement of external loans. The government argues that the majority of its capital investments are financed from its domestic resource mobilization. This policy statement is not factual because the 2022 budget appropriated over 75 percent for only recurrent expenditures which leaves a smaller fiscal space to invest in both social and economic infrastructure development. Most of our major capital investments are funded by bilateral and multilateral agents.

For the first time in recent financial and fiscal history, debt repayment has exceeded capital expenditure as a percentage of public expenditure. From 2018 to now, cumulative repayment of loans and interest amounted to 9% of total expenditure. This was more than two times the 4% of expenditure spent on capital accumulation. This is a huge contradiction of the much trumpeted, but empty claim to being the most infrastructure-oriented government in Liberia’s history.

President Weah refused to mention whether the audit report of the consolidated account was completed as promised in his last Annual Address. We have seen a publication of the consolidated account audit as far back as 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 national budgets and the completion of the Fiscal Year 2019/2020. He also informed the public last year that The General Auditing Commission was conducting an independent payroll audit funded by the World Bank. But he did not provide a report on the outcome of the audit. This speaks to the President’s inability to live up to commitments made in his Annual Messages over the past five years.

The President reported last year during the delivery of his Annual Message that the positive review from the IMF was immediately followed by a disbursement of $23.64 million U.S. dollars to the Central Bank to add to the nation’s reserve stock. Additionally, Liberia received $345.3 million US dollars in August 2021 under the general Special Drawing Rights allocation from the IMF as a member due the unstable condition of our financial situation. What the President didn’t report was that this disbursement of SDR was as a result of the recapitalization of the Central Bank after the CDC Government uncontrollably and carelessly depleted the national reserve by the first quarter of 2019 upon taking office. He also reported that despite the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy grew by 3.6 percent from negative 3 percent in 2020, and growth was expected in 2022 to be 4.7 percent. The President didn’t mention the actual growth rate due to a decline by 0.7 percent. Though inflation rhetorically reduced, commodity prices including everyday household need continue to skyrocket thereby posing serious hardship to Liberians as they struggle to look for their daily meal.

For three consecutive years, 2018 to 2020, for instance, prices of food and nonalcoholic drinks like water increased without any form of policy control or a clear strategy to lessen their impacts. Compared to food price inflation of 4.6% between 2016 and 2017, the people of Liberia experienced a massive shock in 2018 when prices of food and related items went up by 25%. There was a further escalation of 30% in 2019 and 15% in 2020 despite the use of almost $40 million of public resources for a purported food aid to vulnerable people which should have reduced the consumer demand pressure on the market.

Worse still, unjustified, insensitive tax regimes on petroleum and digital service providers, and the government’s tacit or acquiescent complicity in the emergence of cartels that control critical commodities, have seen sharp increases in the cost of transportation and communication. These additional costs that are not linked to any specific investment in the relevant sector’s infrastructures have undermined productivity in the service sector of the economy. On the supply side, higher transport and communication costs affect the marketing and distribution of goods and services. For consumers, these rising costs of transportation and communication creates additional hurdles for access to information from both public and private providers of goods, services and policies.

According to the Central Bank of Liberia’s own reports from 2018 to date, the true picture about inflation has been much more devastating under the leadership of this President and his incompetent government. For households and individuals, the prices of basic goods and services have been climbing beyond the purchasing power of the average citizen and family. A combination of unregulated injection of currency into the economy, reduction in inflows of foreign exchange, and violations of the independence of the Central Bank of Liberia have increased the inflationary pressures on consumer price index (CPI), which is the market basket of essential goods and services. In 2018, for example, the cost of health care in Liberia was 20.5% higher than what it was in 2017, 14% in 2019, 53% in 2020 and 30% in 2021. The cost of education, which is an essential citizenship right, has also become unsustainable. Since 2019, it has been on the rise increasing by 13% in 2019, 36% in 2020 and 30% in 2021.

On the monetary policy front, the President reported that in 2022 the Central Bank of Liberia printed 48 Billion Liberian Dollars without inflation. This statement is far from reality. The records show that the CBL brought in the first consignment of banknotes totaling L$4.0 billion Liberian dollars out of the approved L$48.734 billion Liberian dollars in November 2021. The second consignment was expected in January 2022. The President failed to report on the current status of the second consignment to include the coins which we already see in circulation. The Mandate given the Central Bank by the National Legislature was to print a whole new family of currency; instead, the Executive through the Central Bank of Liberia printed the same “conflicted currency”. This situation has opened up a new front for the duplication of the currency. Several cases have been reported about citizens being arrested with thousands and millions of Liberian dollars at different border points. This decision to continue printing such a conflicted currency speaks to a larger extent of something that Liberians need to know. What do these numbers as stated early mean? They tell you how poorly our country is performing, how disrespectful our government is when it comes to respecting and upholding fiscal policies.

Failure to show the actual picture of the state of our country’s economy only tells a story of how dishonest and deceitful our government under President Weah is.

Since the President’s ascendancy to power, he has indicated on numerous occasions that he is committed to fighting corruption. However, it appears that he is the Commander of Corruption-in-Chief.

In his 2022 SONA, he pledged to have sustained the fight against corruption, money laundering and illicit financial flows and promised to have strengthened and empowered the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission. In this year’s Annual Message, the President provided a lip-service update to these fights. The President has weakened the Liberia Anti-corruption Law making the LACC a lame duck.

The Weah-led government has conspicuously refused to fight corruption with cases related to important institutions such as Agriculture, National Elections Commission, Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation all going down the drain with no form of accountability. The President also committed to spare no effort in bringing to Liberia international compliance platforms in the fight against corruption and illicit financial flows. On the contrary, just last year, three Liberian government officials were sanctioned for acts related to corruption and illicit financial flows of money. President Weah loudly promised to commission an investigation into the sanctioned officials; the former Minister of State Nathaniel McGill, former Managing Director of the National Port Authority Bill Tweahway and former Solicitor-General Saymah Cyrenus Cephas. Liberians are left wondering what has happened to the investigation. We only see public display of support to these officials by his political party and government some embark to run for office.
Furthermore, after an audit of the National Road Fund Account; it was reported that little over 6 Million United States Dollars was misapplied in 2018 and an additional 24 Million United States Dollars by the Government on payroll financing. This runs contrary to the established law which prohibits the use of the fund for anything other than road rehabilitation and construction. The President also refused to report on the 11 Million United States Dollars appropriated in the 2022 fiscal year budget as rice subsidy. Even with this subsidy and an additional 14 Million United States Dollars in the current 2023 fiscal year budget; rice price has been increased to US$17.50 per 25 Kg bag from US$13.5 per bag.

Salaries and pension benefits

President Weah further reported during his last year’s Annual Message that several reforms were taking place on the Central Government Payroll and pension schemes reporting the placement of Government workers on biometric ID; to reduce non-contributory pension scheme; expanded social security coverage and increase social security contribution by 300 percent in some instances. He further said that at the end of the reform which is yet to be completed, those who retired should immediately start to get their benefits the next month. However, we have realized that President Weah did not provide any significant update on this during this year’s Annual Message delivery. The President ’s address did not report on any progress. Evidence has shown to date that many civil servants were retired and did not receive any benefits thereafter. The country continues to witness agitations from retired civil servants who are left to struggle for their survival.

Even in the face of not fulfilling promises he made from the beginning of his Presidency, the President again went on to make a empty political promise about increasing salaries of those civil servants earning below the minimum wage. What is even more appalling is for the President to tell the civil servants that for more than five years he had no idea that Fifteen Thousand civil servants were making salaries way below the minimum wage when it was his HARMONIZATION POLICY that actually reduced their salaries.

One of the damaging failures of monetary policy has been the almost tacit complicity of the authority of the CBL with the fiscal authorities in the excessive printing of Liberian currency to the extent that the Central Bank of Liberia cannot accurately account for the stock of money, whether in circulation or in banks. More ironically, the successive printing of new banknotes, some legal and others questionable, has not solved the challenges of insufficient Liberian dollars in circulation and mutilated and deformed banknotes.
Access to stable electricity remains a major challenge under this administration.

The President announced a reduction in electricity tariff, from 35 cents per kilowatt hour to around 24 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers and 22 cents per kilowatt hour for businesses. Given the critical role of electricity in household living standards and the development of businesses, the news was greeted with optimism. However, to date households and businesses are struggling to receive reliable and stable electricity. We expected the CDC-led Government to have increased the existing generation capacity, instead the capacity has been reduced while most households remain in darkness due to the incompetence of the CDC-led government to properly manage the LEC.

While Liberians were jubilating with the thought that they were now going to get stable electricity, LEC announced loading shedding. To date, the LEC has announced that the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant currently produces only 18.5 Megawatt out of its installed capacity of 88 Megawatt; the LEC Bushrod Island Heavy Fuel Oil Power Plants with installed capacity of 38 Megawatt has been reduced to 28 Megawatt while the Cote D’ivoire – Liberia – Sierra Leone – Guinea (CLSG) only has the initial capacity to bring in 27 Megawatt from the West African Power Pool; this situation has led to the current load-shedding across communities. The double reduction in the generation capacity is as a result of the break-down in three of the turbines at the Mount Coffee Hydro and a break-down of one of the 10 Megawatt HFO Plants. The President and his government have done absolutely nothing significant to create new generations and expand distribution capacity of the energy grid. This government took over a system with a generation capacity of over 124 Megawatt but has reduced it to 44.5 Megawatt due to incompetence!!
The UP-led government, in 2015, secured and signed a Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation of the Government of the United States of America which came to an end on January 21, 2021 after five (5) years of rigorous implementation. The Compact provided a grant of $257 million United State Dollars to support the electricity and road sectors. The Compact program contributed $147 Million United States Dollars to the rehabilitation of Mt. Coffee Hydro Power Plant and the increase of connections from 34,000 to over 82,000 customers.

The UP-led government established the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission (LERC) under the Compact and empowered it to license private operators in the electricity sector and $18 million United States Dollars was also invested in the raw water pipeline. The President and his government though passed the MCC Compact indicators after failing for four consecutive years has been unable to secure a second Compact after five (5) years.
No country can develop without access to durable road network that connects people, businesses and farms to market. The UP-led government made substantial efforts to build roads, designed and signed contracts for additional roads. Most of the current road projects currently being implemented by this government were engineered by the UP-led administration. The Unity Party has consistently prioritized roads in all of our development plans including our current platform.

During the delivery of his Annual Message yesterday, President Weah boasted of ongoing construction of about 400 kilometers of primary roads (including the Lofa Road) but shamelessly refused to give credits to the role played by the Unity Party-led government. Here is what the CDC-led government refused to tell you; we concluded the financing mechanism to pave a key remaining major economic corridor: Gbarnga – Salayea – Korneah -Voinjama – Foya – Manikorma; the Unity Party Government established the Arab Consortium (Kuwaiti Fund, Saudi Fund, Abu Dhabi, OPEC, BADEA) to provide concessional loans.
President Weah also refused to tell the Liberian people that the road project in Maryland commenced in 2015; Harper-Ivorian Border, Harper Junction-Pleebo-Karloken-Fish Town, River Gee County was constructed by the Unity Party-Led government. Additionally, as the result of our domestic resource mobilization we left in place financing infrastructure, the Road Fund which was established through legislation in 2015. We also negotiated the South Eastern Corridor Road Access Management Project (SECRAMP) with the World Bank providing guarantee for the financing arrangement to pave from Ganta to Zwedru using the Road Fund Mechanism. Also, as part of completing the Trans West African Highway Project, we secured 50% grant from the European Union and a concessional loan from the African Development Bank to finance the pavement from Luogatuo to Sanniquellie, Ganta – Yekepa which commenced in 2015 and financed by the GoL. The Coca Cola Factory – ELWA Junction road expansion project financed by the World Bank.

