‘If I win, my government will give you the economy you deserve,’ he responds
A group of marketers under the banner, “Concerned Business Women for Change in the Southeast,” said living in Harper has become unbearable for ordinary residents, adding, “It is hard to live in Harper.” Residents attribute the reported high cost of living in Harper and the rest of the southeastern counties primarily to the deplorable road network and the currency exchange rate between the US and Liberian dollars. The group told Alexander B. Cummings, standard bearer of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC), that the county’s economy is “unbearable.”
Besides imported clothes and phones, all other commodities in Maryland County are very expensive when compared to prices in Monrovia and other parts of the country. A 25k bag of rice in Harper, the county’s political capital, is L$2, 650, with a cup sold for L$55. For a bag of cement, the price varies between US$18 to US$21. Also, a gallon of gas in Harper is L$470, while a piece of fresh or dried fish is at least L$275. The exchange rate is US$1 to L$116.
Apart from the women’s group, a group of shop owners told the Daily Observer that life in Harper is especially hard during the rainy season. The leadership of the shop owners said despite paying their yearly taxes, the bad road conditions and the cost of goods from Monrovia or from Cote d’Ivoire adds to the hike in prices.
Mrs. Nyonplue Koon, spokesperson for the women’s group, said the high exchange rate between the US dollar and its Liberian counterpart, the mutilated Liberian dollars, as well as the fact of the two currencies operating in the Liberian market, are causing inflation on the market, which is causing “Harper to be only for the rich,” taking into consideration that most people living in Maryland are poor.
“On behalf of marketers in the southeastern counties, we want to use this opportunity to give you our support and promise to tell our friends in other parts of the country to vote for you,” Mrs. Koon said. “We believe in you as an experienced corporate executive and one who has love for country. You can stabilize and improve our economy, if elected president. We also believe as a man of ‘talk and do,’ you will certainly do what you have promised.”
The group, comprising mostly women and a few men, want Mr. Cummings, if elected president, to review all the concession agreements the government signed on behalf of the south-easterners. They argued that all agreements the government signed regarding the southeast are not satisfactorily adhering to their social statuses. Mr. Ebenezer Koon, a local businessman and one of the advisors to the group, said their membership is inclusive and is void of tribal boundaries or religious affiliations.
“We have about 1,300 members. Our decision to support Mr. Cummings is based on his competency. But before then, we have consulted among ourselves and have arrived at a consensus. We believe he can deliver the southeast by putting the country first,” Madam Elizabeth Toe, another advisor to the group, said. “When we put you there, we want you to do what we will tell you to do,” she challenged Mr. Cummings.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Teresa Cummings happily hugged every woman and shook the hands of the men, before her husband, Mr. Cummings, took the stage. Cummings’ message remains consistently clear: “We must believe in ourselves, in Liberia and work together to vote for different leadership to bring the kind of change we want. If we are elected, we can address the shortcomings of the country and make it better,” he told the gathering. “If the choices we have made are not working, we must change, or we will only see more of the same high rate of US dollars, bad roads and expensive commodities on the market. I promise that if I am elected president, I will work harder than anyone else to create real change, the change you can trust.” He added: “I can give Liberians the Liberia they deserve, if I am elected your president.”
He promised not be like any of the country’s past leaders, noting: “My government will give you the economy you deserve. If you help me to campaign and l win, our country will prosper. We will ensure we have Infrastructure: It is the key to providing quality healthcare, education, jobs, and food security. We can also strengthen our private sector by privatizing infrastructure development, and attracting foreign investment. We will develop reliable electricity, running water and roads, we will create jobs for millions of Liberians, and most of all, provide everyday Liberians with a better quality of life,” Cummings maintained. He recalled how unemployment and job insecurity in the country are widespread.
And because of that, he continued: “We will also empower our people by creating job opportunities, providing them with skills training and development, and attracting investors, who will create highly labor-intensive industries that provide a high number of low skill jobs our people can fill.” On civil servants’ salary increment, Cummings promised not to take his salary, and will also slice the salaries of members of the Legislature, increase the salaries of teachers, health workers and other civil servants. “We will also develop and implement creative legislation and policies that will strengthen and protect women’s economic empowerment.”
As a way to further expand the economy, Mr. Cummings said he intends to begin by transforming Liberia into an inclusive economy for the country to be self sufficient. “We must ensure Liberian women, youth and those physically challenged individuals are as fully engaged in our economic community as all other Liberians.”
On corruption, the ANC leader stated that if any of his administration’s policies are to work, government and its officials must first be held accountable. “To address corruption, we will create a special anti-corruption court, support and appropriately resource already established integrity institutions and establish the enforcement mechanisms to hold corrupt officials to account. We will identify the positions where individuals are most likely to engage in corruption, and publicize them so that identifying corruption is a public engagement. Lastly, we will prosecute all officials suspected of corruption; we will seize assets and jail all those found guilty. No exceptions!”
Cummings pledged that there will be a balanced distribution of government spending under his watch, especially in terms of officials’ compensation. Shortly after the Saturday launch in Harper, Mr. Cummings visited Pleebo, Maryland County’s commercial hub, on Sunday; and on Monday, he went to Karluway – a short distance from Pleebo. He also visited Gbeyken – his home town. There were elaborate “war dances” aptly called ‘Mr. President,’ which characterized the Cummings visit.