Opposition politician and leader of the Movement for Progressive Change (MPC) Simeon Freeman urges government to reduce lockdown of the country and instead, conduct more testing of the population for the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We can’t continue to shift blame by declaring Coronavirus to be a global health threat; Liberia as a country doesn’t necessarily need a vaccine to silent coronavirus, but what we need is a new approach to silent this virus”, he says.
Speaking at the Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum organized by the Press Union of Liberia alongside Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Samora P. Z. Wolokolie at the YMCA in Monrovia under the topic: “Best approaches in the fight against COVID-19, a look at the Social, Political, and Economic impact on Liberia’, Mr. Freeman says government should do more to restart the economy than just emphasizing that the pandemic is a global health threat. He notes that other countries have succeeded in silencing the virus without experiencing it for sixty to ninety days.
“If you ask me I think continued locking down of the country is not necessary; what needs to be done is to at least facilitate every drug store, health facility, clinic and hospital to do testing of people that will go there for services.” He further suggests that government should lockdown at two districts at a time and test all inhabitants and then move on to other districts by which he says the virus would be silenced.
But Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs Wolokolie counters that threats posed by the novel coronavirus can’t be overly emphasized, noting that the virus has placed strain on government’s operation, which is negatively impacting the economic growth. However, he says despite the strains imposed by COVID-19, government remains committed to taking the country to higher heights, saying that the construction of the 14th Military Hospital and other treatment units across the country demonstrate the government seriousness to silencing the virus.
Minister Wolokollie continues that the effect of the virus in the country has been devastating and far reaching, saying that every fabric of livelihood has been impacted – from developed countries such as the United States and England to developing nations, including Liberia, lives have been turned upside down, revenues have plummeted, expenditures have been streamlined and growth rates have fallen flat.
“In the context of Liberia”, he explains, “The socio-economic impact of COVID-19 cannot be overemphasized. Liberia as part of the global village is not immune from the effects and shocks of this pandemic, as was the case in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak.”
He says the Liberian economy is under enormous stress, and as an economy that is mostly import-driven, events around the world can alter the course of activities here in Liberia. However, Wolokollie notes that while lockdown is an effective mitigating measure to curtail the spread of the virus, it is negatively impacting economic activities and placing substantial burden and challenges on the vulnerable population.
Throwing some highlights on the revenue, he says prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, domestic revenue was projected at 444 million dollars out of a total of 505 million dollars of which 61 million was attributed to external resources, adding that this projection was consistent with the recast budget that was passed into law in January 2020, with major lines informing the domestic resource envelope including taxes on income and profits, international trade, goods and services tax, and administrative fees, among others.
Press Union of Liberia President Charles B. Coffey, extols the panelists for taking up time to provide thoughts on issues of national concern specifically, the global pandemic and its social, political and economic impacts.
Liberia is experiencing daily surge in new cases of the virus, with confirmed cases almost hitting 1,000. President George Manneh recently extended the State of Emergency by 30 days and reversed the 9:00pm lockdown to 6:00pm daily amid plan b the government to distribute one million nose masks as part of measures to contain spread of the virus.
By Lewis S. Teh& Ethel A. Tweh–Editing by Jonathan Browne