ProPoor: Who’s Winning and Who’s Losing

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Monrovia, Liberia- After the government of President George Weah was inaugurated, it came up with a slogan for development titled, “ProPoor”. The name itself was almost self explanatory, as citizens embarked on using it in almost every conversation held during the first few months of its introduction.

Liberians all around the world immediately attached serious significance to the “ProPoor” terminology, though at times using it for adverse purposes. Meanwhile, in the name, ordinary citizens, many of whom live below the poverty line saw hope from the ashes of destitution. To them, “For the poor” was the beginning of the end of lack of: basic social services, good health, employment, and better livelihood.

However, the big question remains: Is ProPoor really for the poor? Are Liberian voters experiencing the impact of the government’s “ProPoor” agenda? Who’s winning and who’s losing?

 

The Economy:

It is no secret that the Liberian economy is in one of, if not, worst state since the independence of the country in 1847. For the first time apart from war years, many parents cannot afford to send their children to school. Unemployment still remain a serious challenge as government is the highest employer in the country. With almost no vibrant public sector to compliment government’s employment efforts, thousands, if not million of Liberians are still languishing in the abyss of unemployment; with no clear path of job opportunities anytime soon.

While unemployment is making headway, the prices of basic commodities are way over the roof. For example, in Maryland County, rural Liberia, the price for a gallon of gas stands at L$2,000 (US$12.00) while a 25kg bag of rice is L$3,000 (US$19.00).

With high prices and lack of job opportunities available, many Liberians are barely able to get by; the hardship among ordinary Liberians is ever present.

One of the Liberian government major excuse has been the decline in price of Liberia’s two basic export commodities (Iron Ore and Rubber) on the world market. However, for a government that has been seated for almost 9-months, it is astonishing that no new concession deals has been signed, neither have any major foreign investment been made or concluded. In addition, with Forbes and other business magazines announcing Liberia as the worst country to do business in Africa, significant foreign investments seem far from happening.

Besides chasing loans and grants which also seem far from fruity, the Liberian government has not shown any significant push at addressing the economic hardship of Liberians; apart from the US$25 million stimulus announced by the President few month back, which did not make any significant impact.

 

Governance:

Governance under the current administration of President George Weah can be looked at from various perspectives, however, the overall performance of the government is scanty, as the basic responsibility of any government is to provide basic necessities and cater to the well-being of her citizens. With limited access to basic necessities, and prevalent harsh living conditions, it is fair to say that those can be attributed to under-performing officials of government.

Firstly, many officials of government who head ministries and agencies have not even come up with developed policies and goals that would guide them through the term of the current administration. Most senior and junior officials of the current government prefer fighting intellectual warfare on social media all through the day, than actually doing the work for which they were appointed. Because of this, it is being reported that when people go to conduct business at most times at government entities, the requisite authorities are usually not available, or don’t cater to citizens on time, causing frustration. For instance, at the Liberian Business Registry, it is being reported that business registrations are delayed due to the Director either not being in office some days, or just being busy with stuffs that don’t have anything to do with the entity.

In addition to the above example, the Liberian Broadcasting System which is supposed to be a non-political entity has been heavily transformed into a partisan related entity. Starting from the administration of President Sirleaf through the then famous Bumper Show, the LBS only gives credence to officials of the current government for appearances, while current Junior Directors of the entity are engaged in government defense and partisan politics all through the day on social media. The behaviors of most officials of the current government proves that their appointments to those positions were not adequately scrutinized, thereby placing the government in a stagnated position.

Whether it was part of their “Terms Of Reference” during their appointments or not, praise-singing of President Weah name has become the order of the day by officials of government. While citizens expect real activities of these officials as it relates to the performance of their duties to be posted, many of them spend hours serenading the name of President Weah; praises which many Liberians see as irrelevant to the economic growth and development of the country.

Internal rivalries in government ministries and agencies are also stalling the current government effort to effectively perform. Awhile ago, The Liberian Billboard reported about rifts between heads of ministries and agencies, and their junior ministers and deputies. To date, these rivalries are accelerating at a very high pace. Beginning with the Ministry of Commerce where the Deputy Minister for Small Businesses was suspended, these internal rifts have transferred to other entities; the Ministries of Justice, Foreign Affairs, State, and the Liberia National Police are just a few to name.

