ELECTION CHECK: Three claims about President George Weah’s record on reducing poverty in Liberia
The country’s finance minister, Samuel Tweah Jr, claims that his boss has done a lot to improve the lives of Liberians. But do his numbers check out?
- The minister was correct that 2 million Liberians were living in extreme poverty when President George Weah took office in January 2018 – this is supported by available data from the World Bank.
- The same sources confirm that poverty levels increased during the last three to four years of the presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, whom Weah succeeded.
- However, Tweah Jr cherry-picked his numbers – and fudged them – when he claimed that 24,000 Liberians were lifted out of poverty between 2017 and 2018.
With Liberian president George Weah hoping to win a second term, his administration has been keen to highlight what he’s achieved in the first.
Liberians head to the polls on 10 October 2023.
In a nearly four-hour special interview broadcast widely on radio and Facebook in June 2023, finance minister Samuel Tweah Jr painted a rosy picture of Weah’s record in the fight against poverty.
We selected three claims to fact-check.
“When George Weah took the oath of office, there were two million Liberians in extreme poverty.”
Weah was sworn in as Liberia’s president in January 2018.
As evidence for his claim (made at the 09:01 minute timestamp in this video), the minister referred the audience to “the latest World Bank report titled Investing in Human Capital, page 20”.
We found the report in question. Dated June 2022, it is titled Investing in Human Capital for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth.
On page 20, there’s a graph with the headline: “Trend in Real GDP per capita and Poverty, 2014–24.”
To estimate Liberia’s poverty rate, or the number of people considered extremely poor or unable to meet most of their basic needs, the report used the international poverty line of US$1.90 in 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP) dollars. PPP is a currency unit that allows international comparisons.
The report showed that the poverty rate in the country in 2017 was 46.7%. This equalled 2,240,027 people out of a population of 4,796,631 in that year.
The development lender told Africa Check that the latest available data on Liberia was from the 2016 household income and expenditure survey. The data in the June 2022 report were estimates by World Bank staff.
World Bank spokesperson Michael Nyumah Sahr said the next survey was planned for 2024 and would be conducted over a year. The results “are expected in 2025”, he said.
Sahr also shared a link to an interactive dashboard, which showed that 2.09 million Liberians were living in poverty in 2016.
Therefore, the minister’s claim that there were two million people living in poverty in 2018 is supported by the available data.
In September 2022, months after the release of the report in question, the bank raised the international poverty line to $2.15 per person per day. This is measured in 2017 PPP dollars.