The political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) says Liberians in every part of the country, especially the Southeast where he and his party toured recently, are looking for a leader that will save them from the grips of abject poverty, ignorance, deprivation and negative vices that have perpetually suppressed them.
In an interview with the Daily Observer yesterday in Monrovia, Mr. Cummings said, “None of what I’m going to say will be a surprise to you or your readers. We saw very challenging roads as we went across the country, especially, when we got beyond Ganta. I think this time of the year the rainy season has just begun. The lack of power and electricity is also a challenge. And these are not just challenges that are unique to the Southeast but are challenges throughout the nation.”
“The fact that our people are generally poor and they are struggling is also not unique to the Southeast. There are no set of issues that are particularly unique to that region as they all exist in all parts of our country,” he said.
Mr. Cummings noted: “What I found on my trip is that our people are looking for a savior—somebody to come and make things better.”
Mr. Cummings, who is one of the few Liberians who have worked in executive posts in Corporate America, noted that Liberians need to rise up and find within themselves the heart and mind to move their country forward. At his retirement from Coca-Cola, Cummings was Chief
Administrative Officer (deputy CEO) of the company.
Cummings said his passion, his experience working for many years in corporate America makes him an ideal presidential candidate and therefore he has returned home to request Liberians to give him the chance to lead and make the necessary changes that the country needs.
“One thing that I keep focusing on is that we need to engage the hearts and minds of Liberians in the change we desire in the country because if we don’t collectively own the change it will be difficult, if not impossible, if we change it, to make it sustainable,” he cautioned.
He said “Though I don’t know how we can solve this issue, we can figure it out collectively to play our roles in this change that we want.”
Providing an example, Mr. Cummings said, “If an investment is made in a school or a health facility and it is not maintained and people steal the materials, we have to find the way to change that behavior. And I think it can be done, which could be my biggest priority.
“For whoever becomes president, we all have to collectively focus on helping him. People need to be more demanding of themselves and more also of their leaders. They should not expect their leaders to do what’s right without demanding it of themselves.”
He said it is an important priority of which he has asked a few Liberians to help think through what that means and what are the deliberate interventions needed to move broadly in this change for the country.
Dwelling on the country’s current messy road network, he said the first thing the ANC could do as the governing party is determine how to find the money that will grow the government’s revenue to address these challenges.
“This is because without money we can’t do anything and we know our country’s budget is around six to seven hundred million dollars, which is not enough to do all the things we would need to do to invest and change our country.
“So we’ve got to look at how we can expand the revenue base. Let me give you examples; how efficient are we in collecting taxes? Do we have a tax base that is broad and wide enough? What kind of changes can we make to enforce even our existing tax and revenue laws to get more revenues into government’s coffers? Are we trained in leveraging the natural resource base of our country? Without changing any rules and laws, are we enforcing the current concession agreements we have to get the full benefit of these existing agreements? We believe we must get the facts for people to understand how we could do it and how it could work.”
To save the situation the government would have to invest in entrepreneurship—helping to get people into business which is another way and a source of getting cash revenue which is another side of increasing revenue, said Mr. Cummings.
“I believe that there is a fair amount of waste in government and we will understand where the wastage is and how we can save money and redeploy it into areas we consider priority,” he said.
He however noted that no leader can bring the much needed change except Liberians join the process, adding,“Liberians must rise up and solve their own problems.”
He urged Liberians to a look at “our choices available to build the country and therefore they must look at all those interested in the presidency… our individual track records because the best predictor of future behavior or success is the person’s past.”
Cummings said, “I have over 30 years’ career in the private sector in two very large American corporations. I have managed very large and complex budgets, and the last budget I managed before leaving is quite a bit larger than the Liberian national budget.
“I controlled over two hundred countries with all of the complexities that come with their nationalities. I have experiences with different people and I have competed against a lot of people, including Americans, Nigerians, Chinese, Japanese and others to get Coca-Cola in every country of the world.” He believes that the record of his achievements is enough for Liberians to look favorably to the Alternative National Congress (ANC) as a party, and particularly to him as someone who has decided to seek their votes to bring the necessary changes that his background and experiences could bring to Liberia.