For the current Vice President, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor, she has become a replica of former Vice President Joseph Boakai, who during the 2017 elections referred to himself as a parked car. Reports say, some officials who have influence on the President have warned him against giving the current Vice President too much influence, as it would undermine his significance and threaten his Presidency, since in fact, Madam Taylor is well educated and is heavily endowed with governmental workings and functions.

 

Subconscious Legislature:

Over the years, the Legislative Branch of government has failed the Liberian people significantly, and this has continued into the current regime.

Firstly, the independence of the both houses of the Liberian legislature has long been compromised; except in the case where they want to hold someone in contempt. Most decisions of both houses, especially when it concern things that the Executive desperately want to pass, are usually made based on financial kickbacks either from the Executive Branch, or from an entity which it supports. Citizens interests are usually the least point of consideration during votes to pass concessions and bills in both houses, leaving constituents usually at the mercy of companies and corporations.

Most times, Liberian lawmakers are focused on “What are we getting from it?”, than “What are the citizens getting from it?”. There is no adequate check and balance on the Executive; an example of passage of the EBOMAF and ETON loans acts.

With fat checks, kickbacks and heavy benefits, lawmakers focus more on personal acquisition than constituents representations and interests, usually preying on the illiterate attributes of many of their voters to reelect them with the use of material influence during campaigns. The current legislature since its sitting has never passed any significant bill or even revisited any concessional agreement for the purpose of seeking citizens interest.

 

Government Officials Luxury vs Struggling Citizens and Partisans:

For 12-years, the Coalition for Democratic Change as an opposition, criticized the Unity Party-led government and her officials for not only corruption, but their lifestyle and failure of many to declare their assets. Somehow paradoxically, officials of the CDC-led government are doing exactly what they once criticized.

With just 9-months gone, the comparison of the government’s output to its citizens to that of their personal outputs and acquisitions cannot be measured. Starting from the Presidency downward, the acquisition of personal wealth has been more of a priority than elevating the well-being of Liberians.

With just few months into his presidency, President George Weah demolished his long standing property in Sinkor, and started to erect a new structure. Not stopping there, the president started the construction of an estate on the Robert International Airport Highway, while revamping his private resort known as Jamaica. Supporters of the president often argue that he was worth millions before ascending to the Presidency. However, the big questions are: Why the President didn’t start those constructions until he became President? Why was his asset declaration not made public?

In further assertions, other top officials of government in the same period have acquired or are constructing properties, avoiding asset declarations; the same they criticized the Sirleaf administration for. Nathaniel McGill, Minitser of State; Samuel Tweah, Minister of Finance; Jefferson Koijee, City Mayor of Monrovia; Sekou Kalasco Damaro, Aide to the President; have all acquired or are constructing luxurious properties, despite the economic hardship of the masses whom they claim to represent. it is reported that the Chairman of the ruling coalition, Mulbah Morlu often reside in-between hotels. Riding cars worth thousands of dollars, these officials are living in absolute luxury while ordinary citizens are living in the Charles Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” mode.

Another point that is important to cite, is the struggling nature of many of the very partisans who during stormy times were loyal to the party. With some top partisans having being appointed, they have immediately forgotten most of the foot soldiers who toiled and sweated to see the Coalition assume state power. According to reports, this distaste among partisans have ignited an internal warfare, with some partisans referring to others as clothed with greed and selfishness.

 

The Result:

With no need for empirical and scientific data, it is clear that the “ProPoor Agenda” is not being favorable to masses. A messed-up economy, twisted mode of governance, subconscious legislature as well as struggling and frustrated masses tell the whole story.

Despite efforts by surrogates to put up shows of achievements, there are not any direct or indirect impact of any deliverable on the well-being of the masses. The personal acquisition and luxury of officials have overtaken the Propoor ideology, thus making the word just a slang used as an excuse to inform others that life is tough; and yes, life is tough in the country indeed.

Can the government still come out on top? Objectively, my answer will be yes, if they can address the pressing issues adequately, and make the necessary adjustments as fast as possible. On the other hand, if the government continue at the pace and mode of operation for which it is currently exhibiting, it is no secret that Liberia will be doomed.

Like some officials of the Sirleaf’s regime did, current officials of this government refer to objective voices as envious, jealous, haters, losers, etc. Despite those name calling, some patriots including me, are obligated to Liberia and will continue to speak truth to the issues.

Oh and before I forget, government officials are winning; the masses are losing!!!!