Liberia: “Wait Until After Weah's 2nd Term”

 VP Howard-Taylor.

.... VP Taylor tells opposition, pushes Weah's second term bid 

A warning has been issued to President George Weah's “political opponents” that they should wait until president Weah finishes his second term since none have the chance of defeating him during the 2023 elections.

This is according to Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who claimed that the Weah administration “has done so well” during the course of his first term.

“Those who want to be president, I  will just have to wait until president Weah finishes his second term,”  the Vice President said.  I believe that we are doing very well and we will do more in the second term. We will bring our progress report, we will bring our statistics so they will engage us on that.”

Taylor's remarks come as Weah is expected to contest the 2023 elections on a mixed domestic record, On the economy, Weah's government has managed to keep inflation at bay, which is projected to remain low and stable, averaging 7.2 percent per year between now and 2024, according to the World Bank

Sustaining low levels of inflation would help Liberian households to retain their purchasing power, and it is projected that by 2023 poverty rates will start to decrease.  Overall economic growth in 2022 is expected to end at 3.7 percent but would reach an average of 5.2 percent over 2023-2024.

Beyond 2022, growth is expected to be underpinned by significant tailwinds for mining, the government’s planned scale-up of public investment, and the implementation of structural reforms including in key enabling sectors (such as energy, trade, transportation, and financial services).  

Also, under Weah's stewardship,  Liberia’s democracy has evolved, with the right to protest and freedom of the press as it was in the previous administration. Many popular government protests had taken place with little hindrance while his administration had improved the legal and regulatory environment for freedom of expression by repealing the law on defamation and sedition in 2018 and adopting several other laws.

This year, Liberia was ranked 75/180 on the World Press Freedom Index, an improvement from 2021, when it ranked 98/180. However, government debts to the media remain high and unpaid over several years so far. 

Meanwhile, the Weah administration, during the last five years, has failed to reduce the binding constraint that has kept Liberia and Liberians poor and backward as a least developed country.   Poor quality of roads and the lack of reliable and affordable electricity, which continue to hinder private investment, remain widespread.

The Weah administration has also struggled to improve on  Liberia’s Human Capital Index, which is as low as 0.32, performing better than only three countries in the world — out of 174 countries assessed. 

Under Weah, the human capital gap in Liberia was mainly driven by poor education (contributing 50 percent), poor health (12 percent), and survival (7 percent).  The underlying factors contributing to the country’s low human capital outcomes that Weah is yet to solve during his presidency are weak public institutions, ineffective service delivery, and low and inefficient social spending.

With a national literacy rate under 50 percent, Weah will be contesting for reelection at a time when his government had failed to promote initiatives that would make much of the Liberian labor force skillful, erasing the difficulty foreign companies face in locating local skilled labor.

This means Weah will end his first term with severe underdevelopment as a result of little to no investment in human capital development, which is needed to develop to productively and sustainably exploit the country’s natural resources and produce wealth.

This illuminating assessment comes as Liberia's economically active population transitions into the labor market are expected to grow from 1.6 million in 2018 to nearly 2 million in 2023, with nearly 80 percent of them found in informal employment, according to the IMF.

The informal employment population is also expected to grow from nearly 1.3 million in 2018 to 1.6 million by 2023 without significant intervention in job creation — creating a serious unemployment crisis. And with pervasive poverty, inequality, and widespread deprivation, the county in the next few years might struggle to restrain the crisis rising from unemployment amid efforts to accelerate growth and development. 

It is based on these and many other lapses that the Weah government would be challenged during the 2023 election, which is in October. And with the campaign a few months away, he would not be contesting the election as a political blank slate as he did in 2017, which plays greatly in his favor — make expansive promises  — without critics pointing to past shortcomings and failures.

But that's not the case anymore. Weah will be running on his record, and while there are some notable policy achievements during his four years in office, especially on the economy, he also had some prominent failures.

Considering this, VP Taylor claims that issues, considering the overall development of the country, do not rest on the shoulders of the Weah government alone but the work of every Liberian.

Liberia, Taylor said, is part of the whole and, as such, “Liberia will join the government to solve some of the challenges.” 

“It takes all of us who are patriotic citizens of Liberia to build Liberia. As we approach this new year, it is my prayer that all of us will drop our arms because we are part of the whole; and where you see some shortages, join the government and fix them. 

Meanwhile, the Liberian Vice President has warned that the 2023 elections should be an exchange of ideas, and not a fight about whether the person is on the left, right, or center.

"It is about putting our ideas on the table and allowing the young people and the electorates to see who's able to take us from where we are to the next level. Of course, I will be coming in to work with the President to ensure he gets the second term that he’s looking for."