MONROVIA, Montserrado – The secretary general of the Coalition for Democratic Change, Janga Augustus Kowo, has outlined what he says is progress made by the CDC-led government over the past eleven-plus months in office.
He called the government’s achievements enormous and said it shows that the country is on the right trajectory in terms of development.
Under the CDC, Kowo said the country has benefited from development in areas such as better infrastructure, improved health system, education, and economic empowerment.
He named one of the government’s first accomplishments as the payment of fees for the West African Senior School Certificate Exams. The test, which costs US$60, is required for 12th-grade students and passing it is supposed to be a prerequisite for graduation. After the government covered the fees for the exams, 65 percent of students failed, prompting the Ministry of Education to delay enforcing the graduation requirement until the next WASSCE exam.
Kowo also named the waiver of tuition at government-owned higher institutions of learning across the country as another accomplishment. The full financial impact of that decision will likely not be known until several months later.
When President George Weah made the announcement of the tuition waiver, he did not detail the full cost or where the funds would come from. The 2018/2019 fiscal year budget was passed several months ago, and some financial maneuvering will be needed to ensure that the president meets his promise.
Weah’s decision means that public education in Liberia is free from grades 1-9 and at the tertiary level. Noticeably, students at the early childhood education and senior high levels still have to pay tuition.
Even at the primary level, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s decree of free education did not eliminate fees that families had to pay. As the government did not increase the education budget to ensure that schools could operate without charging families, many schools did away with charging tuition but charged for registration and other services. The Ministry of Education now turns a blind eye to public schools that charge fees, in an acknowledgment of the difficult financial terrain.
This may likely be the case at the tertiary level, where faculty members at both public and private institutions regularly protest over delays in salary payments. Last year, faculty members at the Nimba County Community College launched a strike after they had not been paid their salaries for at least two months.
In addition to the tuition waiver, Kowo also celebrated the governments paving of feeder and community roads as a major sign of progress.
“For the first time in the history of this country, this country has a president that is 100 percent committed to delivering the goods for the Liberian people and lifting the Liberian people from poverty and that has been evidently demonstrated for the last 11 months in power, as the president has initiated several Pro-Poor national decisions that are impacting the lives of the people,” Kowo added.
He named the recently dedicated Doe Community road, in addition to the rehabilitation of several community roads in Monrovia, the pavement of the Gbarnga Broad Street and the Buchanan Fairground road.
He said the government is making tremendous progress in its developmental drive due to the commitment of the president to lift Liberians out of poverty.
“This government has set the foundation as to where this government intends to take this country; this president has clearly demonstrated his priorities – his priorities are health, education, and road connectivity,” he said.
“This government has invested close to US$2 million in refurbishing the [John F. Kennedy Memorial] Hospital. This government has committed close to US$400,000 in sending out Liberian doctors to specialize. This president has increased the salaries and benefits of medical doctors. This president has instructed the placing on the payroll of the government of Liberia, more than 2,000 health workers who have not been on the government payroll.”
Kowo also noted that the government had paid close to US$9 million to the Liberia Electricity Corporation to stabilize its operations. He alleged that LEC was on the verge of shutting down when the CDC-led government took over. Kowo made no mention of the numerous protests, including a violent one in Caldwell, launched by various communities over the past several months due to poor or nonexistent service from the utility provider.
Kowo, who also serves as comptroller general for Liberia, told the Bush Chicken in an interview at his Finance Ministry office that the government will remain focused on implementing several Pro-Poor projects across Liberia.
“The government will continue to be making Pro-poor interventions for the development of the country,” he said. “For instance, the road connectivity [is] going to continue. We will strengthen the health sector, strengthen the educational sector. We are going to be focusing on making sure that we intervene in the economy in the form of the private sector. Basically, we are proactively processing all government transactions. We are pleased to report that government payroll has been current since we took over.”
Kowo added that government has provided US$3 million to the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment as loans that Liberian-owned businesses can access.
He said the loan will strengthen the private sector and create job opportunities for Liberians. He mentioned a common refrain used by the president – that “Liberians will not be spectators of their economy.”
Kowo challenged the opposition to be truthful and credible about the government’s accomplishments.
“We want to see a constructive opposition; we want to see an issues-driven opposition; we want to see an opposition that will take stock of where this country has been and where we are and where we intend to take the country,” he said. “We expect to be criticized, but what we demand is, be truthful, be objective, and deal with the issues, rather than ignoring the tremendous gains that this government continues to make as we move towards our six-year tenure.”
Featured photo by Sampson David