The 2017 presidential and legislature elections debate has been criticized by laymen and intellectuals as not being germane to recognizing and finding practical solutions to the country’s myriad socioeconomic and political problems that plunged the country into decades of civil turbulence. But with the ongoing Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC) debate taking root yesterday in Paynesville City, it now seems leading political actors have nowhere to escape but to explain to Liberians how they intend to resolve those critical issues that beset Africa’s oldest republic.
The DDC debate which showcased five leading political parties and their respective leaders from the All Liberian Party, the Alternative National Congress, the Unity Party and the Liberty Party, brought to bear critical issues of concern for the general populace. The Coalition for Democratic Change’s George Weah was conspicuously absent. The debate drew responses from presidential candidates on how they would tackle corruption, national security, peace and reconciliation, good governance, and the general economy especially as it relates to budgetary shortfalls. Providing very practical approaches to problem solving, Vice President Joseph Boakai, when quizzed by moderators on the issue of corruption and government’s haphazard role in tackling the scourge, said the public is often misled that the issue of bad governance is restricted to the Unity Party. He however indicated that the present government comprises members of the opposition blocs, and as such, it is incumbent on all and sundry to ensure that corruption and government waste are nipped in the bud. Boakai specifically insisted that corruption and waste in government can be curtailed through practical means like the introduction of austerity measures from a top to bottom approach. He also called for lean and practical budgetary planning that meets the expectations of national income and expenditure. Although the remaining candidates indicated other practical solutions to resolving the issue of corruption and waste, pundits however opine that solutions proffered by corporate leaders like Alexander Cummings and Benoni Urey far fell short of the mark. Cummings for his part called for an expanded increased budget that would be supported by private sector investments. He did not however show how such budget would survive in a scenario where recurrent budgetary expenditure far exceeds revenue intake. ALP’s Benoni Urey, speaking on government waste and budgetary shortfalls, called for the establishment of a “Ministry of Planning and Development Finance”, separate from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, with experts hired to exclusively plan and execute the national budget. The Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC), a conglomerate of civil society organizations with support from partners including the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), is holding a series of national debates to bring the issues to public as espoused by the candidates.