These are the same roads President Weah referred to yesterday when he boasted of ongoing 388 kilometers for which the CDC-led government will be only too willing to take credit. Pavement of major roads completed under the UP-led Government include the 90 mile Monrovia-Buchanan Road; 200 mile Monrovia-Gbarnga-Ganta Highway now named Suakoko; Fish Town-Harper Road; the SKD Boulevard and Kakata-Bong Mines Road. We completed the pavement from Harper to the Ivorian Border and up to Karloken and extensive work up to Fish Town, Rivergee county. The UP- led government secured funding for Sanniquellie-Yekepa Road which commenced five years ago;
Freeport-Red-light was funded by the people of Japan.

The UP-led government’s detailed road network plan cannot be compared to the pavement by the CDC-led government of President Weah’s community roads in Rehab and other communities which can actually be described as alleyways and without major economic returns. CDC’s road projects are intended to provide contracts to friends at exorbitant cost without proper procurement processes with the interest of receiving kickbacks.

In 2018, Mr. President promised a slew of major highways that his failed government was going to construct and yet none was achieved. For example, where is the Coastal Highway promised as a flagship project by the CDC Government? The RIA Road Project has turned out to be a “Corrupt Scheme” meant to enrich a few like the sanctioned Nathaniel McGill. The UP-led Government did a
pre-feasibility and full feasibility study which did not exceed 90 Million United States Dollars. CDC government entered into a bogus contract with East International Company without any procurement process and escalated the cost to 116 Million United States Dollars. This is termed as “Broad Day Stealing” by the CDC government!
Food security and the agriculture sector suffered lack of innovation under President Weah.

President Weah brags that agricultural productivity would have been a key priority of his administration during his last Annual Message. He boasted several efforts of a new beginning setting milestones for the agricultural sector to achieve. He highlighted that the private sector interest and investment in agriculture has grown and that they expressed interest in investment. Of course, they pointed out the opportunities but as we speak, Liberia under the regime of President Weah has not recorded any major investment in the agriculture sector.

In his speech he said that last year was a high-performing period for our agriculture sector, where more focus was placed directly on impacting rural and urban farmers, as well as those in the agricultural value chains. Unfortunately, he failed to point out the returns on those investments.
The UP-led government attracted several investments especially in the oil palm sector creating thousands of jobs that Liberians are currently benefiting. The UP-led government attracted key investments like: Same Darby, Golden Veroleum, Equatorial Palm, Maryland Oil Palm amongst others and created thousands of jobs.
The President also emphasized the need to pursue mechanization to enhance agriculture production but he didn’t mention any practical approach that will enable the Ministry of Agriculture to provide tools, equipment, seeds, seedlings to farmers, farming communities and develop cooperatives as he promised in his 2022 Annual Message. This 2023 Annual Message is repetitive of the commitments made in his last year’s Annual Message without pinpointing major achievements.
The agricultural sector now enjoys the confidence of donors, whose support and presence allow for greater production of rice and other crops, and the employment of climate-smart agricultural practices that help mitigate the impacts of climate change on farmers.

The CDC-led government through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning negotiated and signed a loan of $73 million United States Dollars under the World Bank’s Rural Economy Transformation Project, (RETRAP) with a goal to expand the ongoing Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project and oversee the paving of the road from Tappita, Nimba County to Toe Town in Grand Gedeh County. It was expected to drive resources into the rubber, cassava, poultry and piggery sectors to complement other projects in rice, oil palm and vegetables. The President and government committed the country through this huge loan but didn’t report on the outcomes of these investments. In fact, productivity in the following agro- sectors continues to decline as these commodities are scarce, but from across our borders with prices skyrocketing due to the lack of the appropriate investments even with the progressive increment in our national debt stocks by the government.

