President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf has placed a 60-day moratorium on all foreign travels by officials of her government effective February 2017, as Liberia’s tense economic conditions pushed small Liberian – owned businesses to stage roughly two days of protest with closure of all businesses.
While government enforced its new tax regulations to fund its budget target amidst decline in foreign aid and drop in prices of the country’s main exports, the business community here has also been complaining against an uncontrollable depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the US dollar which had long been at LRD$110 to US$1.00 before the mass protest last week.
But President Sirleaf who was out of the country attending an AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the time of the protest,responded upon her return last week with an attack against the business community, especially store owners for being part of the problem by taking the dollars in their suitcases and carrying it out of the country.
Hoever, following a review of the economy by Cabinet and the Economic Management Team or EMT under President Sirleaf watch, her office issued a statement on Sunday, 5 February saying those affected by the moratorium placed against officials’ travel include the heads of all Ministries, Agencies and Commissions along with their deputies and assistants.
“Exceptions will only be granted by the President herself following a one-on-one meeting with the official requesting to travel and if it is determined that such travel is of utmost imperative in the national interest,” the Executive Mansion says.
This is not the first time the President has imposed such travel ban for her officials in the face of economic difficulties here. The President impose similar ban in 2009, to cut back government spending.
The Central Bank of Liberia or CBL has also been mandated to review the alarming situation of capital flight and strengthen its regulatory measures so as to curb the illicit repatriation of foreign currency from the country.
The statement further said a meeting between the President and members of the Chamber of Commerce, the Liberia Business Association, the Liberia Marketing Association and the Yana Boys Association is scheduled for this week in an effort to engage in continuing dialogue over ways of improving the current business climate in the country.
The President’s decision came after holding separate meetings with Cabinet and the EMT on Friday, 3 February 3 in which they discussed measures aimed at addressing the current economic situation here, with emphasis on enhancing ongoing efforts to diversify the economy through agriculture and manufacturing.
The EMT has commissioned an immediate review of the recent amendments to the Revenue Code with the aim to correct provisions that are inconsistent with the requirements of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff or CET regime, which allows a 3-year accession window to avert an unfair burden being placed on the business community and the consuming public.
Following a review of the amendments, the Executive Mansion says a new bill correcting the identified inconsistencies will be submitted to the National Legislature for passage into law.
The EMT and Cabinet also noted the continuing efforts, which are being made by the Central Bank of Liberia and the Ministry of Finance since the past weeks to reduce and stabilize the foreign exchange rate.
They reported that such efforts have begun to yield positive results with the steady decline of the rate in favor of the Liberian dollar.
On the issue of flaunting of the Liberianization Law which reserves several businesses for the exclusive participation of Liberians, the EMT has called for a more robust enforcement by relevant ministries and agencies with specific emphasis on dealing with the situation wherein many citizens engage in fronting for foreigners.
Cabinet in concert with the EMT has mandated that the Ministry of Commerce and Industry conclude arrangements which will lead to the elimination of the Import Permit Declaration or IPD regime on the importation of certain vital commodities such as rice and flour.
But the Executive Mansion says the elimination of the IPD will however be done with strict regulatory standards to ensure quality. It adds that the Ministry of Commerce will publish the full list of businesses reserved for Liberians, the list of IPD exempt commodities along with the regulations on quality standards that businesses must meet in order to import the listed commodities.
In another development, a pending county tour to western Liberia was announced while Cabinet received briefing on the ongoing voter registration process.
In a related development, President Sirleaf briefed Cabinet on her meeting with the Arab Bank for Reconstruction and Development or BARDEA on the margins of the recent AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
She discussed support for the financing of the ELWA – Red-Light road estimated at US$15 million; the establishment of a Center of Excellence; and a [US$15m] facility to be managed by the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment or LBDI, aimed at supporting Small and Medium Scale Businesses.
Cabinet also received updates on this year’s Armed forces Day celebration including a line-up of events, ongoing infrastructure projects across the country as well as work in progress at the Monrovia Industrial Park.
–New Dawn Staff