Weah nets initial €10m

The French Government has placed Liberia on its shortlist of Bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA), pledging an initial grant of €10 million Euros for immediate road maintenance here, while modalities are worked out for a more comprehensive and sustainable development assistance package for the country.

A dispatch from the French Capital Paris, dated 22 February says President George Manneh Weah’s visit to France has yielded remarkable dividends for his young administration.

The Executive Mansion in Monrovia says in further support to the Weah-led administration, French President Emmanuel Macron will also travel to the European Union (EU) within two weeks along with a Technical Team from Liberia to rally support for the construction of roads.

Additionally, the French Government will also introduce its new Economic Empowerment Program dubbed: “Agriculture through Sports,” which Liberia stands to benefit from.

The dispatch indicates that this will be done through the construction of sporting facilities and the provision of sporting materials and other logistical support.

Mr. Macron has determined that sports is one of the best ways to promote development in Africa and has therefore embarked on a sports development program.

In his first presidential visit to France to seek support for his government, the Executive Mansion says President Weah received a red carpet welcome from his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron on on Wednesday, 21 January.

Mr. Weah was received at the Palace Elysee to a rousing welcome by the French Head of State and officials of the French Government.

During a Press Stakeout upon his arrival, President Weah expressed gratitude to France, noting that he was proud to be back in a country where his journey to stardom started.

He enumerated his experience as a migrant, who went to France about 29 years ago in search of better opportunity. President Weah attributed his success story to his longtime coach and mentor, Arsène Wenger of Arsenal and the great people of France.

The former soccer legend turned - politician says he owes a debt of gratitude to France for giving him the opportunity to triumph, reminding French people that he is indeed a product of France.

He also informed his French counterpart, President Macron that he was in France this time as President of the Republic of Liberia to seek the same opportunity and chances that France gave him to succeed for the people of Liberia.

Mr. Weah recalled the enormous tasks he has been entrusted with since his inauguration as the 24th President of Africa’s oldest independent nation to lead the Liberian people from poverty to peace and prosperity.

However, he was quick to remind his French counterpart that peace without prosperity is an “unfinished agenda,” acknowledging that this will be the greatest challenge of his administration.

Mr. Weah notes that Liberia’s economy is in ‘stagnation’ and still bleeds from the recovery of the devastating Ebola outbreak that took place four years ago.

Informing his Mr. Macron of the deplorable state of the Liberian economy, Mr. Weah underscored that while Liberia remains one of the poorest countries in the world, it is endowed with abundance of natural resources.

According to him, though Liberia is blessed with a plethora of natural resources, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world largely due to decades of mismanagement by past leaders.

He intimated that the poor state of the country is due in part to the failure of previous leaders to exploit the natural resources for the empowerment of all Liberians, instead of benefiting a select few.

“This phenomenon of rich-land poor country scenario is at the result of mismanagement of the country’s natural resources,” President Weah argues, adding that it was due to mismanagement of the natural resources and the marginalization of the majority of Liberians that his government has placed “Pro-Poor Policy” at the center of development.

He repeated that he inherited a broke government plagued with unemployment, which is at an unprecedented high, inflation on the rise, the Liberian currency in a free fall state, and foreign reserve at an all time low.

President Weah says expectations remain high, and he is concerned that his government may not be able to deliver on the promise of change for the betterment of the Liberian people without urgent and significant assistance from friendly governments such as France.

President Weah then made a passionate appeal to his French counterpart to assist his administration in any way to help jumpstart the Liberian economy. He named the construction of roads, agriculture, education, healthcare and the high unemployment of Liberian youths as key priorities of his leadership.

He concluded by expressing profound gratitude to his counterpart and the great people of France for the warm reception accorded him and his delegation and stressed the need to further strengthen the longstanding and great relationship between Liberia and France.

A luncheon was held in honor of Mr. Weah and his delegation upon arrival, which was followed by bilateral talks between the two leaders and a press stakeout.

In another development, FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who was invited by the French leader to the launch of his Development through Sports Program, was among a host of sports officials representing various institutions including the National Basketball Association.

