The Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) has erected some checkpoints in the stimulus package proposed by President George Manneh Weah for the fight against coronavirus. The CPP which comprises former ruling Unity Party, Liberty Party, Alternative National Congress and All Liberian Party asserts in a statement released in Monrovia that the proposal does not identify the budgetary items that will be cut to raise the US$25 million requested by President Weah.
According to the opposition bloc, the Executive leaves the difficult exercise to the Liberian Legislature which is not privy to all the facts to make an informed decision.
The CPP statement comes a day after it suggested that President Weah’s proposed stimulus package which lack due diligence could open the door to serious fraud and abuse like the US$25 million mop-up exercise.
According to the CPP, the proposal does not identify which existing projects will suffer as a result of the World Bank’s reallocation of US$10 million contribution toward the stimulus package.
“Food aid in “designated counties” begs the question of which counties will be included and which will be left out?” the CPP says.Given how small Liberia is and the interconnectedness of the people here, the CPP avers that it seems unjustifiable that there is a county in Liberia that can be excluded from the government’s food aid program.
In the proposal, the CPP notes that the government has said that the cost of the food aid is US$25M and could go up to US$40M, but did not say how long such amount will supply “designated” counties for.
“Is it one month, two months or six months? We don’t know,” CPP ponders, and notes that before approving US$40 million for a food aid program, the Legislature needs to ensure that the funding requirements for an effective holistic fight against COVID-19 are secured, including adequate and prompt payment of salaries and incentives of health workers.
It also calls for the purchase of equipment including ventilators, personal protective equipment and hospital beds, and among others.
The opposition bloc further calls on the Legislature to assure itself that the government has the capacity to make timely payment of civil servants’ salaries, as the current delay in the monthly payment of civil servants’ salaries is still an issue of concern.
The CPP urges government to identify the proposed sources or budget lines that will be cut to fund the US$25 million program and specify the World Bank projects that will suffer cuts in order to fund the food aid program.
“When convinced about the availability of fiscal space to fund the holistic COVID-19 fight, priorities in the food aid program should be given to orphanage …; the elderly, the disabled community and other vulnerable groups,” the group continues.
It calls for a comprehensive distribution plan to be developed that clearly addresses issues such as who benefits, the frequency of distribution as well as the composition of the food aid.
“This strategy must be approved by the Liberian Legislature,” the statement urges.
The collaborating parties mandate that the government includes WFP as a core member of the National Steering Committee that should work out a purchasing and distribution scheme of food supplies that are inclusive of all local producers and importers of staple food.
It suggests that WFP and UNFPA should play distribution roles in those counties that have been mandatorily locked down.
“To raise the public confidence in the fair distribution of the food aid program, the committee in charge of the food aid should incorporate representations from recognized and reputable religious, traditional, youth and student groups, and other eminent citizens in the society,” the CPP recommends.
Additionally, the CPP wants government to specify how the cost and how free water program will be funded, and also urges the government to identify another source for funding its free electricity program, probably requesting external partners to help.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Edited by Winston W. Parley