18 February 2014

Liberia: Ellen Notes Increased Drugs Prices

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf says government and other drug procuring organizations operating in the country have to now bear the burden of purchasing drugs at increased prices sometimes, thereby affecting their availability locally.

During separate meetings with Firestone Agriculture and Allied Workers Union and National Rubber Brokers and Farmers Union of Liberia on Friday, February 14, President told the Firestone Union that the availability of drugs was not a problem for Firestone alone, but also for government, due to Liberia's transition from aid to development status.

The Executive Mansion says in the meeting with the Firestone Agriculture and Allied Workers Union or FAWUL, President Sirleaf said government was committed to protecting trade unions across the country, and expects the same from them to their employers, in response to the leadership's complaints and recommendations outlined to her.

The release said President Sirleaf however, assured the delegation that the government will continue to make health care a priority and to encourage Firestone to also see it that way.

She promised to order an assessment of FAWUL's complaint that the Firestone Plantation has lowered the standard of the housing units, departing from the 10-year plan that had been agreed between the government and management, the release said.

Under that agreement, Firestone agreed to improve housing units from a one-bedroom apartment to at least two bedrooms with other facilities, including kitchen, living and bathrooms, respectively.

President Sirleaf however, called upon stakeholders in the rubber industry, including the Ministry of Agriculture, to work with plantation and factory owners to create a system where some money could be placed into a stabilization fund intended to rescue the industry whenever there is low yield, as experienced by Firestone, and confirmed by FAWUL in the meeting with her.

At the close of the meeting, the FAWUL leadership, which included the union's President Austin Natee, Vice President Joseph Tarnue, and Secretary General Edwin Cisco, among others, pledged to work with the management of Firestone to address the concerns and constraints presented to President Sirleaf.

In response to the National Rubber Brokers and Farmers Union of Liberia or NARBFUL's appeal for President Sirleaf to reconsider Executive Order #50 that places a moratorium on the exportation of unprocessed rubber, among others, the President insisted that the moratorium will remain in force.

But the Executive Mansion says President Sirleaf instructed the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Florence Chenoweth to work out modalities with Firestone to purchase rubber produced by smallholders.

President Sirleaf further instructed Minister Chenoweth to look into the report of overlapping functions among the various rubber organizations, including the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia, the Rubber Development Association, the National Rubber Brokers and the Farmers Union and determine if there is a need to reduce the number.

In a related development, President Sirleaf has expressed hope that the Legislature will see reason to pass the Decent Work Bill into law during this sitting, saying it was intended to be an initiative to further improve workers' conditions, but has become a political tool for those seeking elected posts, thereby stalling the intent of the Bill.

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