The agriculture sector has failed to provide needed jobs for our people as proposed by the PAPD. Both males and females working in the sector have declined sharply.

The health of our people is sharply declining due to the incompetence and inability of the Weah- led administration to prioritize substantive investment and to focus on the quality of health services and personnel. This government has largely used resources to build structures and equipping the existing facilities with the needed materials and personnels to make them functional.

While we appreciate the construction of a 100-bedroom structure for the people of Gbarpolu and Liberia by the Emirates, that structure is not yet a hospital until it can become fully equipped and functional. There are complaints from across the country about hospitals going without fuel to provide electricity, surgical gloves for nurses and doctors and general logistics and equipment for the operations of those hospitals. Scores of primary health care facilities have incessantly complained about the lack of drugs while nurses are constantly protesting for salaries.

Health worker’s density is 12.8 per 10,000 population according to WHO 2022 country report on Liberia. President Weah failed to mention that out of pocket expense on health care has increased from 41% in 2018 to 45% in 2022 according to the Global Fund-Health Financing Policy Brief on Liberia. At the climax of the Millennium Development Goals, Liberia achieved Goal 4 which was aimed at reducing child mortality by 2/3rd at the end of the MDGs. Under this Weah-led government, infant mortality has increased from 54% in 2018 to 63% in 2021 according to the Liberia Demographic and Health Survey 2020. The 2020 LDHS also indicated a worsening neonatal
mortality rate at 37 per 1000 live births compared to 26 per 1000 live births in 2013. This means that more children are dying today compared to six years ago. This is reported by our own LISGIS.
The Education sector remains in dire need of resuscitation. The Weah-led administration has only played lip service since their ascendancy. The sector remains underfunded, less prioritized but with rash and knee jerk pronouncements that not only rolled back progress but have put burden and weakened on public tertiary institution’s progress.
The President said his government spent nearly $38.9 million US dollars on tuition-free policy; renovation of public universities; WASSCE and Junior High School examinations; the “Support to Closing Teachers Salary Gaps” project; and support to the Engineering College. Unfortunately, facilities at the public schools are some of the most challenging. As I speak to you fellow Liberians, our public schools across the country are filled with incompetent and unqualified teachers, most of whom are volunteers who are yet to receive any form of remuneration and or training. The output of our secondary school students remain very low. President Weah’s knee jerk education policy of primary education has overburdened the system so much so that the quantity of students outweighs the capability of the quality it was meant to provide.
Having dismally failed the people of Liberia in providing the needed the Education Sector Plan will require the Government to commit more than $500 million US dollars over the next five years. As Government revenue increases as forecast, my proposal is that we should devote an increasingly larger share of these new revenue streams to this new plan, in order to secure the future of our young people in Liberia.

Today we heard about the State of a Nation. President George Weah’s nation is a nation where the president and his party have done no wrong, where most people are doing well, where the war on corruption has been won, and where the future is bright.

But we know the State of the Nation. The people’s nation—our nation— is a nation where women are not protected. Garbage is not collected. Children are not educated. People are not earning enough to live in comfort and dignity. Health centers are not equipped. The youth are losing their lives to drugs.

In our Nation, the President and his party failed to conduct a credible census that results could be used for your development trajectory. They failed to pay enumerators, young people looking to serve their country. They did not complete the census on time. The census showed not only that they are corrupt, but also that they just cannot do anything right.

In Liberia today, salary harmonization leads to increment in poverty rather than relieving the people of the very poverty. The president said that he has only realized that some people are making below the minimum wage.

In our nation, debt stock went from moderate under the UP to high under the CDC and is going back to moderate and we are expected to applaud the government for fixing what they have damaged.
In our nation, we see that the government is incapable of caring. Incapable of leading.

Indifferent to our sufferings. But there is no time to dwell on the president’s failures. They are well-known. Ride a taxi. Ride a motorbike. Go to the churches and mosques. Go to the intellectual centers. The message is clear: the president has no clue what he is doing and no knowledge of what he has to do, and no vision of where he wants to take the country. A country like ours that is still recovering from the brunt of the civil war, with so much at stick but the president we have remains clueless on the importance to governance of a fragile country like ours.

