That the Liberian economy is in dire straits is a commonly acknowledged fact. But the question is, what is being done to fix it? This is a matter that this government has had to grapple with, but which has seemed out of its grasp.
After nearly two years in office, the George Weah-led government appears to have come to the realization that current economic policy prescriptions, which have not differed in substance from policies pursued by his predecessor, are simply not working.
To make matters worse, the GoL appears to have entered into arrangements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the introduction of structural adjustment policy measures, amongst which is the controversial salary harmonization scheme, which has been introduced, but is meeting strong objection from the people and which, if followed, may serve to provoke popular street protests against this government.
It can be recalled that former deputy Minister of Finance, Alvin Attah, at a symposium on governance, shortly before this government assumed the mantle of office, called for the adoption of a new economic paradigm which, according to him, was needed to address economic inequalities arising from the adoption of the trickle-down economic theory of development.
His call for an economic summit to address such issues went unheeded; now it appears to have gained resonance, and the call for the proposed economic dialogue is a step in the right direction, which ought to be taken seriously by all well meaning Liberians, particularly by political parties and their leaders.
This dialogue should provide an opportunity for the opposition and government to constructively engage, with a view to building a national consensus on measures/strategies to address the ailing economy. But this newspaper, while welcoming this development, is constrained to caution against any attempt to reduce this all important event to a mere talk fest.
In this regard, political opposition parties should see this as a call to action; a call to defend this sacred heritage against the onslaught of economic degradation (total collapse of the economy), which will serve no one’s interest because we all stand to lose, should such a scenario unfold.
This newspaper realizes that this will prove a very difficult challenge, but is one which can be overcome through the collective effort of all and sundry. Challenges to the economy arising from the virtual concessionaire of the country under dubious arrangements must be examined, and reviewed for possible renegotiation where necessary.
Additionally, the scourge of corruption is one issue which should take center stage of the discussions and concrete measures should be adopted to curb the menace. Ongoing efforts by the Asset Recovery Team should be continued, and enhanced in order to achieve desired results. It should however be borne on mind that this asset recovery exercise should guard against any inclinations to pursue personal vendettas in order to be credible.
The Daily Observer is not unmindful of the likelihood that some individuals in the ruling party may see this call for an economic dialogue with stakeholders from across the political divide as a threat to their preeminence, and privileged status and may therefore attempt to play spoilers. The Daily Observer however calls on President Weah to ignore any such heeding from wayside opportunists, who may feel threatened with the coming on board, so to speak, of opposition figures.
In the final analysis, it must be remembered that this is an opportunity for meaningful and constructive engagement, which should not be wasted. The Daily Observer therefore welcomes the call for an economic dialogue.
As they say, it is always better to “Jaw Jaw than to War War.”