Liberia: Is Weah Administration a Colossal Failure?

Weah came to power with the slogan: “Change for Hope” promising equal opportunity for all Liberians.   


.... … “Out of a total of 292 promises tracked during the assessment, only 24 promises (8%) have been fully implemented by the government over the last five years,”  Naymote, which is one of the country’s most revered civil society organizations said in a report, title the President Meter project. 

President George Weah may be hoping to win re-election with ease, but he faces a herculean task as his administration is yet to implement nearly two-thirds of the promises he made to the Liberians while seeking the presidency and after coming to power, a NAYMOTE assessment report has said.

The report, if it is anything to go by, it shows that Weah could be seeking re-elections in October with a mixed record overwhelmed by many unfulfilled political promises, notably in the battle against corruption, good governance, and poverty.

Weah, in his development manifesto after winning the 2017 election had promised to provide greater income security to one million Liberians and reduce absolute poverty by 23 percent across 5 out of 6 regions, but much has not been done to reel the country from high unemployment and extreme poverty.

“Out of a total of 292 promises tracked during the assessment, only 24 promises (8%) have been fully implemented by the government over the last five years,”  Naymote, one of the country’s most revered civil society organizations, said in a report, titled the President Meter project. “The findings of this assessment show that President Weah and his government have yet to implement nearly two-thirds of the promises they have made to the people of Liberia.”

 “Numerous promises have been made, over the years, on poverty reduction, infrastructural development, social service delivery, rule of law, government accountability, and decentralization, among others,” the report added. “[But] 177 promises, which nearly two-thirds of all promises were identified as ‘not started because the government had not commenced work on their implementation.”

Weah’s election was historic. This was the first time in 73 years that a peaceful transition of political power from one democratically elected government to another took place in Liberia.  The president came to power with the slogan: “Change for Hope” promising equal opportunity for all Liberians. 

As a result, the majority of the pledges achieved by the Weah government fell under ‘Pillar 2 of his Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development,’ which is the country’s development Manifesto. Pillar 2 tackles 'Economy and Jobs' and has the greatest completion rates of the three pillars.

“The majority of the promises implemented are promised under Pillar 2 of the Manifesto (Economy and Jobs). These constituted (56%) of all completed promises. Specifically, promises on infrastructural development received a high completion rate — constituting 38% of all completed promises,” the report said. 

“Pillar 1 of the Manifesto (Power to the People) which has a total of 106 promises, has the lowest completion rate of 8%. Although the completion rate under Pillar 4 (Governance and Transparency) remains the lowest.”

While the Weah government, according to the Naymote report, has achieved many commitments under Pillar 2 of his development strategy, poverty in Liberia remains prevalent, with 50.9 percent of Liberians living below the poverty line and a sizable number living in extreme poverty.

The World Bank in its  Poverty & Equity Brief on Liberia, updated April 2021, noted that 44 percent of the country’s estimated 5.5 million people lived under the extreme international poverty line of US$1.90 per day and that the proportion of poor households living below the international poverty line was projected to increase to 52 percent in 2021. 

Also, IMF Staff Country Reports Volume 2021 noted that widespread poverty and inequality undermine the country's most valued asset, preventing people from achieving their potential — while facing some form of income or food insecurity and vulnerability.

Currently, about 2.3 million Liberians are unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs — with poverty being higher in rural areas — home to 71.7 percent of the poor compared to 68 percent of the total population, the IMF report said.

Worse, nearly half of Liberia's labor force is unskilled, as businesses struggle to locate local skilled personnel, according to the US Department of State's 2022 Investment Climate report.

The report, which was issued a year after the IMF report, stated that Liberia's chronic underdevelopment is the result of its people and knowledge capital not being developed to productively and sustainably harness the country's natural resources and generate wealth.

This illuminating assessment also comes as Liberia's economically active populations 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. 

Also, data on Liberia's human capital investment, as it stands, indicates that the country is amongst the worst in the world largely due to slow progress in education and health. At just 0.32, Liberia is ranked at the bottom of the Human Capital Index, performing better than only three African countries in the world — namely, the Central African Republic, Chad, and South Sudan. That is, out of 174 countries assessed and also the lowest human capital in ECOWAS, together with Mali and Niger.

And in the ECOWAS sub-region, Liberia also has the lowest human capital in ECOWAS, together with Mali and Niger. Ghana (0.45) is the best performer, scoring 41 percent higher than Liberia, followed by Togo (0.43), The Gambia (0.42), Senegal (0.42), and Benin (0.40), the World Bank said.

The country's human capital gap, according to the report, was mainly driven by poor education (contributing 50 percent), poor health (12 percent), and survival (7 percent). 

Meanwhile, Naymote has said that while the government’s focus on infrastructure, which is needed to spur jobs and growth, is understandable, the slow pace at which they are implementing promises on crucial reforms needed to strengthen anti-corruption institutions, improve delivery capacity, and implement decentralization is concerning. 

“ Delivering promises made in campaign manifestos and policy statements is important for sustaining trust between the government and the citizens; conversely, failing to deliver undermines trust and confidence in the authority of the government,” the Naymote report added.

The fifth edition of the President Meter project seeks to promote transparency and political accountability and to inform citizens about the President’s performance against promises he made during the period under review.

The report tracks post-election promises made by Weah and the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) during the 2017 elections and after he took office in January 2018.

“The assessment found that implementation activities were ongoing on 91 promises (31% of all promises) during the time of the assessment. This shows that despite the slow pace in completing projects, efforts were being made to fulfill more promises.”

 “For instance, 70% of all promises made under Pillar 4: Governance and Transparency had ongoing activities during the assessment. Understandably, implementation of activities under Pillar 4 may take several years due to the complex nature of the institutional and legislative reforms that may be required on a number of the promises, for instance, on decentralization, and on strengthening anti-corruption institutions. The table below shows the ‘ongoing rate’ which measures the number of projects with ongoing activities (but not completed) under each pillar,” the report added.