We warned Liberians that this would’ve happened. As UP, we know what it takes to lead this country. We spent 12 years fighting some of the most pressing challenges including: food security, roads, education, health care and electricity. It takes tenacity, attention to detail, hard work and integrity to provide sustainable and much needed development Liberians yearn. Weah has none of these. He has refused to learn the job. The president failed on salary harmonization. They lied about their intent. The president failed to fight corruption. They openly promote corruption.
This has been the story of the last five years. Stories of dashed hopes, broken dreams and failed promises.

Our focus should be on ensuring he does not get another 6 years. The president thinks he can do nothing for six years and then show up at the dying minute to ask for another term. Six years is not as quick as six minutes of extra time at the end of a football game.

The president’s most memorable moments have been mishaps. We won’t remember him for his good deeds. There were none. We will remember when he said news of the price of rice was “street talk.”

We will remember when he told striking health workers they will be replaced because they were striking for delay in their salaries.
We will remember when the police attacked peaceful protesters.

We need a party and a leader with the experience to transform this country. UP and Ambassador Boakai have been there. We know what to do. We can rescue Liberia.

When the CDC government took power in 2018, the size of the civil service stood around 50,000. In a desperate attempt to give jobs to CDC partisans and without any regard to civil service rules and standards, the CDC government added more than 20,000, mostly unqualified partisans, on the GOL payroll, thereby increasing the annual GOL salary compensation cost by nearly US$25 million. When it became obvious that the GOL could not afford the huge cost of its payroll, the CDC government was constrained to implement its Payroll Harmonization Scheme, which essentially was an attempt to retain unqualified CDCians on the GOL payroll by slicing the pay of professional civil servants. Some civil servants experienced pay cuts as 70% at some government institutions. As a result, many civil servants, including those at the Ministry of Information, saw their salaries being cut in some instances to as low as US$45. The Harmonization Scheme was executed recklessly and politically, thus undermining productivity and merit in the civil service.

As we verge on the October 2023 elections and with defeat staring President Weah in the face, President Weah shamelessly and desperately announced in his SONA address yesterday that the government will no longer pay civil servants below the minimum wage of US$150 and all those below the minimum wage will experience appropriate pay increases to reach the minimum pay of US$150. Let it be known that under the UP-led government, civil servants were paid with dignity and merit. Putting all the pay packages together (basic salaries, allowances, etc), the minimum civil servants pay under the UP administration was above US$150 in practically all government ministries and agencies..
In any case, we are happy that after perpetrating evil on hapless civil servants for years under the disguise of a Payroll Harmonization Scheme, President Weah is now tacitly acknowledging his wrong. But we need to remind President Weah that at the time his government was cutting the pay of the least civil servant from a total of around US$150 to as low as US$45 dollars in some institutions,
he also cut the pay of the boss of that least civil servant from probably US$500 to US$150. So, now that the least civil servant will make US$150, what happens to the pay of his boss whose pay is now US$150? Will the boss and the least civil servant make the same pay? Therefore, President Weah and the CDC government need to own up to the massive failure and inequity in their Payroll Harmonization Scheme and effect increases across all grades of the civil service. This will ensure equity, merit, and productivity. We therefore call on the Legislature to meticulously review the President’s proposal with the view to righting the harm against civil servants as a result of the Harmonization policy comprehensively, not partially.

Fellow Liberians, here is the state of your nations: the price of rice has gone up, prices of all basic commodities have risen, Civil Servant pay has been drastically cut, salary payment is not on time, gasoline and other fuel prices have gone up, electricity is being rationed due to the poor management of LEC, no constant running water, unexplained death of peaceful citizens continues to persist, transportation cost is high, patients are turned away from public health facilities due to the absence of drugs, discrimination against non-partisans are public sector ministries and agencies continues to persist, all of our services centers are closed in the various counties, community colleges are always striking due to unavailable of operational funds, and so much more of these inadequacies have rendered this government incompetent and doesn’t need a second term!!

