President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has outlined phase 5 of her government’s agenda as health, education, agriculture, infrastructure, development and peace.
In a press chat with media managers, senior editors and foreign correspondents on Monday in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia, President Sirleaf spoke of a pending meeting by the highly affected Ebola countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on post-Ebola reconstruction that involves regional and national dimensions.
She said the post-Ebola reconstruction centers around connectivity to enable the affected countries build the resilience on managing and ending the crises respectively.
Coming to the domestic front, the Liberian leader said more needs to be done in both the marine and agriculture sectors of the economy.
Earlier, making introductory remark, the President of the Press Union of Liberia or PUL, Kamara Abdullah Kamara, said the country could not speak of or boast of free and pluralistic media when the National Chronicle Newspaper, a private paper, is still being shut down by the government outside of due process. “We have gone to the court several times, but no due process”, he said.
Mr. Kamara also brought to the attention of the President the recent fire that gutted Lux FM, operated by the University of Liberia Department of Mass Communication, which left the station’s facilities burnt to ashes.
The PUL boss as well complained of tax clearance challenges faced by media houses in getting payment for published advertisements from government ministries and agencies, noting that despite obtaining clearances, indebted institutions delay in making payment and when the period elapses, the media houses are required to go and obtain new tax clearance, which is frustrating.
In response, President Sirleaf confirmed that the Liberia Revenue Authority has a policy in place that if a tax clearance is for a certain period and the action is not taken for that period, the business firm or institution is required to reapply.
However, she said in order to expedite the process, modality could be worked out with the LRA to ease such bottleneck.
On the issue of roads, President Sirleaf said the Japanese, who are paving the Somalia Drive Road in Gardnerville, are expected back to resume the project, pending full 42 days countdown on now new Ebola infection in line with WHO benchmark.
“The Japanese are very cynical about the Ebola Virus unlike the Chinese. They want to wait for the World Health Organization to declare Liberia Ebola-freed. We have already gone 21 days and we are waiting on the remaining 21 days after which they will return and continue the project”, the Liberian leader said.
Meanwhile, President Sirleaf said earlier pronouncement by government to turn on the turbine at the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant to provide electricity to Monrovia and its environs by December 2015 would be delayed by one.
She said the hydro will now be turned on by December 2016, pending the resumption of the project. However, she assured that government has secured US$320 Million and the turbine has been manufactured.
Turning to the media, President Sirleaf said she hopes to be remembered after leaving office as a leader, who gave the media the widest space to operate in the country.
By Jonathan Browne