31 December 2012

Liberia: 'Reduce Rice Importation' - Ul Economist Cautions

An Economist at the University of Liberia (UL) Dehpue Zuo, has called on the government to reduce rice importation to boost food production.

Speaking to The Informer after the stakeholders' forum on the 2010 Labour Force survey that took place at the Capital Hill Campus of UL recently, the Acting Director of LIMPAC, Economist, Dehpue Zuo called on the government to encourage citizens to engage in farming by making the agricultural sector attractive.

The LIMPAC acting Director's plea came as various stakeholders reached a consensus that the only way to improve the livelihood of the vulnerable employed in the country delineated in the 2010 Labour Force Survey category is by the government making massive investments in the agricultural sector.

Mr. Zuo said that government needs to look at a mechanism that will be put in place to address the issues of access to market and the high cost of labour confronting farmers that often hinders the production of food crops, especially those farming in the hinterland.

He asserted that the concept of green revolution being the pillar of agriculture is accepted worldwide. He also stressed that food insecurity is one of the major problems facing governments around the world. "So any country that goes into food production especially rice which is widely consumed in West Africa stands to gain", he said.

Speaking at the program earlier, Mr. Zuo who commended the Ministry of Labour and the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-information Services (LISGIS) for the compilation of the 2010 Labour Force Survey, said the document is the first of it kind since the Liberian Civil crisis.

He noted that it was crafted to really show what the nation Liberia is, and what it represents, adding that "scientifically speaking and from the scientific perspective I accepted the result."

He said interestingly the document featured that majority of Liberians find themselves engaged in the agricultural sector and with low skills, which means that they face constraints earning their incomes, something that renders most of the Labour Force in the country vulnerable.

Mr. Zuo averred that the Decent Work Bill authorizes the Ministry of Labour to regularly collect, compile, analyze and publish labour force statistics in the country. He said it was in this vein that the Labour Ministry has to concentrate on how to put in place a Labour statistic collecting system. He stressed on the importance of the Labour ministry using the available statistics for the business of creating job.

He maintained that since the Ministry of Labour plays the role of monitoring job creation, he said there is a need for the Labour ministry to focus on how to collect data as all policy making should be directed towards strengthening the statistic departments in the various government ministries and agencies. He said this initiative should also be imitated by the private sector including NGO. He also emphasized on the importance of every sector using statistical data.

Making a presentation as one of the panel discussants at the stakeholders' forum on the 2010 Labour Foroce Survey the dean of Business College Professor, Geegbae A. Geegbae said the college always want the labour market to make an input in curriculum development, stating that the college's task is to train manpower that will be absorbed in the government and business sectors.

He added that the business college is at the for- front in pushing a policy that ensures that Liberians take ownership of their economy from the hands of foreigners.

He asserted that "we feel very strongly that the college should take the lead in this direction, for too long the economy of this nation has been in the hands of the big foreign investors."

Professor Geegbae opined that it is imperative on the government and well wishers to go back to the drawing board to ensure that training institutions meet the labour force survey's demands, adding "what are we doing about the plight of our small and medium businesses being push around from one point to another."

Addressing the plight of food and cash crop farmers in the vulnerable employment report of the 2010 Labour Force Survey Professor Geegbae said the big companies that are involved in the agricultural sector should empower small farmers in the country.

"The big companies that are engaging in agriculture should supply our farmers with seeds and seeding, and if possible provide training for farmers so that during production they, the farmers can become their suppliers, professor Geegbae A. Geegbae maintained.

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