Now Fellow Liberians, I am calling on you all to rally with the Unity Party headed by Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai that has requisite experience to change the situation as we did in 2005.

Unity Party’s Response to President Weah’s 2023 Annual Message

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, members of the Press, Fellow Liberians,

Let me begin by congratulating President Weah on his final state of the Nation Address. Come next year, we will have a new Commander-in-Chief, someone up to the task of building this country. Someone with the compassion, skills, integrity, and experience to restore our faith in our country.

Today, I have the honor of responding to his State of the Nation address on behalf of the Unity Party.
Our response will focus on the substantive issues and most importantly, the state of our people; the people who are feeling the brunt of the current state of their nation.

While en route to deliver this response, I met Ma Sarah. She is a market woman who sells food items. Ma Sarah complained that Liberia is the toughest she has seen since the war. Her grandchildren cannot go to school and they can barely afford daily meal. She further indicated that the price of a cup of rice has risen so much that they’re forced to cook it soft in order to expand it. And they usually eat it with red oil and pepper as it is difficult to afford soup kinds. “I walk many days because I cannot afford car or kehkeh-pay”, she said. As she explained her story, I could see tears dripping down her cheeks. She had lost faith in her government. She believes that the current administration has failed her and many others. This to me is the real state of the nation that President Weah didn’t report. The harsh economic conditions faced by our people across the country speaks to the core of the real problems confronting our people. They can barely afford a stable meal. No jobs and many have turned to beggars in their own country. This story of Ma Sarah is the story of the vast majority of our people, many of whom have lost confidence in their government. The Unity Party government under the stewardship of Joseph Nyumah Boakai can change this, and we MUST.

On the economy, the President made several broad promises and is yet to fulfill them. Additionally, he has continuously violated laws that seek to curb corruption.

For instance, last year during the President’s State of the Nation Address to the Legislature, he reported the passage of the 2022 National Budget in the tune of Seven Hundred Eighty-Five Million Six Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$785.6) and promised to make it a transformative budget. The president’s address fell short of showing the transformative effects by making specific reference to the changes in the budget execution. It is quite interesting that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has not published fiscal outturn or budget performance reports since the 2020 publication. There is no indication that the government generated $640.5 million United States Dollars as 81.5 percent of the revenue component as proposed in the 2022 National Budget. The budget performance report should provide a detailed explanation as regards revenue receipts and expenditures during the period under review. Without the President clearly reporting on these indicators and his claim that his government introduced the largest National Budget in the history of Liberia remains unrealistic.

During the delivery of his 2022 Annual Message; President Weah emphasized that strong revenue measures would have been taken to rigorously increase domestic resource mobilization through the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) resource mobilization strategy to give back 50 percent of all real estate taxes collected to the counties, districts and cities where the real estate taxes are collected. The President did not mention any progress in his 2023 Annual Message and we have no evidence of this program being successfully implemented nor have we seen evidence that the local government and or communities are receiving a percentage of the real estate taxes collected. The revenue sharing law was passed in 2022 but it has not taken effect. All we saw was wastage of public resources through workshops and seminars.

Of striking significance is the government’s inability to remit Social Development Funds (SDF) collected from concessional multinational firms operating in Liberia to the local county authorities. This clearly exhibits a high degree of insincerity and unwillingness on the part of the Executive branch of government to uphold the Local Government Act and the MDAs as laws. For example, the Executive received 7.5 Million United States Dollars for Nimba County, 3 Million United States Dollars for Bong Country, 5 Million United States Dollars for Grand Bassa County as Social Development Funds. The government has callously not remitted those amounts to the respective counties thereby depriving the counties of the needed development. What have the people of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa done to you Mr. President for which you and your government are depriving them of money from their own natural resources? The president also allocated County Development Funds to himself for the Presidential County Tour for the sole purpose of gaining praises. Interestingly, recently Senator Prince Johnson of Nimba county had to threaten President Weah and his administration that his county will withhold support to his presidential bid if the 7.5 million USD is not remitted to the county. We find this to be disingenuous on the part of this government to keep our counties stagnated from their legal revenues only to be traded for votes. This, for us, is a blatant abuse of power.