The FIFA boss informed President Weah that FIFA has allocated half a billion United States Dollars towards the development of sports in Africa. He assured President Weah that Liberia will be among the countries in Africa that will benefit from the pilot project.

While on his official State visit to France, President Weah also met with the Vice President of the World Bank, Makhtar Diop. The meeting concluded that an additional budget support of US$20 million will be provided in June of 2018.

This is in addition to the US$24.7 million grant earlier given to Liberia by the World Bank. President Weah also secured additional financing of US$5 million from the World Bank Social Protection Program to enhance his sports agenda.

He also initiated discussions leading to the front-loading of US$45 million of additional financing from Liberia’s three - year allocation of $210 million to help stabilize the Liberian economy.

President Weah used his meeting with several French businesses, investors and private institutions to rally support for his government and the people of Liberia in an effort to encourage investments and revive the Liberian economy.

He enjoined French investors to replicate in Liberia their investments being undertaken in other African countries.--Dispatch

Liberia drops in Corruption Index

The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has released the 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), globally ranking Liberia at 122, out of a total of 180 countries with a CPI score of 31.

The report is published by anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. The German-based group says majority of countries in the world are making "little or no progress in ending corruption".
A CENTAL press statement issued Thursday, 22 February says Liberia’s CPI score is the second biggest decliner globally with minus six points from its CPI score in 2016 of 37 to 31 in 2017.

It furthers that the only country Liberia has outperformed in the sub - region is Guinea that scores 27, noting that all other countries [except Guinea] have better standing and rankings than Liberia, including Ghana with the score of 40 while Ivory Coast stands at 36.

CENTAL says it is deeply concerned about Liberia’s continuous underperformance, especially its position as the second worst decliner worldwide.

It points out that Liberia’s decline speaks to government’s inability to address entrenched culture of impunity and enforce existing laws and policies.

“Delayed investigation and prosecution of alleged corrupt officials, due to lack of political will, shielding of officials and appointment of relatives and cronies in key positions of trust, are seriously undermining the fight against corruption in the country,” CENTAL says.

It adds that though the result evaluates former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf’s final year in office, it represents a challenge that President George Manneh Weah has to address during his administration.

CENTAL urges the new administration to take giant steps in addressing the culture of impunity, which it says is the main reason for Liberia’s declining performance.

The release says the Corruption Perception Index was established in 1995 and is used to measure perceptions of corruption in the public sector in different countries around the world.

CPI scores and ranks countries based on how corrupt their public sectors are perceived by experts and business people.

The release detail that in 2017 CPI, 180 countries were targeted, four more that in 2016, with findings showing that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, as more than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average global score of 43.

The report rank New Zealand and Denmark as the highest performers with scores of 89 and 88 respectively, while Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14.12 and 9, respectively.

“The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66. Meanwhile, the worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34). Although no country is free of corruption, the countries at the top share characteristics of open government, press freedom, civil liberties and independent judiciary, while countries at the bottom are characterized by widespread impunity for corruption, poor governance and weak institutions”, the report says.

It notes that in Africa, the best performers include Bostwana (61), Seychelles (60), Rwanda (55) and Cape Verde (55) respectively and adds that specifically in West Africa best performers include Senegal (45), Burkina Faso (42), Ghana (40), and Benin (39), respectively.

Meanwhile, to reverse the trend and improve Liberia’s standing in the region and globally, CENTAL, among others, is calling on President George Weah and his officials to declare and publish their assets as important first stop in promoting accountability and addressing corruption in government; commission a comprehensive audit of the past administration to ensure those who embezzled public resources are identified and prosecuted; scrupulously enforce existing anti-corruption laws and policies, including the Code of Conduct for public officials; and ensure safe and secure environment for the media, civil society and other advocates to thrive. Press Release

China gives Liberia riot gear

The Chinese Contingents of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL’s) has made a donation of riot gears and several other items to the Liberia National Police (LNP) to boost the operation of its riot police units here.

