— Minister of Finance and Development Planning partially reveals the 2023 campaign strategy of Weah and the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah Jr, has boasted that President George Manneh will win next year’s presidential election based on the success of his first six years in office, which is now in conclusion.
Tweah noted that come 2023, Weah will tell the Liberian people the story about how he inherited a broken economy that has now rebounded with growth expected to average more than 4 percent.
“The President will be going for renewal in 2023 because he has done marvelously well. He’s going to be running on the successes he has had,” the Minister said while disclosing some of the President's future campaign messages.
“In 2023 we know there will be propaganda, but we will run on our record. President will be making a case for six more years. We are in a political space, something can be good but someone tries to make it bad,” Tweah said at the closing of the official launch of the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Preparation Process held yesterday. “However, we will have enough to convince the electorates that we are still the best option to continue with the development of this country.”
The President’s 2023 economic campaign message, Tweah noted, will be anchored on Weah saying this: “In 2018 I thought I was inheriting a strong economy but in reality, I inherited a broken economy and that I sank for two and a half years. But today, I rebounded and the economy is moving well. Now, economic growth is expected to be around 4.5 percent.”
Tweah’s optimism comes amid the government’s struggles to succeed in its ambitious development plan, the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), which promises to be a framework for inclusion, more equitable distribution of national wealth, and economic growth by increasing productivity through value chains, with a focus on agriculture.
The result has been uneven as widespread poverty and inequality have doubled since Weah came into power in 2018.
The poverty rate in Liberia, according to the World Bank Poverty & Equity Brief, is above 50 percent of the country's estimated population of 4.5 million people. And the 2022 Fragile States Index (FSI) has ranked Liberia as the 33rd most fragile state in the world and 21st in Africa. FSI, a yearly report by Washington, DC-based think tank, The Fund for Peace, ranks 178 countries “across” 12 indicators of the risks and vulnerabilities faced by individual nations.
Some of the risk indicators include security, group grievances, economic decline, brain drain, state legitimacy/human rights and rule of law, demographic pressures, and internally displaced persons or refugees.
The 2022 FSI report identified Liberia as one of the states the international community must keep in view, having scored a relatively high figure, which places it in the “alert” category, trailed only by countries with long-standing political and security woes like the Central African Republic, Sudan, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the like.
The Weah administration, most Liberians believe, has its share of blessings, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations.
However, the government has nevertheless stopped praising itself for infrastructure development projects and economic resiliency — a budget of US$US$785.5 million and economic growth projection that is expected to average more than 4 percent in the next two years.
The US$785.5 million fiscal year budget for 2022 however has been recast to US$806.5 million, reflecting a net upward adjustment of US$20 million or 2.9 percent over the originally approved budget.
But for Tweah, the government has done a lot, which calls reelection. The Minister named the government's continued fight against corruption and support for integrity institutions, as some of its success stories.
The Minister also cited the government funding of the ongoing Ganta to Saclepea road construction project, as well as many other infrastructure projects across the country and the free tuition policy at public universities as some of the government achievements.
The Ganta to Saclepea road project, which is in vote-rich Nimba, when completed, is expected to not just boost the economic development of rural Liberians, but quickly connect urban to rural areas.
The Ganta-Saclepea highway construction is the first ‘lot’ of the 118-kilometer road from Ganta to Zwedru – benefiting major urban areas like Saclapea and Tappita in Nimba County — the country’s second most populated county.
“President has already done so well that he deserves a national award. By the time the President leaves his first term, we will have successfully implemented free tuition, free WASCE, 2000 to 3000 health workers [would] have been put on the payroll and US$114 million is being used for all these programs. The former ruling UP had this money but could not execute one,” Tweah said.
“In the governance space, we have reformed. We have just passed into law the biggest LACC Act. The most transformative Act for the LACC ever in the history of our country. This has never happened in the history of our country. The GAC is conducting several audits, including payroll audit, and consolidated account audit, among others.”
But the restated act has been slammed by civil society organizations, opposition senators, and the current chairperson of Cllr. Edwin Martin as having been dangerously “repealed” with the intent of undermining strides being made at LACC to expose alleged corrupt officials.
Critics of the legislation claimed that it represents a broader attack on the fight against corruption in a country that is already corrupt; and would undermine the gains made by the current LACC leadership in exposing corruption in the executive.
Tweah however noted that while people are criticizing the restated Act of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Agency, its former chair, Cllr. James Verdier had said he wished he had such a law legislated when he was in charge as head of LACC.
Verdier said he would have been happy to work with the new Act passed into law. He made the remark when he appeared on Spoon Talk, a popular online Talkshow.
Meanwhile, Tweah added that the next budget is going to be supported mainly by domestic revenue as the level of budget support will drop significantly and admitted that the global situation, including the war in Ukraine, is giving serious challenges to the government.
However, he was quick to note that Weah has systematically delivered robust responses in the broad range of sectors, whether it is the macroeconomic space where they have stabilized the economy by having a stable exchange rate between the Liberian and the US Dollars.
“The 2023 budget is going to be critical. This year, US$40 million is the budget support we are getting but next year we will be at US$15 million in budget support from partners. We might even fund our entire budget a hundred percent based on the continuous improvements we will have in our revenue generation,” he told the audience.”
He stressed that health, education, and infrastructure development will continue to top the agenda of the government.
“There are lots of big wins coming for the government. The President goes to the Democracy conference in Washington, where only 17 African presidents were invited; we hope that we will pass at least twelve indicators on the MCC scorecard next year."