Recently, the Government annnounced to the public that the Western Cluster Concession agreement ratified in 2011 was being activated using an illegal MoU. The were several breaches in the MDA which only qualifies it for renegoatiation. Western Cluster owed the three counties 24 millions, didn’t meet the exploration deadlines, didn’t established any production sites and have not commenced the development of the agreed infrastructures (the construction of a road from Bomi Hill to Mano River, the construction of a rail and the construction of a port). The government used an illegal MoU and waived 14 million of the SDF and allowed Western Cluster to lift the Direct Shipping Ore for shipping on the illegal MoU. This is Stealing!!!!!!

Liberians expected to have heard the President speak about his government’s approach to avoid the progressive abuse of over $300 million U.S. dollars in duty-free privileges granted prior to the delivery of his 2022 Annual Message. The President deliberately and callously decided not to speak about this very important issue as he had committed to do in the last State of the Nation Address. We believe, President Weah and his government didn’t mention anything about stop gap measures taken to prevent this linkage in the system. He and his government continue to abuse the granting of duty- free priviledges which could’ve amounted to more than 300 million as we speak.

Additionally, the President mentioned less about the progress of restructuring our domestic debt. According to the President in his 2022 Annual Address, all legacy debt owed the Central Bank of Liberia was restructured totaling $487.5 million U.S. dollars. The total public debt stock stood at $1.69 billion U.S. dollars on January 1, 2022 increasing our public debt stock since 2018. Yesterday, the president told the nation that his government has increased our total debt stock to almost TWO BILLION United States Dollars just under SIX years while for 12 years the Unity Party total debt stock was about 900 million US Dollars having secured an unprecedented waiver of over 4.7 Billion US Dollars historical debt.

The President’s report on our current total debt stock has shown a growth of 7.9 percent as compared to 6.29 percent in the previous year. Majority of this growth accounts for the disbursement of external loans. The government argues that the majority of its capital investments are financed from its domestic resource mobilization. This policy statement is not factual because the 2022 budget appropriated over 75 percent for only recurrent expenditures which leaves a smaller fiscal space to invest in both social and economic infrastructure development. Most of our major capital investments are funded by bilateral and multilateral agents.

For the first time in recent financial and fiscal history, debt repayment has exceeded capital expenditure as a percentage of public expenditure. From 2018 to now, cumulative repayment of loans and interest amounted to 9% of total expenditure. This was more than two times the 4% of expenditure spent on capital accumulation. This is a huge contradiction of the much trumpeted, but empty claim to being the most infrastructure-oriented government in Liberia’s history.

President Weah refused to mention whether the audit report of the consolidated account was completed as promised in his last Annual Address. We have seen a publication of the consolidated account audit as far back as 2015/2016 and 2016/2017 national budgets and the completion of the Fiscal Year 2019/2020. He also informed the public last year that The General Auditing Commission was conducting an independent payroll audit funded by the World Bank. But he did not provide a report on the outcome of the audit. This speaks to the President’s inability to live up to commitments made in his Annual Messages over the past five years.

The President reported last year during the delivery of his Annual Message that the positive review from the IMF was immediately followed by a disbursement of $23.64 million U.S. dollars to the Central Bank to add to the nation’s reserve stock. Additionally, Liberia received $345.3 million US dollars in August 2021 under the general Special Drawing Rights allocation from the IMF as a member due the unstable condition of our financial situation. What the President didn’t report was that this disbursement of SDR was as a result of the recapitalization of the Central Bank after the CDC Government uncontrollably and carelessly depleted the national reserve by the first quarter of 2019 upon taking office. He also reported that despite the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, .

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