China Formed Police Unit (FPU) made the donation Thursday, 22 February at its facilities at the Freeport of Monrovia on Bushrod Island, suburb of Monrovia.

At the donation exercise, Liberia’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Acting Chair of the Cabinet Nathaniel McGill thanked the Chinese Contingents and UNMIL for the gesture, saying Liberia is grateful for the donation.

“We want to assure you on behalf of our government that these donations to the police, the LNP will be used for the intended purpose,” Mr. McGill says.

He asks the Chinese Contingents to convey government’s special thanks to the President and People of China, saying “we” look forward to more contributions to the LNP.

Mr. McGill says the Chinese commander had told him during inspection that the contingents want the facilities to remain at the Port so that they can continue to remember their being here.

As such, Mr. McGill assures the Chinese that the facilities will be fully protected and government will do everything to ensure that whenever Chinese officials come here they will enjoy the facilities.

He says the facilities will be used and protected, saying Liberians are grateful for what the Chinese have done during their stay here.

China FPU Commander Lan Weiyu says it is a privilege that the Chinese government and the UN Headquarters authorized the FPU to [donate] the police equipment to the LNP. He expresses hope that the police will make use of the equipment.

Liberia’s Police Inspector General Patrick Sudu says he is very delighted for the kind gesture of the China FPU, making such a huge donation to the LNP. Mr. Sudu also thanks the UN for instituting such measure that will benefit the LNP, assuring that the donation will be well taken care of.

He urges the Chinese government to send an inspection team as time goes by to see how the donation is being handled.

Mr. Sudu has also appealed to government to allow the LNP to use the Chinese facilities at the Port so as to maintain the security presence once felt there to keep the dream and legacy of the Chinese Contingents.

By Winston W. Parley

CBL suspends staff

The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) announces with immediate effect suspension of one of its staff for allegedly positing on social media, a transaction involving the travel arrangements of a Government of Liberia delegation on an official visit.

“The CBL views the posting as a serious breach of its fidelity and confidentiality policy governing the conduct of its employees”, a press release issued by the Bank reads.

The release says based on CBL’s preliminary investigation including a careful review of its CCTV video, a staff was seen on camera pocketing a photocopy of the document. “The CBL Management views this act as violation of its confidentiality policy and has with immediate effect suspended the said staff.”

The CBL says it has turned this matter over to the National Security Agency (NSA) for further investigation and will continue to cooperate with the NSA investigation. Press Release

Justice Ministry unveils plans for Central Prison

Assistant Justice Minister for Correction and Rehabilitation Eddie Tarawali has decried the poor and overcrowded condition at the Monrovia Central Prison or South Beach.

Minister Tarawali paid an official visit at the prison facility on Wednesday, 21 February, telling reporters that he observed poor sanitary conditions there.
Mr. Tarawali says poor condition of inmates and lack of clothing, among others, are issues that need to be addressed, adding that “those conditions are surmountable with teamwork.”

The youthful Assistant Justice Minister for Correction and Rehabilitation discloses plans that he and his team will work in line with the laws of Liberia to ensure that the condition of correctional officers are also looked at.

He also indicates that as part of the processes to better the condition of prisoners, inmates, pretrial detainees, he and his team will begin visitation to the various prison facilities in Liberia.

According to him, those conditions are not unique to the Monrovia prison, adding “that is why we will set up a team to visit all of the 16 prison facilities of Liberia for us to come up with our conclusion to see how we can able to find solution to these problems.”

He has told staffer and international partners who have gone to witness a welcoming program held in his honor that it is against the laws of Liberia for prison facilities, inmates, pretrial detainees and others to be in conditions that are inhumane to them.

Mr. Tarawali notes that he and his team are going to make sure that they work with national and international partners in ensuring that inmates, pretrial detainees, juvenile and prison workers’ conditions experience some level of changes.

He observes that the problems facing the correction and rehabilitation of inmates and pretrial detainees are areas that he and his team are going to give serious attention. He concludes that as Assistant Minister, he will work closely with those who have worked with the ministry over the years.

