Some members of the House of Representatives headed by River Gee County Representative Francis Dopoe are soliciting signatures from their colleagues to stop passage of the COVID-19 stimulus package announced by President George Manneh Weah.The opposing representatives argued the stimulus package is not clear on how funding projected by the President will be expanded.
Speaking to this paper Thursday, April 16, via mobile phone in Monrovia, Representative Dopoe said some key ministers of the executive branch of government especially, authorities at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning should appear before the House to provide detail information on how much the government has in its coffer.
The River Gee County lawmaker, who is a financial expert, argued that the stimulus package is mute or silent on health workers and health facilities.He added that after the Corona virus, the government should show the way forward for the economy.
He narrated that loan scheme mentioned in the package failed to clearly state who the beneficiaries are and process of disbursement of funds.
Dopoe clarified that the opposition lawmakers are not against the stimulus package, but they are interested in how the allocation is carried out so that everyone will benefit fully and in the accordance with the budget law of Liberia.
Dope noted there are technical issues relating to the stimulus package that need technical answer or else, some Liberians may become millionaires after the pandemic has subsided.
According to him, the Houses of Representatives is yet to generate the required signatures or two-thirds of the total 73 members to pass the resolution, which would give full statutory authority to the President to act during the State of Emergency.
The Liberian Legislature has only today, April 17, to act or the recommendations sent to the lawmakers will come to force.
Dope, however, disclosed the opposition lawmakers are considering acting only on the State of Emergency and delay the stimulus until further details are provided.
Meanwhile, the resolution, which is to be the official document from the House headed by Grand Kru County Representative J. FonatiKoffa and Montserrado County Representative Acarous Moses Gray, is yet to generate the needed signatures as the statutory date for action expires today.
Amidst a 21-day State of Emergency that is renewable and 14 days lockdown in four counties, President George Manneh Weah has written both the House and the Liberian Senate, seeking approval for a proposed stimulus package for all Liberians, including food distribution, electricity and water support, small informal petty traders bank loans program and settlement of government domestic debt programs to local vendors.
In a communication dated April 13, read in the plenary of the senate during its first special sitting for the hearing of the State of Emergency, Mr. Weah writes, “I propose that for the remainder of fiscal year 2019/20 of the Liberian Legislature re-appropriate the amount of US$25 million to support food distribution to household in designated affected counties for the period of 60 days.”
The President’s decision followed public criticism here of authorities imposing a lockdown without considering welfare of citizens across the country, particularly in Monrovia.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne