The Senate has been busy passing a Financial Autonomy Act dictating that the Legislature be given full control of any budgetary allocation for itself. But never once in the entire discussion was any mention of where the money would come from at this time when the Liberian economy is at rock bottom (being at the very lowest).
No, never once did any of the Senators mention the grim state of the nation’s economy, owing to the precipitous (steep, swift) decline in the value of the Liberian dollar versus the United States dollar. This serious decline is due to the drop in the global prices of Liberia’s major export earners, rubber and iron ore, the consequent closure of many rubber farms and loss of jobs. Another major contributor to this worrisome state of our economy is the continued import of most of what we eat and consume, including our staple, rice, but also vegetables, such as pepper, bitter balls and tomatos purchased from our neighbors Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.
Do the Senators care that the nation is at this time in economic crisis? No! They have never even thought of the poor market women who, because of the scarcity of the U.S. dollar, have to remove the meagre earnings left in their lappas to purchase a pack of Maggie cubes whose price, like those of rice, cooking oil, chicken and other ingredients, have escalated. The mothers and daughters who buy these items to prepare food by four a.m. each morning to feed people in various workplaces, are seeing their profits decreasing.
All this means increasing hardship for the poor Liberian traders, who are at a consistent disadvantage in their own country, because they are powerless. Why? Because nobody cares about them, most certainly NOT the people who should—the powerful—the topmost government officials—the policy makers in the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.
The Legislature is the first among them all. They are the people’s representatives, elected by the people to speak for the people, to seek their interest and welfare and ensure that they are served effectively and expeditiously.
But who says that our Legislators are concerned about these things? On the contrary, just as we said in a recent Editorial, since 2006 when they were elected to the 52nd Legislature until now, they have persistently demonstrated that they are more interested in themselves, and not the people.
Look how they executed their legislative oversight on the issues most critical to the national economy—ratifying various concessions and other agreements to set in motion the wheels of the economy. Our legislators demanded money upfront before they could grant their assent (approval) to any agreement or treaty.
No wonder, due to the absence of legislative oversight, many concession agreements fell through. One of them was Buchanan Renewable that changed its name several times. They promised to rebuild Liberian rubber farms in exchange for old rubber trees, which the company cut down for woodchips.
These were to be used by a power plant the company was to build in Kakata to supply electricity to Margibi and Montserrado counties. The plant was never built, but instead, the company shipped the millions of tons of woodchips to power electrical plants in Europe! In the face of persistent criticisms, including from the Daily Observer, the company secretly packed up and fled the country. How much legislative oversight had Buchanan Renewable really received?
Now here we are, in economic doldrums not just because of, the deadly Ebola virus that hit us a little over a year ago, but an inept government and its prime policymakers in the Legislature.
Now, instead of addressing the critical economic issues in the face of a serious economic downturn that follows a devastating civil war, the Legislature is today more concerned about itself—its complete control of the budget allotments coming its way.
And who is leading the charge? A woman who chairs the Senate Education Committee—a sector which the President has confessed is “in a mess,” with our entire school system a catastrophic failure! Yet Senate Education Chairman Jewel Howard Taylor has not called a single hearing on education. What only matters to her is control of the Legislative purse!
We understand that the Legislators have finally agreed to conduct a hearing on the economy next week. But that is after the fact, is it not? That should have been the first thing they should have done, before demanding financial autonomy when they have no idea where the money for such will come from in these desperate economic times in which the nation finds itself.
There should be a public outcry against this crass (insensitive, despicable) lack of concern on the part of our legislators for the things that really matter in the republic, rather than preoccupation with their own selfish and self-centered concerns.