By Bridgett Milton--Edited by Winston W. Parley

LRA licenses 13 tax practitioners

 As a means of upholding the culture of standard tax administration, the Liberia Revenue Authority certificates thirteen professionals as licensed tax practitioners in the country.

Tax practitioners are individuals who provide advice to taxpayers or any other person about the application of a tax Act; or who assists with the completion of a return for taxpayers.

A press release says the certification comes on the heels of a rigorous vetting process in line with set standards as stipulated in the Act establishing the LRA. Section 7, 2(i) of the LRA Act empowers the Authority to license Tax Practitioners in the country.

The license will enable the practitioners to practice and adhere to professional standards and be legally recognized by the LRA as certified tax practitioners. Speaking during the certification program on Tuesday, 20 February at LRA Headquarters in Paynesville, Commissioner General Elfrieda Stewart Tamba says the process is a significant mark of transformation and achievement for the Authority.

“The licensing of tax practitioners represents a major indicator and step towards our desire to strengthen and further professionalize the tax profession in Liberia,” CG Tamba indicates.

She reaffirms LRA’s commitment to transform the tax administration in the country by putting in place adequate regulatory measures and relevant policy framework to enhance the operations of tax practitioners in the country.

CG Tamba challenges licensed tax practitioners to uphold the standards of their profession by ensuring commitment and fairness in their dealings with clients and the tax authority.

She urges practitioners to exhibit high level of transparency in the exercise of their professional activities in making sure that government gets the requisite taxes from their clients, the taxpayers.

For his part, the President of the Liberia Institute of Tax Practitioners (LITP) Theo Joseph thanks the LRA for the certification and calls on practitioners to uphold the value of transparency and accountability in the performance of their task.

“As private tax practitioners, we have a responsibility to our government and our clients to ensure that we balance the dual agendas we have to perform,” he reminds his colleagues.

He encourages other tax practitioners in the country to take advantage of the application process in order to obtain their licenses. Mr. Joseph assures that the LITP will continue to collaborate with the LRA to foster the development of the country’s tax administration sector. Press Release

Weah wants Air Liberia back

President George Manneh Weah appears to be asking for all at once. Mr. Weah who arrived in Paris, France on Tuesday is seeking among dozens of investments the reintroduction of the Liberian Air carrier, Air Liberia.

Mr. Weah speaking to members of the French Business network comprising of over 750,000 members and firms on Wednesday February 21, said the investment opportunities include agriculture, healthcare, education and sports but emphasized Liberia needs to fly its own airliner, Air Liberia, as some of the immediate investments.

Liberia’s previous air carrier, Air Liberia, whereabouts is unknown, many who knew about the flight can’t say much and even if it had been grounded in a friendly country since it last left the Roberts International Airport at the beginning of the 14 years of brutal civil war its usefulness is lost.

Mr. Weah’s meeting with French investors closed with an invitation from the President for the investors to send a delegation here anytime soon.

Mr. Weah arrived in Paris on Tuesday February 20, following a two leg visit to Dakar, Senegal and Rabat, Morocco respectively.

According to a dispatch, President Weah met with several partners, Moroccan Government officials and potential investors during his working visit in Morocco.

Meanwhile, the president upon arrival in Paris on Tuesday February 21, paid a visit to Conservatoire National Arts et Métiers, a Technical University, where he addressed over 400 students and authorities of the institution.

Mr. Weah used the forum to inform the University authorities of challenges confronting the educational sector in Liberia and the need to assist Liberian students; and the educational sector in general.

During the visit the Government of Liberia and authorities at the University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in which both parties declared their common intention to cooperate in the field of vocational training and apprenticeship for the benefit of Liberian students. Foreign Minister, Gbehzohngar Findley signed on behalf of the Government of Liberia.

President Weah was officially welcomed at the Palace de Elyseeby French President Emmanuel Macron, where he presented his agenda for development and sought France’s assistance in implementing his goals.

-Othello B. Garblah

House to probe CBL’s car loan