Liberia: Watkins Initiative for Nations (Win) Wants Government Realign National Budget to Empower Citizen Against COVID-19

Monrovia — The Watkins Initiative For Nations (WIN), a pro-democracy and community based organization in Liberia is circumspect of the Government of Liberia new restrictions released, Wednesday, April 8, 2020, as means to curtail the deadly Coronavirus in Liberia and called for the need that Liberia's current national budget be realigned and readjusted to help empower the citizenry of the country.

The Government led by President George M. Weah has declared a State of Emergency, to exist in and throughout the Republic of Liberia, for a period of three (3) weeks, renewable until the threat to Liberia from the Covid-19 virus no longer exists, pending Legislative approval.

The potential State of Emergency highlights that all 15 counties in the Republic of Liberia are hereby quarantined from 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020, until further notice. Movements between counties are strictly prohibited. No person shall be permitted to enter or leave or in any way cross the borders of any county into any other county, except for Montserrado County and Margibi County which are quarantined as a single unit.

As a further measure under this State of Emergency, all Liberians and residents within the borders of Montserrado County, Margibi County, Nimba County, and Grand Kru County are to STAY AT HOME for the next 14 days, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020.

Throughout this period, residents may leave home only for essential journeys for reasons of health and food, which should be restricted to your local community only, and be limited to a single person per household for a maximum of one hour.

Exceptions shall be made for persons who are designated as essential staff in government offices, banks, supermarkets, and other business establishments such as hotels, petrol stations, and health facilities to travel directly to work and return directly home. All such commercial activities are to be closed no later than 3:00 p.m. All non-essential businesses and Government offices will remain closed, with the exception of essential businesses, health facilities and a few key government offices, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Bank of Liberia, the National Port Authority, the Liberia Revenue Authority, the Monrovia City Corporation, and the Liberia Broadcasting System, and accredited media, where only a skeleton staff will be given passes to work.

Other government offices may be designated as exempt based on the essential nature of their function. Meanwhile, non-exempt government employees and people in the private sector are encouraged to work from home.

Also exempted from these restrictions are: (a) production, distribution, and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and medicine; (b) environmental and sanitation activities; ( c) members of the security forces assigned to lawful duties; (d) essential staffs of electricity, water, telecommunications, banking, and hotels, and (e) the staff of fuel stations.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs is hereby instructed to engage the leaders of the various marketing associations in counties under this STAY AT HOME order to make satisfactory arrangements about the operation of markets during this period, so as to ensure the observance of social distance and enhanced hygiene protocols.

In all other counties not under this STAY AT HOME order, residents are to stay within their respective local communities until otherwise ordered.

The government has ordered the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Chairman of the National Joint Security to enforce the stay-home policy beginning as of the effective date, noting that further measures will be imposed from time to time under this State of Emergency

The Watkins Initiative For Nations (WIN) believes such a declaration comes with huge responsibility which must not be overlooked by the government, especially the National Legislature which approval the Executive Branch is craving.

According to the organization, Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, 83.8 percent of Liberia's population lives below the poverty line ($1.25 per day) and 94 percent of workers are poor (living on less than $2 per day). It is also one of the poorest countries in the world, with about 64% of the population living on less than a dollar a day; while quoiting the Action Against Hunger 2019 report on Liberia.

The organization fear that if not is done, many Liberians are likely to die from starvation rather than COVID 19.

Speaking in an interview with journalists in Monrovia, Mr. Y. Solomon W. Watkins, the Executive Director of the Watkins Initiative for Nations, (WIN) said the fight against the virus can only be successful if the government prioritize empowerment scheme and better services for its citizens and those in the territories of Liberia.

According to him, the government must not in any way overlooked providing financial and material aid to its citizens and those in the boarders of the country. There is a need that government empower the community in fighting against the deadly coronavirus. By now each household should have had an anti-coronavirus material and all form of incentivize accessories to help individuals and families contribute toward ending the virus, and the Government must do this!

"We need a complete readjustment of the national budget to reflect the current situation our nation is confronted with. The realignment needs to consider reduction in the salaries for high profile government officials, readjust foreign travels and Daily Sustenance Allowances (DSAs); maintenance and repairs; lubricant, and other itemized areas that need readjustment. Savings from these budget lines can aid the vast majority of unemployed young and old people in the country," Mr. Watkins noted.

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