By Abdoulaye W Dukulé
This past week both President George M. Weah and the Minister of Finance and Development Panning (MFDP) Samuel D. Tweah delivered speeches that somehow define the social and economic policies of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). For the President it was mostly to say that he is pumping US$20 million into the money market to curb the galloping inflation and to recognizing the challenges ahead.
President Weah – or Liberia – does not control the means of production and conditions of exchange and therefore can’t do much about the economy. As he still enjoys a sort of honeymoon, President Weah has a window to take drastic measures that might hurt for some time but would deliver long term sustainable benefits.
Policies put in place now would mature and produce results in the next 4-5 years. Liberia has yet to recover from the combined shock of the Ebola and the crash of commodity prices. As if this was not enough, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) which put millions of dollars into the economy and employed thousands withdrew from the country just three months after the new administration took over.
The political transition in any country brings in a load of uncertainty that slows down the economy. The Central Bank does not know how much money is in circulation, with 3 currencies being accepted on the market – the two Liberian dollars and the US dollar. Liberia has had a recent history of budget shortfalls. Under these conditions, it is difficult to have any control over the economic levers.
The President calls for patience but empty trouser can stand for so long under the burning sun. Minister Tweah, who served as National Orator for the July 26, Independence celebration, sort of rationalized the history of Liberia and a made push for collective action. He articulated where Liberia came from, where it stands now and where the CDC government intends to take it. A roadmap was in the making to soon be released.
He linked the current problems to the shaky foundations of the nation. He hinted at some of the policies that the administration intends to implement. He too, like the President, spoke of the difficulties the CDC government inherited. The President broke away from others in the CDC who want to blame the past administration for all the ills of the nation while the Minister called for an audit of all state institutions.
President Weah said he was not surprised by the enormity of the task at hand and was ready for the challenge. However, both, like many others speaking on behalf of the Administration or the ruling party, seem to be developing the habit of telling the opposition or the media how to speak, what to say or act. There is still some lingering aspect of the one-party state mentality in Liberian politics.
The minister hinted at the prospect of dialogue with the opposition. There are discussions on-going to find “space” for some people in the “government”. Jobs may be created to accommodate a few so that they may be quiet and sing along. The opposition and the media are not there to help the government.
Co-opting them to join the ruling party is a distorted way of going back to the one-party system. Asking the opposition “to be constructive in their criticism” or asking the media to be “fair or mature” in their reporting is condescending and just another way of saying: “Shut up!” Rather than trying to silence the media or the opposition by threatening them or co-opting them, the most constructive approach would be to answer to their concerns.
The CDC criticized the UP government for 12 years and convinced the voters to buy into their vision. Now is the time to deliver, not to be talking about the media and he opposition. The job of the opposition is to oppose everything government does, to be able to provide an alternative. The media’s role is to report stories according to their editorial lines. Anything that undermines these two comportments weakens democracy.
The government stands on many pillars without which democracy would flounder. One can imagine a building on three pillars. The media and the opposition constitute the missing pillar without which it will crumble. Being in government is like being in a bubble, the media and the opposition are that missing pillar that provides an outside view of issues. Silencing them means crippling progress.
Co-opting the opposition and silencing the media in any way destroys democracy and will usher in the dictatorship of the one-party state, a system which mismanaged the nation for more than a century. Democracy is as strong as are opposition and the media, because both represent the people not in the government.
It’s their strength that makes democracy to thrive. UP, UPP, NDPL, the Inquirer, the Observer and others have been around since 1980’s. They survived the turmoil of the recent history and they know how to be in opposition. CDC will highly benefit from listening to their criticism. The opposition and the media do not work for the government. And government wins nothing by co-opting them.
The job of the opposition is to oppose the government. Just as the CDC is preparing for a second term, the opposition is also working to take away that political power. It must all be done in respect of the Constitution and in civility.