Once again, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will deliver a State of the Nation Address before the 53rd National Legislature in fulfillment of Article 58 of the 1986 Constitution.
Article 58 states: “The President shall, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration’s legislative program for the ensuing session, and shall once a year report to the Legislature on the state of the Republic. In presenting the economic condition of the Republic, the report shall cover expenditure as well as income.”
The Chief Executive will at 4pm today present the state of affairs of the Republic and provide her legislative agenda for the ensuing year.
As Visitor to the Capitol Building on this occasion, the President has no seat in the Joint Chamber and therefore, she will be ushered into the Assembly hall by selected committee members headed by both committees of the Legislature on Executive.
The President will then be escorted to the podium where she will speak to the almost four million Liberians at home and abroad, through their Representatives in the House and Senate.
Before that proceeding, the Joint Legislature presided over by House Speaker J. Alex Tyler in keeping with Article 33 of the 1986 Constitution, will entertain a motion from his colleagues to invite the Chief Executive to execute the constitutional mandate of reporting to them on the state of the Republic.
What to Expect
The President’s report is expected to give prominence to the heavy blow with which the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) struck the nation and people and its adverse impact on all aspects of national life, as well as post-Ebola projections, security, peace and rule of law.
Regarding the status of the economy, which has been severely weakened by the deadly Ebola virus, President Sirleaf is expected to provide an update on economic growth, the strength of the Liberian Dollar and Liberia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Analysts believed that not much is expected in the direction of economic growth as slow progress will be attributed to the EVD outbreak, which led to many companies partially folding their operations as the epidemic intensified. In fact, before the Ebola outbreak, the economy was already struggling with Liberian dollar chasing the United States Dollar and other international currencies. Even before and during the Ebola period, a bulk of the country’s revenue was spent on personnel salaries, fuel and lubricants and vehicles for officials.
Another major problem the President is expected to deal with in her speech is education and the exploding student population compared to an inadequate budgetary allotment to solve the problem of continuing poor academic performance caused by an undersized, poorly prepared and poorly paid teacher workforce lacking books and other basic tools, sufficient classroom space and basic amenities all desperately needed to improve student performance.
This time around as the country returns to an abnormal academic but cardinal education period due to the Ebola crisis, her government needs to present a more reasonable, workable and public-interest based proactive approach to ensure that less-fortunate along with all other children enroll this year. In an already “messy educational” system as indicated by Madam Sirleaf, government focus and investment must now shift to delivering quality, standardized education that will turn the corner from mass failures at elementary to university level to higher numbers of positive exam results in the Liberian school system.
Healthcare delivery remains a mountainous challenge for the Unity Party-led government evidenced by the Ebola virus’ exposure of how “weak and poor” the system is to care for the millions of its citizens. The nation’s weak health delivery system and prospects for its post-Ebola overhaul with the promised support of several foreign governments and international donors will likely claim a considerable portion of the President’s address.
In that direction, praises will be bestowed on many friendly nations, individuals and organizations including the United States, China and African nations, who responded in personnel, cash and kind to help Liberia fight the deadly virus.
However, the question of corruption definitely cannot be ruled out of the President’s address to the nation. Some of her officials were accused of miss-directing Ebola funds and other resources to their personal use during the height of the Ebola crisis. Many believe the President has not put forth the high level of forcefulness to stamp out corruption as she vowed to do during the inception of her incumbency. This lack luster approach has weakened her image and somewhat tarnished her credibility in that direction. It remains to be heard what her explanation is for the failure to stamp out corruption and how she intends to recover the will power to do so and prove to still have zero tolerance for this cancer eating away at all sectors of the Liberian society.
Relative to human rights and the rule of law, President Sirleaf is expected to highlight the wave of rape cases around the country particularly those involving children. It will be disappointing to many, if not all, if the President falls short of providing an update on the West Point shooting that claimed the life of teenager Shakie Kamara.
President Sirleaf will acknowledge the passing of former Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis and the many Liberians and several foreigners, who lost their lives to the Ebola virus and most likely devote a moment of silence in memory of these and other fallen Liberians.
This national assembly will bring together officials from the three branches, doyen and members of the Diplomatic Corps, international partners, Chiefs and Elders, Political, Religious and Business
The House Chief Clerk, Mildred Sayon, announced that Monday's ceremony begins at 2pm with the arrival of invited guests. She noted that non-essential staffers are advised to stay home.
According to a Joint Press Release from the Liberian Senate and House of Representatives only accredited journalists will be allowed in the Joint Chambers.
Today’s State of the Nation address marks the 10th oration, to the Legislature since Madam Johnson Sirleaf ascended to the Presidency in 2006.