LP USA Responds to Cyrus Badio 3/29/2011

First Released 3/29/2011

Members of Liberty Party (MoLP) in the United States issue this press release in response to an article written by Executive Mansion Press Secretary Cyrus Badio and posted on the Liberian Journal website (The Rapid Re-emergence of A Once Failed State -Guest Commentary, February 7, 2011).

Press Secretary Badio trumpeted the impact of President Sirleaf’s “…presidency in the African political arena” and the influence the “1st elected female President of Africa continues to wield throughout Africa and beyond.” Mr. Badio’s article confirmed all too well what most Liberians know, which is, the President is more concerned about impressing the international community than she is about making a real difference in the lives of the Liberian people. So it should be expected that Mr. Badio (and President Sirleaf) will measure the “Rapid Re-emergence” of Liberia, not in terms of the number of Liberian schools built and number of children receiving quality education, or the number of Liberians who have been lifted from poverty, or even in terms of the state of the country’s infrastructure, but in terms of the international positions and accolades that the President has received. Unfortunately, none of the highlights put forth by Mr. Badio has had significant impact on the desperate living conditions of the majority of Liberians. This administration’s obsession with impressing the world, instead of the people it leads, has caused President Sirleaf’s government to subordinate its domestic agenda to an international and regional agenda. This is evidenced by the continued hardship the average Liberian experiences daily.

According to the President’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), the poverty rate in Liberia in 2007 was problematic “…with nearly 64 percent of Liberians now living below the poverty Line” (Poverty Reduction Strategy). Since then, more Liberians have inched below the poverty line. In early 2010, John Lipsky, the First Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), summed it up succinctly when he spoke at the University of Liberia. “We think the 68% poverty rate of Liberia is a tragedy, we also think it is a terrible legacy of the years of conflict and it has to be overcome” (http://gnnliberia.com). The 68% poverty rate of Liberians in 2010 marks a 4% increase in the poverty rate since 2007 under the administration of President Sirleaf. Yet, during one of the President’s press briefing in December 2010, Madam Sirleaf remained adamant that her administration has taken a lot of Liberians out of poverty. “I don’t care what people say, but we know that we have taken a lot of people out of poverty and we’ve created a lot of jobs” (http://gnnliberia.com). Of course Liberians, including those of us who continue to send Western Union and Money Gram numbers to family and friends back home, know better.

How can the President remain resolute in her assessment of the level of poverty in the country when the data suggest otherwise? The President’s job creation claim is also unsubstantiated. Where is the net gain in employment under President Sirleaf? Liberia’s unemployment rate still hovers around the 80-85% range since her induction as President of Liberia. Not only are Madam Sirleaf’s comments contrary to what the data suggest, they are also contrary to what the average Liberian experiences at home. The facts state that Liberians are poorer now than they were in 2007. The President and her spin masters probably need to be reminded that gone are the days when the Liberian President’s statements become the gospel and go unchallenged.

Furthermore, the endemic corruption in President Sirleaf’s administration has made it impossible to bring relief to the average Liberian and needs to stop. In 2007, Transparency International published its Corruption Perception Index, ranking Liberia 150th of 179 most corrupt countries (U.S State Department; http://www.state.gov/e/eeb/ifd/2008/100904.htm). Last year 2010, Liberia became the “world’s most corrupt country…” (http://thenewdispensation.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/liberia-is-worlds-most-corrupt-country-2010-ti-report-grades-liberia). Under Madam Sirleaf’s administration, Liberia has gained notoriety for corruption. Instead of being Africa’s premiere emerging democracy, we are now the world’s most corrupt nation. Additionally, according to the Central Bank of Liberia, in February 2007, the exchange rate hovered at 1 U.S dollar to 60 Liberian Dollars. Today, that rate is around 1 U.S Dollar to 72 Liberian Dollars (http://www.cbl.org.lr/exchange_menu_pg.php). The mixture of endemic corruption and inflation, each rising dramatically since President Sirleaf took office, as well as high unemployment, leads to a poor domestic scorecard for this administration. Where is the improvement for the average Liberian? These problems will not go away by ignoring the statistics and praising the President; rather, they will go away with robust fiscal policies, proper leadership accountability, and firm commitment to enforcing the rule of law.

As Press Secretary Badio extols Madam Sirleaf’s wisdom in regional and continental affairs, we ask where is that wisdom on the home front to deal with such issues as land reform, the crippling rise in armed robberies, the poor educational system, the weak and underfunded judicial system and unbridled corruption? We will join Press Secretary Badio in showering praise on our President when the living conditions of the average Liberian improves.

We are well aware that the task of developing Liberia is enormous, and that it would be unfair to put all of Liberia’s problems squarely on the shoulders of President Sirleaf; however, we will expect the facts to be presented to Liberians based on empirical data and measurable metrics, not in a crafty way to mislead voters in an election year. Madam Sirleaf took on a very difficult task when she became President of Liberia. She has given Liberia her best over the last 5 years but it is clear by the dismal socio-economic results and regressive living conditions of Liberians that her performance is unsatisfactory. Should we continue with the same policies and leadership and expect different results? Will corruption suddenly be wiped away if she is given another term? Will she suddenly start to dismiss corrupt government officials instead of using administrative leave? We owe it to our people to make better decisions that will make their lives better.

In closing, MoLP is asking Liberians to send a strong message during this election that no longer will we be misled by unsubstantiated statements of those in authority, neither by election year projects. Rather, we will vote based on the reality of the average Liberian; the reality of unsanitary conditions at dump sites and market places, the lack of access to adequate health services, and the blatant corruption which allows a handful of people to enjoy the riches of the country while the masses suffer untold hardships. We will set new voting standards which make politicians accountable to the people. We will vote out of office those who do not perform to our expectations. We will continue to vote leaders out of office until they realize that their reelection is based solely on the goods and services delivered to the people, rather than empty promises, accolades and wishful thinking. This is the mark of Liberia’s emerging democracy.

Shift will come this October as Liberians vote in a new ticket, one that will bring results to the average Liberian. MoLP congratulates Cllr. Charles Brumskine and Senator Franklin Siakor for working towards this endeavor. A new day is coming, for together we can do better.

Philip B. Suah, Jr.

Secretary General, MoLP

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