Liberia: CPP Caucus Forward Recommendation On President Weah Lockdown Measures
MONROVIA – The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) which include UP, LP, ANC, and ALP through their legislative caucuses in the Senate and House of Representatives have forwarded several recommendations on measures to be taken on the economy, electricity, and debt payment, amongst others.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
In a well-loaded statement presented by the political leader of the Liberty Party, Senator Nyounblee Karnga-Lawrence, and Senator Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, the CPP pointed out several issues and recommended measures that should be taken into consideration by the legislature before granting the President all of the things he requested.
The CPP in their opinion believes the President’s letter rather focuses only on a stimulus package to address the so-called economic fallout of the health crisis without dealing with the cause. According to them, unless the health crisis is addressed, there can be no way of assessing and seriously addressing the resultant economic fallout.
“What the President has therefore presented the Legislature is not a solution to any existing problem for which he declared a State of Emergency, but rather a problematic loophole to unaccountable off budget expenditure disguised as help to the Liberian people.
“As such, in addition to the recommendations above on the proposals made by the President, we propose that the following additional interventions be included in the holistic fight to prevent and contain COVID-19.”
On an item-by-item basis, the CPP recommended that government should specify how the cost and how free water program would be funded, as the President’s letter to the Legislature fails to address this issue.
They also want government to properly identify the population it intends to service through this intervention, supported by due diligence and data, provide a rough estimate of cost and allocate funding accordingly.
“The Government should identify another source for funding its free electricity program, probably requesting external partners to help; alternatively, if the Government is expecting LEC to fund the “free electricity” from the US$4 million, the Government needs to accept that its obligation to LEC will increase by the cost of the free electricity program; and should find means to quickly infuse funds in the entity so as to avoid breakdowns and power outages in this critical period.
“Government should conduct similar due diligence exercise and work out a mechanism with importers and retailers, including tax credits and suspensions of tariffs, to ensure the supply of gasoline and diesel at reduced prices to power homes that are otherwise reliant on private generators.”
“What the President has therefore presented the Legislature is not a solution to any existing problem for which he declared a State of Emergency, but rather a problematic loophole to unaccountable off-budget expenditure disguised as help to the Liberian people.“– Collaborating Political Parties
Payment of Loans Owed Banks, Creditors
On the President’s measures of payment of loans, the CPP is recommending through their caucuses that until more clarity is given on the potential beneficiaries, the exact amount owed by each potential beneficiary, the financial institutions owed, and the grand total of the loans, this proposal should not be approved and that the legislature must not be seen as giving approval in the dark.
“Even if a listing of beneficiaries and the amount owed is presented along with the financial institutions concerned, such listing should be subjected to verification by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) before payment is done.
“The “other creditors” as alluded by the President creates a big opening for fraud as was the case with the US$25 million mop-up exercise. Channeling payments through these informal means presents too many loopholes for theft and political manipulation and should be abandoned as it is a dangerous option.”
The CPP is suggesting that instead of giving the money to creditors, government should consider giving it directly to the women and petty traders to be able to restart their businesses when the threat of COVID-19 subsides.
In this way, according to them, these business would be able to repay their debts while contributing to the post-pandemic economic recovery and that the government should negotiate with creditors to extend the payment terms for these market women and petty traders so that they are able to grow their businesses and pay back their debt.
US$15 To Begin Funding Domestic Arrears
On the President’s measures to fund domestic arrears, the CPP is recommending that the Executive branch of government should include the US$15 appropriation in the next fiscal budget and prioritize arrear payments for relevant debt that impacts economic recovery.
Six-Month Suspension Of Surcharge On Imported Goods Manufactured In Liberia And Suspension Of Pre-Shipment Inspections (PSI) Penalty Until Otherwise Notified
The CPP sees the measures on surcharge and pre-shipment penalty to be appropriate and less problematic, except that the Legislature should require the Executive to produce an estimate or indication of the potential revenue to be foregone and the compensating benefits that will be accrued from implementing these measures.
“The executive should also show how this decision will impact local manufacturers and the strategy to keep them in business.”
“While we note that the President’s proposal addresses some critical matters of social and economic ramifications for Liberians, which we welcome, we must note that the proposal does not address the public health crisis that necessitated the State of Emergency and lockdown and the subsequent the funding largely from our international partners WHO and IMF.