We wish to first seek your kind indulgence in registering our sincere apologies for having been slack in proffering our regular Memo to your good offices; in fulfilment of our civic duties that include bringing to the attention of the Liberian presidency issues affecting our common patrimony. With that being said, we hasten to acknowledge that Liberians here, near and afar were waiting with bated breath for the National Legislature to pass a Joint Resolution approving the State of Emergency (SOE) that was declared by Your Excellency on April 8, 2020 in line with Article 86 of our Constitution, and conveyed to the Legislature on April 14, 2020. Of course, the declaration of a State of Emergency by Your Excellency, in the wake of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic, was primarily meant to protect the lives of our people and curb spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic that is taking a nasty toll not only on Liberia but the world at large.
And so, on last week Thursday, April 16, 2020 to be precise, the National Legislature passed a 16-count Joint Resolution approving the State of Emergency declared by Your Excellency. Having thoroughly perused the Joint Resolution on the SOE, we are indeed elated by the benign will and intent of your government to not only curb spread of the COVID-19 pandemic but to also bring economic succor to your citizenry during this 90-day period of lockdown mandated under the Joint Resolution/SOE.
The issue of lockdown is not really strange to Liberians, especially those that were severely affected by the Ebola virus and were resident in Ebola hotspots like West Point. In this regard, we note with keen attention, under Count 4 of the Joint Resolution, that Your Excellency’s initial request for US$25 million has been approved with the modification 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. We also note that procurement under this program has prioritized locally produced food, and that the food distribution program must first factor the vulnerable population and the first responder population including the 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.
Your Excellency, we sincerely believe that providing food assistance during this critical period will not help ease the constraints that many households face in sustaining their families, but we are also cognizant that this gesture will elevate the empowerment of local communities whose produce will be prioritized for purchase. In this regard, though short-termed, we reason that the COVID-19 food assistance package, if transparently executed, will complement the current Ministry of Agriculture agro-revitalization interventions. However, anything to the contrary, will render this noble initiative counterproductive.
We also keenly note, Your Excellency that under Count 7 of the Joint Resolution, your proposal for the Market Women and Small Informal Petty Traders Bank Loan Program has been approved, with modification to add credit unions and related entities registered and doing business before January 1, 2020. Although this aspect of your proposal has met a good portion of public backlash, we reason that if done properly, transparently, without favor to one group of people to the exclusion of others; if done without any ulterior motive to cultivate votes from impoverished communities – then the actual beneficiaries comprising struggling households of market women and petty traders affected by the State of Emergency will weep tears of joy when our nation shall have been liberated from the wicked jaws of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, no one in their sound mind should oppose such patriotic moves, Your Excellency. But our people’s concerns are basically hinged on the serious gaps in implementation of policy decisions that drive national development projects. The backwardness of our common patrimony has never been for the lack of policies, but the dearth of implementation strategies, as well as the shortage of political will in curbing waste, theft and plunder in the execution of development projects.
This is the main reason why we have opted to send this caveat to your good offices, Your Excellency. The people of Liberia are facing an unseen enemy, an airborne scourge that is a non-respecter of status or station. If we must together fight and overcome the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, implementation of the Joint Resolution on the SOE must be done with the utmost sincerity, transparency and honesty.
Having said that, we are especially gladdened by your appointment of a National Steering Committee to provide oversight to the COVID-19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP), in line with your State of Emergency letter to the National Legislature. Apart from the regular governmental membership that comprises the COHFSH, it is interesting to note the inclusion of representatives from the civil society, the Collaborating Political Parties, the Christian and Muslim communities, the Disabled community, the youth and student community, women groups, the Coalition of Political Parties Women of Liberia, United Nations Organizations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Undoubtedly, the constitution of this committee addresses prior concerns from the opposition community for your government to include all stakeholders in the decision-making and implementation processes that will drive the fight against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Thank God you’ve listened to the voices of reason.
It is therefore our abiding hope that your administration will allow representatives of this committee to execute their respective mandates without any political machinations so that at the end of the day, it wouldn’t be about who made the most impact on said committee, but how Liberia won in the fight against spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
As we all strive to achieve a COVID-19 free Liberia, just as we did with Ebola, permit us, Your Excellency, to thank you for lending us your usual undivided attention.