Liberia’s President-elect, George Manneh Weah, is expected to be sworn into office 10 days from today. He will be succeeding the UP-led Government that has spent 12 years managing the political and socio-economic activities of the country.
Whatever way the outgoing administration managed the country, Heaven is the witness. But from what we see, it is certain that the incoming Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led Government will be faced with enormous financial and socio-economic challenges that Mr. Weah must be aware of.
One of them has begun to unfold — the issue of compulsory welfare money deducted from members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) by the Defense Ministry.
The Daily Observer Wednesday reported that wives of AFL soldiers, with the consent of their husbands, took to the Robertsfield Highway to block traffic at the Schieffelin-based Edward Beyan Kesselley Barracks demanding that the Ministry account for that money.
According to one aggrieved wife, her husband is one person who sustained injuries as a member of the Peace Keeping Mission in Mali, but he has been left unattended and the salary he earns cannot afford to meet the family’s needs.
The soldiers have over the years complained about poor facilities at the barracks and monthly salaries as low as US$140.00 and below for some ranking and non-ranking officers.
We fear that tomorrow the soldiers themselves may decide to stage a mutiny that would embarrass the entire country. We learned yesterday that the army of the Ivory Coast staged another mutiny in Bouake for their pay. The similarity between Liberia and Ivory Coast may be wide; nevertheless, social change also comes with learning from others.
It is also worth mentioning, Mr. President-Elect, that you are to inherit a huge internal and external debt, presumably to the tone of US$1 billion. While we cannot speak to how much Liberia currently owes externally, it is evidently clear that the out-going government owes huge sums of money in salaries, vendors and payments for advertisements to media institutions, including this newspaper.
Civil servants complain that they could not receive salaries for December, while Legislators, especially outgoing Representatives, are demanding their salaries and benefits.
We believe, President Weah, that you are quite aware of the dishonest and thievish conduct of some public officials stealing state-owned vehicles assigned them for official use. The Daily Observer recently published that the General Services Agency (GSA), backed by the Liberia National Police (LNP), has been arresting state-owned vehicles whose license plates some users were caught removing, replacing them with private plates. Attempts are also being made by some users to change the colors of GOL vehicles to avoid recognition as state properties.
Such a behavior means that upon taking over, the new government and its incoming officials will be faced with serious transportation challenges.
We urge the GSA and its dynamic Director General, Mary T. Broh, to monitor closely and vigorously the computers, furniture and other assets in each government Ministry or Agency, to ensure that they are kept safe for the incoming administration.
Remember what we recalled in this Tuesday’s Editorial, that following the departure of the Charles Taylor Government in 2003. Several top officials, including some in the Ministry of Information, totally ripped their ministries of furniture, equipment and supplies. When the new Information Minister, Dr. C. William Allen, entered the Ministry, he found only one chair in the office. Every place else was bare (naked).
Another very serious issue that has a direct effect on the common people is the drastic depreciation of the Liberian dollar to the US$. The current rate stands at $ LRD131 to US$1.
This drastically inflated rate was one criticism used against the Unity Party during the campaign, and the Liberian people are anxiously and eagerly expecting the incoming administration — that is yours, Mr. President — to stabilize the rate to reduce prices of basic commodities on the market. This is a clear indication of the dire straits the Liberian economy is in — the economy you are inheriting is broke.
We also wish to caution you about the attitudes and behaviors of our people and your people with whom you are to work, knowing that they will not claim failure if they fail, but will blame you for their failure.
As you prepare to take the oath of office, we urge you to be conscientious and independent in your decision making; realizing that you have promised the ordinary Liberian people to fight corruption in order to transform their lives for the better. We urge you to address meticulously these issues and many others that the outgoing administration will throw at you to prove the trust that Liberians have in you.