VP Howard-Taylor on Liberia’s Progress -Says Responsible Leadership Underpins Gains Made

If anybody thinks that current Vice President Madam Jewel Howard Taylor, like it is said of her predecessor, is a racing bike parked in the garage as some of her critics at times insinuate, it would be a mistake. She is up and ready all over the place, at home and abroad, substantially contributing her quotas towards peace, stability and development. And she’s selling the good image being built at home to the international world on progress made at home. Recently, as The Analyst reports, she was once again out, specifically in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, drumming up support for Liberia and telling the epic story of how Liberia is defeating COVID-19 after crushing Ebola earlier.

For those critics attempting to dismiss the current Liberian Vice President as a parked vehicle, referencing the jibe that accompanied her predecessor, Mr. Joseph Boakai, Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor is proving that she is very much on top of things, gathering from her latest interview with New Africa Magazine, where she outlined gains of the George Weah-led Government and her own role in advancing the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

Speaking exclusively with one of Africa’s premier print publications, The New Africa Magazine,  when she recently visited Nigeria to honor the call of an award for her outstanding humanitarian works, Madam Howard-Taylor said, among other things, that the current gains being made in overcoming COVID-19 cases in Liberia should be attributed first and foremost to the government’s immediate response, when President George Weah established a rapid COVID-19 Response Unit chaired by the Ministry of Health and inclusive of other relevant government agencies and international partners to contain COVID-19 in its devastating tracks.

“As you know, Liberia is a developing nation, and we have had our share of challenges, including a civil conflict, Ebola and now COVID-19,” she said. “Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the President [George Weah] established a rapid COVID-19 Response Unit chaired by the Ministry of Health and includes other relevant government agencies and international partners.

“This unit meets daily to assess the situation and to address challenges. Over a year ago, we instituted a national emergency, mandated testing and social distancing, and we continue to raise public awareness about the pandemic. We opened two new hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients. As a result of our robust response effort, we are seeing a reduction in COVID-positive numbers.”

With regards to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 and what her government is doing to counter the debilitating effects, Madam Howard-Taylor was frank in disclosing that the pandemic has had the severest impact on the Liberian economy, even worse than the Ebola virus which invaded Liberia in 2014.

“No doubt, economic activities have been severely affected. Schools were closed. There was an increase in sexual and gender-based violence across the country, as well as a drastic loss of income for women who are the primary providers and caregivers in our society,” VP Howard-Taylor told the Magazine’s editors.

Despite those negative impacts of COVID-19, Madam Howard-Taylor however disclosed that the Government of Liberia instituted a series of policy benchmark measures that eased the socioeconomic strains posed by the pandemic.

He added: “The National Legislature approved a national stimulus package, including food rations and money to severely affected homes, and suspended taxes to allow companies and businesses to survive. We halted ongoing development projects and even redirected finances for such projects to the healthcare sector and to respond to the social and economic needs of our most vulnerable.”

Speaking on her own ordeal when she contracted COVID-19 recently, Vice President Howard-Taylor cautioned her compatriot Liberians to understand that COVID-19 is very real.

“I hope my voice, and the voices of others who contracted the disease will let people know that this pandemic is real. I am not sure of how or where I contracted this disease, but I did. I was severely ill and spent 35 days in the Intensive Care Unit and another 10 days just getting my breathing stabilized. COVID-19 is not a hoax or a conspiracy theory. If we follow the health protocols, especially wearing face masks, social distancing; and getting tested immediately when we fall ill, coupled with vaccination, I am hopeful we can defeat the disease,” she said.

Regarding the Weah Government’s preventative efforts in the COVID-19 fight, Vice President Howard-Taylor disclosed that the Government of Liberia has received 100,000 vaccines, and that the vaccination process is going well.

“People are being vaccinated. I have been vaccinated myself,” she further disclosed.

With regards to Liberia’s post-pandemic recovery, VP Howard-Taylor said the Weah Government is focused more than three priority areas, targeting health, education, roads, jobs and the provision of basic social services to our people, including water and electricity – all of which have been captured in the national budget.

“We are having meetings with our international partners and friends to establish a post-COVID-19 roadmap and stabilization funds.

“We would like to re-energize agriculture and invest in infrastructure to jump-start economic activities. We hope to restore macroeconomic stability, encourage sustainable growth and private sector-driven development. Our focus is shifting to industrialization and the processing of our natural resources. We believe that the creation of a vibrant private sector is the best way forward,” VP Howard-Taylor noted.

When queried about the top three achievements of the George Weah-led Government, Madam Howard-Taylor stated that the first achievement is entrenching democracy.

“After taking the baton of power in 2018, our government has conducted many elections: several bi-elections and the 2020 senatorial elections. And the legal processes which attend contested elections have been successfully and peacefully followed up to the Supreme Court.  The second is that we carried out a process of harmonization that allowed the government to significantly reduce the wage bill by eliminating ghost names. Implementing a biometric identification card for all government employees eliminated discrepancies. We have redirected excess finances to support women representation in parliament, though there is still a long way to achieving gender equity,” Madam Howard-Taylor stated.

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