Liberia: Senators Differ On Stimulus Package

Members of the Liberian Senate have strongly differed with the Executive branch of government on the distribution of the US$25 million stimulus package as announced by President George Manneh Weah in the fight against the Coronavirus here.

Speaking in plenary Wednesday, 6 May, ruling party senator for Montserrado County Sen. Saah Joseph warned that the Senate will not accept that the stimulus package be given to 'vulnerable communities' and only four counties that were earlier affected.

The debate came about when Commerce Minister, Professor Wilson Tarpeh appeared before the Senate to provide details on how the distribution of the food items will be carried out among Liberians.

Minister Tarpeh informs Senators that the government and its partners, especially the World Bank, have considered distributing the food package to vulnerable communities and four counties that were earlier affected by coronavirus before extending to other counties.

The counties targeted by the government for distribution include Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Kru Counties. However, health officials here say four new counties have now been affected by the virus, bringing the total to eight counties.

Senators argue that the resolution passed by the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate did not state four counties and vulnerable communities as beneficiaries of the stimulus package, as they instead indicated the entire country.

On 18 April, the Liberian Legislature passed a Joint Resolution which approved the initial request for US$25 million by the Executive for the Food Support Program.

The Legislature made a modification in passing the resolution that all of the 15 counties within the Republic shall be covered as affected counties for food support and additional amounts needed shall be submitted for re-appropriation.

It says procurement under this program must first accommodate locally produced food, adding that the food distribution program must prioritize the vulnerable population and the first responder population.

It specifically names the disadvantaged youth, the homeless, orphanages, senior citizens, people with disabilities, health workers and security personnel deployed in the frontline of the enforcement of the State of Emergency as those that must be prioritized.

The Legislature further approved all restrictions imposed by the president pertaining to the movement of persons and hours applicable, and modified only to the extent that all persons appearing in public, streets and buildings must wear a protective device that covers at least the nose and mouth.

Explaining further, Professor Tarpeh notes that the food basket will contain both imported and locally produced rice, palm, imported oil and other food related items.

Meanwhile, Minister Tarpeh is expected to reappear this Friday, 8 May to provide further explanation.

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