President George Weah’s warning to his cabinet ministers that those who fail to strictly execute his agenda will be fired, has left the public wondering just what is his agenda which cabinet ministers must strictly execute or risk dismissal?
This is because it appears to the public that President Weah, has on numerous occasions before threatened dismissals for those officials who have failed to perform yet, to date no dismissal has been effected.
Although there were wild public speculations about an imminent changing of the guards. Such change the public speculated would have seen the dismissal of two key officials.
And those key officials were named on various radio talk shows as Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Presidential Affairs Minister, Nathaniel McGill.
The very dismal performance of the economy under the watch of the Finance Minister Tweah has without question drawn him into the crosshairs of adverse public opinion.
Critics say his corrupt handling of the US$30 million Liquidity Mop-up infusion exercise as well as the mystery surrounding the alleged missing L$16 billion, all occurring under his watch should constitute sufficient reasons for his dismissal.
Further, the increasing economic hardships being felt by the people continue to fuel public demands for his dismissal.
As for Minister McGill, he has been accused of being associated with a string of human rights abuses, the most recent being the electoral violence in Gbarpolu County intended to intimidate popular female senatorial candidate Botoe Kanneh.
Both individuals, according to CDC Chairman Mulbah Morlu on a leaked audio, are the two most hated public officials in the Weah government.
Similar sentiments were expressed, also on a leaked audio, by Bong County Superintendent Esther Walker.
But to the dismay of the public, both individuals continue to enjoy the confidence of President Weah and the band plays on.
In his exhortation to his cabinet President Weah further declared that agriculture is the second flagship program of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development.
And he called on the Minister of Agriculture to ensure that all government farms are cultivated stating that he will lead his entire cabinet to plant rice and other crops by April of this year.
He is further expected to attend this year’s agriculture fair in Gbarnga on February 12, 2021. While not announcing a shift from emphasis on road building, it appears that from his remarks, the President’s attention has now shifted to Agriculture.
But realistically speaking, this second flagship program of the Pro Poor Agenda for transformation has very little chances of success if budgetary allocation to Agriculture remains below 5 percent of the national budget.
In 2013, budgetary allocation to Agriculture was a mere two (2) percent of the national budget and this was despite and Africa-wide consensus that spending on Agriculture should be raised to at least 10 percent of the national budget.
In the 2020-2021 draft budget, an amount of US$6,213,564 is allocated to Agriculture. Out of this amount, compensation to employees account for US$4,182,180.
It can be recalled that from September 13-14, 2013, two-hundred delegates including Nigeria’s agriculture minister and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met in Monrovia to discuss Africa’s record on implementing the 2003 Maputo Declaration, which recognized the critical role of agriculture in equitable development and committed to allocating at least ten percent of government’s budget to agriculture.
This has not been met and, as if to make matters worse, 19 percent of the country’s farmlands have been concessioned out to foreign predatory investors to plant oil palm. This has meant the forced displacement of thousands of people dependent on subsistence farming for survival.
This has also meant increased and heightened risks to food security, the environment, and the rights of affected communities. Friends of the Earth Liberia has reechoed these concerns by calling on the African governments including the Liberian government to undertake public investment in agriculture.
Friends of the Earth Liberia has stressed that rather than prioritizing interests of predatory investors and investments based on large scale acquisition of land that forcibly displace entire communities, “Our government must seriously engage with this event and be willing to critically self-reflect about how successful its efforts to promote farming in Liberia have been over the past decade,” Says Friends of the Earth Liberia programme manager Nora Bowier.
Now as to whether President Weah’s second flagship program will succeed in attaining food self-sufficiency in view of such low budgetary allocation to agriculture remains to be seen.
According to critics, his premier flagship program, “ROADS”, just like the second flagship program, AGRICULTURE, appears to be on shaky grounds, given the barrage of media reports on very bad conditions in the countryside, particularly in southeast Liberia.
Grand Kru County is, according to reports, one of the most affected counties with large areas being effectively inaccessible by motor vehicle. It is in Grand Kru, according to sources that the President will come face to face with the harsh realities there as regards food insecurity and a dangerously threatened environment.
According to sources, most locals have abandoned subsistence farming and are engaged in alluvial gold mining .
It is also in Grand Kru, President Weah will have the opportunity to see the damage being wrought on the environment by alluvial miners, including West African migrants.
Reports of the proliferation of foreign drug dealers trading drugs for gold, child prostitution and hordes of Chinese nationals involved in illegal mineral exploitation in Grand Kru, is something to which President Weah’s should come face-to-face, except he chooses not to. Against all the above, this newspaper is constrained to ask, just what is your agenda, Mr. President?