At Long Last, One Down; Two To Go?

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And so, at long last, CBL Governor Nathaniel Patray has resigned and left the Bank to afford President Weah the opportunity to restructure it. Patray’s resignation comes in the wake of immense public pressure calling for the dismissal of CBL Governor Patray, Finance Minister Samuel Tweh and Minister of State Nathaniel McGill. Patray served as a member of the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT) that handled the US$25 million infusion into the economy which was deemed fraudulent.

Moreover, his blatant refusal to allow investigators access to the CBL vaults to conduct verification checks created a huge cloud of suspicion that he was trying to shield someone from probity or even probably himself. The question lingering on the minds of the public is whether Patray’s resignation absolves him of criminal accountability in the case of the fraudulent US$25 million infusion exercise as well as the alleged missing billions of printed Liberian dollars.

Patray’s resignation also comes on the cusp of what analysts say is the pending introduction of new Liberian dollar currency banknotes. Although a request to have the notes printed and introduced into circulation was rejected by the Legislature, well-placed sources say the banknotes have already been printed, awaiting introduction into circulation. These newly printed banknotes, according to sources, are expected to replace the money currently in circulation.

But the problem is, no one knows for sure just how much money is in circulation. The legacy notes intended to have been replaced by the L$16 billion in printed banknotes are still in circulation, although they should have long since been withdrawn from circulation or destroyed. Instead, local banks are recycling mutilated notes much to public distaste and displeasure. From the onset of his tenure as CBL Governor, Patray made it succinctly clear that he was going to manage the CBL according to President Weah dictates and not according to prescribed rules and regulations governing the CBL.

Accordingly, Patray’s refusal as CBL Governor to allow investigators access to the CBL’s vaults conveyed the distinct impression that Patray was not acting at his personal behest but rather that of President George Weah. That again raised questions about the true intent of President Weah to get to the bottom of a rotten scandal.

This is because all things being held equal, President Weah, who has accused the past government for being responsible for the economic downturn, should have ordered Patray to cooperate fully with investigators in order to clear any doubt or suspicion that this Weah-led government also has its hands in the cookie jar.

As things currently stand, it remains unclear what were the conditions under which Patray resigned. Whether his was a willing act or whether it was forced upon him is unclear. It also remains unclear whether he was awarded the hefty compensation package he is reported to have demanded in return for his voluntary retirement from service.

Critics contend that Patray should have long since been fired along with all members of the Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT), who the public believes were complicit in the fraudulent handling of the infusion (mop-up) exercise. Patray, for instance, accepted blame for spearheading the fraudulent infusion exercise, even though Finance Minister Samuel Tweah had publicly declared that he personally decided to use money exchangers rather than the commercial banks for the infusion exercise.

Such spineless and pusillanimous behavior on his part eroded at one swipe any pretensions to his being in charge and being responsible for monetary policy. And in the eyes of the public, Patray deserves to go since yesterday — since he virtually surrendered his authority to Finance Minister Samuel Tweah. In a rather strange twist of events, Patray’s announced voluntary resignation may somehow enhance his tattered public image unlike that of his colleague Samuel Tweah whose also tattered public image remains shredded as ever for refusing to budge even in the face of glaring failure.

But Tweah will not just go away as some would like to think except, of course, President Weah issues his marching orders. Given what analysts say is his pole position in the galaxy of stars surrounding President Weah, it appears doubtful whether President Weah may be inclined to issue such marching orders. But in the turbulent and murky world of Liberian politics, the law of self-preservation always tend to play centerstage.

As the economic downslide continues amid deep cuts in salaries of public sector employees, there is no telling that rising pubic discontent is likely to manifest itself in the form of work stoppages, go-slows, strikes, public protests and other forms of mass action. In such a scenario, Government will have to provide answers because the people will not accept to wait for things to get better while government officials appear to be living on flowery beds of ease.

Finance Minister Tweah and others public perceived to be managers of the economy will have to provide answers and, if they prove unable, unwilling or incapable to do so, President Weah’s self-preservation instincts may kick-in and they may very well be shown the door. As the Daily Observer has always warned, President Weah should take charge if he means to succeed. He does not have the luxury of time, as time is fast running out. For now, the score stands at: one down; two to go?

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