27 December 2013

Liberia: President Sirleaf, in Simple English Interview, Urges Liberians to Join Government's Efforts At Rebuilding the Country - Discusses Range of National Issues

As the New Year, 2014, fast approaches, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is urging all Liberians to join the government's effort at rebuilding the country.

"It's time to unite and work to rebuild our country. Put disunity and confusion aside and let all Liberians join hands in the process. The President alone cannot rebuild the country; it requires the collective efforts of all compatriots," the Liberian leader pleaded, adding that if everybody does his or her part, whatever it is, the country will be a better place for all.

She advised Liberians that, over the festive season, they should take some time to think and reflect on how all Liberians can help to make the country safe, peaceful as well as promote development. "After all, you do it for yourself, for your country and not for the President," she stressed.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made these comments on Saturday, December 21, during a Simple English interview, "Talk with Our President," when she was interviewed by UNMIL Radio Producer Torwon Sulonteh-Brown.

In the wide-ranging interview, the President shared her thoughts on such national issues as the economy and the budget, freedom of speech and indiscipline, governance, road and energy infrastructure, education, the county tours, renovation of the Executive Mansion, and police decisions against commercial motorcycle taxis, among others.

Concerning the economy, and the depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the U.S. currency, President Sirleaf attributed the decline of the former to the scarcity of United States dollars on the market. She blamed the constant threat to the peace and stability of the country where most businessmen have developed a wait-and-see attitude, as well as the suspension of forestry activities in the country that had brought in a good portion of foreign currency to government.

To reduce the demand for United States dollars, President Sirleaf said that some of the taxes being paid to government can now be done in Liberian dollars. She was hopeful that within a few months the rate of the Liberian dollar will appreciate against the U.S. dollars.

Speaking about the new restrictions on commercial motorcyclists, the Liberian leader said that they must respect the new traffic regulations and stay clear of the major roads, as designated by the Liberia National Police. She condemned acts of violence by commercial motorcyclists, saying, "The pehn-pehn people did it to themselves because they had freedom to ride, but by them taking the law into their own hands, by burning a commercial bus, we had to move them from the main streets."

President Sirleaf said the new restrictions have resulted in the dramatic reduction in the number of motorbike-related accidents, noting that statistics from the John F. Kennedy Medical Center show that there has been a drastic decline in the number of cases that show up in the Emergency Room.

The President went on to say that she has instructed the police to review the number of passengers being carried by the new three-wheeled motorcycle taxis known as "bajajs". She said that she has seen up to six passengers squeezed in these vehicles when most of them were made for only two or three passengers, and she worried in case there's an accident. "We will soon stop it because only two persons should ride in it," she announced.

On what government is doing to alleviate the transportation void created by the restrictions on motorcyclists on specific streets, the Liberian leader said the government would temporarily suspend import tariff as well as goods and services tax on commercial public transport buses, operating for the commercial transportation of persons and goods.

She said that as public transport infrastructure remains a key priority of the Government's Agenda for Transformation, the need exists to continuously improve public access to efficient, safe and reliable commercial transport services, thereby reducing difficulties and hardships faced by commuters and, consequently, reducing the cost of goods and services.

On moving back to the Executive Mansion, President Sirleaf said the contractors are still working there, although substantial work has been done. However, she was hopeful that she would move there sometime in 2014.

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