Liberia’s new leader Joseph Boakai has pledged to revive the country’s economic fortunes and fight corruption as he delivered his first speech in the helm, which was curtailed by intense heat at the Capitol Building grounds, in Monrovia, the capital, where a swearing-in ceremony was being held for him.
After taking two short breaks during his speech on Monday, caused by heat exhaustion from the hot sun, the new President was helped away, bringing the ceremony to an abrupt end. Hours later his doctored declared him perfectly fit according to a statement from his office.
The 26th President of the West African state and the third to be democratically elected since the end of civil wars in 2003, said his administration is ready to act in the first hundred days to address the immediate hardships of the people but also to bring long-term solutions to structural constraints.
“The agenda our government is poised to set, will not only address the immediate challenges we face as a country but also tackle head-on, the foundational problems,” the 79-year-old former vice president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, said after taking the oath of office.
“It will prepare us to make bold decisions for economic development and sustained growth, including increased productivity.”
Boakai succeeds former President George Weah, after beating him in the Nov. 14 runoff elections, but also inherits a plethora of problems.
Per-capita income remains about a third of the level prior to the civil wars between 1989 and 2003, only about 7% of roads are paved and just over a fourth of the population have access to electricity, according to the International Monetary Fund.
It also estimates debt to gross domestic product increased to 57.1% of gross domestic product in 2023 from 31.8%.
Boakai capitalized on widespread anti-Weah sentiment from rising living costs and endemic corruption to beat the former AC Milan star and FIFA World Player of the Year, who in 2017 comfortably defeated him in runoff elections to win his first six-year term.
Inflation averaged 10% last year, its worst level since the coronavirus pandemic struck in 2020, and the currency depreciated by almost a fifth against the dollar, the most in two years.
“We see hard times, we see dysfunction, we see culture of impunity, we see corruption in high and low places,” Boakai said in a copy of his full speech sent from his office. “It is these and similar conditions that we have come to rescue.
“I come with rekindled Hope. I have come to rekindle your hope.
Let us restore the years the locust have eaten.”
In 2022, Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index ranked the country 142nd out of 180 nations.
Last year the US sanctioned Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and two of the West African nation’s senators for alleged graft. In 2022, Weah accepted the resignations of three close allies when the US Treasury imposed sanctions on them after they were implicated in cases involving shady contracts and the diversion of public funds.