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Loan payment on hold

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Lawmakers here seem to put on hold President George Manneh Weah’s proposal for government to fully pay loans owed by market women, and petty and small traders in coronavirus – affected counties, as Bomi County Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe suggests that the Legislature asked the Executive to table the plan.

In a phone interview with a local radio Tuesday morning, 21 April, Mr. Snowe explained that the Legislature approved President Weah’s request for US$25 million to support food distribution to households in affected counties, but with amendment to table loan payment and send the budget for lawmakers to know the details.

According to Mr. Snowe, lawmakers would want officials at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the Ministry of Finance to explain what is in the country’s covers and give an idea if the budget could first address payments of civil servants and health care workers.

He notes that they do not want to reach a point where health care workers become unhappy over their salaries and incentives not being paid and abandon their posts, adding that it is not safe yet to make commitment outside without knowing what’s in the budget.

“My focus right now is health care workers,” Snowe says, and notes that nobody knows how long this virus is going to last.Additionally, he stresses the need for the government to pay money it owes the media so that it gets the continued full support of the media in combating the spread of coronavirus.

In response to a call for the government to look in the direction of private school teachers who have been kept at home due to the coronavirus outbreak, Mr. Snowe says it’s not yet safe to make a commitment outside without knowing what’s in the government’s envelope.

Through a communication sent to the Legislature recently, President Weah narrated that several market women and small informal petty traders, who had loans with commercial banks and other creditors, will suffer significantly from the loss of number of selling and trading days occasioned by the Stay-At-Home order he had imposed.

He indicated that the government was working with lenders to show some understanding to the vulnerable borrowers, as he proposed to the Legislature that the government fully pays the loans owed by market women, and petty and small traders in affected counties as part of the requested budgetary reallocation.

“This will be a strong stimulus to these individuals. They have built their businesses from scratch with little or no help from the Government and deserve protection during these trying times. This program will further help the banks to increase lending to new borrowers,” Mr. Weah wrote to persuade the lawmakers on his plan.

This aspect of his stimulus package received mixed reactions, as some lawmakers mainly from the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) feared that the proposal lacked due diligence and could open the door to serious fraud and abuse like the controversial US$25 million mop-up exercise which formed part of reasons for series of mass protests here.By Winston W. Parley

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