MICAT’s Thursday Regular Press Briefing
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press. Today’s Press briefing is presided over by Hon. Norris Tweah, Acting Minister, and ably assisted by Hon. Jerolinmek M. Piah, Deputy Minister for Public Affairs and Hon. Isaac W. Jackson, Jr. Assistant Minister for Information Services.
On 13 June 2011, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called and chaired a Special Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There were three key issues on the agenda: revisitation and discussion of the Revenue Code & Strategic/Operation Plans of the Ministry of Finance, a summary analysis of the Budget Execution for FY 2010-2012 and update and status of 2011-2012, and a review of concessions by the National Investment Commission (NIC).
Revisiting Discussion of Revenue Code & Strategic/Operational Plans:
The Cabinet discussed at length the implications surrounding how revising of the Customs Revenue Code of Liberia is going to affect or lead to economic growth and development. Several reasons were enumerated for revising the customs law: a) to establish the legal basis for Liberia’s modern and efficient customs administration and this would achieved by incorporating internationally-accepted “best practices” standards and recommendations; b) balances customs controls and trade facilitation; c) create legal basis for new tariff based on the harmonized system; d) Authorize Pre-shipment/destination inspections; and e) simplify and clarify laws.
For example, in the customs administration there are five revisions that are incorporated: a) Electronic processing of records; b) a new “Customs bureau; Rules for Customs Decisions; a new “Binding Rulings” Program; a New administrative “Protest” procedure; and pre-shipment/destination inspection. All these changes have been incorporated in the code. Just in the area of electronic processing alone, commissioners may authorize individual traders to submit declarations/documents electronically and be required to keep record electronically. One of the obvious benefits for this is that it saves time and transactional costs.
The Cabinet commended the MOF for the presentation but recommended further deliberation between MOF and MOCI with respect to the issue of quality of the goods coming into the country and how they are going be valued before the regulation can be finalized. The Cabinet also agreed and suggested that the new regulation be sent to the Law Reform Commission for further review to consider some of the regulation’s legal basis.
Rising Commodity Prices:
The Cabinet also discussed the recent hiked in the prices of certain basic commodities that are almost inelastic in Liberia such as rice, cement, flour, among others.
That the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Commerce & Industries identify and present a shortlist of those commodities affected so that immediate economic mitigates can be found to address the issue of rising commodities prices in Liberian economy. Of course, the Cabinet took note of the general rise in prices of essential commodities globally but emphasized that it was committed to finding solutions that would reduce the hardship of ordinary Liberians.
Summary Analysis of Budget Execution for FY 2010-2011:
The Cabinet was briefed regarding the execution of the end of FY 2010-2011 year budget by Government ministries agencies and other institutions. The total adjusted budget execution for end of fiscal year 2010-2011 was placed US$408, 379,000.0. Of this amount, US$332,060.0 or 81.3 percent constitutes the core budget, while US$37, 318, 994.0 or 9.1 percent constitutes the project budget, US$15,000,000.0 or 3.7 constitutes activated deferred and US$24,000,000.0 or 5.9 percent constituting the supplemental budget.
In terms of the analysis performance on the revenue side as of 30 June 2011, the Cabinet was informed that revenue was generally on target with a 95 percent achievement report for the fiscal year. For example, tax revenue budgeted was US$231.30 and the actual realized was $US267.29, which represents a 116 percent performance rate.
MOF Budgetary Update:
The current revenue envelop for 2011-12 is now US$459, 906.00.
National Investment Commission:
The Cabinet was also updated on various concession agreements. Some of those include the Cavalla Rubber Corporation signed 21 January 2011 and ratified by the National Legislature on 6 July 2011 is not awaiting the President signature. The Maryland Oil Palm Plantation signed on 4 March 2011 and ratified by the National Legislature on 6 July 2011 is also awaiting the President signature.
In fact, one of the plans the NIC was developing is to engage the local community to explain parts of the benefits that these agreements will bring to the people in these areas. This would significantly help stamp out the misinformation and speculation that is associated with these agreements.
The Cabinet was also updated on some pending concession agreements such as the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC). Currently, a review of the existing agreement is taking place and is being updated based upon improvements in housing, employment, health, among others. In addition, updates were given on the Salala Rubber Plantation, the Cocopa Nimba Development Corporation, and Liberia Cocoa Corporation, among others.
Resumption of MICAT Outreach Program:
MICAT’s Outreach blows up once again. The Outreach is intended to take Government to the people. The team is expected to visit various communities in and out of Monrovia soon in a bid to explain government policy, program and achievements. The team will be headed by the Deputy Minister for Public Affairs, Hon. Jerolinmek M. Piah and ably assisted by Assistant Minister Jackson.
The total number of Ivorian refugees in Liberia is 149,453 as of 7 July 2011. UNHCR and partners are continuing to report large number of new arrivals in Maryland and Grand Gedeh Counties.
UNHCR released this week a list comprising 215 border villages/towns that are hosting Ivorian refugees in Liberia: Nimba County-82 host communities; Grand Gedeh County–59 host communities; 32 River Gee County-32 host communities; Maryland County -42 host communities.
The Government of Liberia is preparing a policy to pave the way for a “One Policy” on the refugee humanitarian response. The draft is scheduled to be released within the next few days for consultation with all humanitarian actors involved in all sectors including shelter, food, health, protection and water sectors.
UNHCR is preparing to relocate their headquarter for field operations from Saclepea (Nimba County) to Zwedru (Grand Gedeh County), in light of increasing number of refugee movements in Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties..
WFP has completed the first cycle of food distribution in River Gee reaching more than 3,500 refugees.
The recently concluded 4th round of polio vaccination campaign was successful in vaccinating 951,852 under five children against polio including 17,107 refugee children. In addition, 822,196 children received vitamin A supplementation and 746,999 were provided deforming medicine.
Further analysis of the preliminary results of the 4th Nutrition assessment in Nimba released last week show that out of the 2.8% Global acute malnutrition (1% severe and 1.8% moderate malnutrition), 0.5% of the malnourished children were refugees while 2.3% were Liberians, further emphasising the need for equal attention and support to Liberian children and families affected by the refugee crisis.
In Grand Gedeh and Maryland, WFP-CARITAS and UNFPA are organizing trainings on protection issues including SEA/GBV for humanitarian teams in the field distributing food and NFIs to refugee and host families. Similar training programmers’ are scheduled for Nimba next week.
UNICEF’s partners continue to increases awareness on sexual exploitation and abuse in Nimba and Grand Gedeh. Last week, adolescent girls from refugee and host families participated in focus group discussions on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Behlewallay and Dubuzon in Nimba.
VISIT: UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Mr. Gianfranco Rotigliano, is scheduled to visit Liberia from 12 to 19 July 2011 to assess the refugee situation and response to date in Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties
Liberia hosts Mano River Summit (MRU) soon
In an attempt to promote Sub Regional Peace and Cooperation among Nations of the Mano River Union, Heads of States of the region are expected to hold a three-day Summit in Monrovia from July 16-18, 2011.
The aim of the Summit which focuses on the creation of Community integration and the promotion of Cooperation and the exchanges of Economic Trade and Commerce system, will address key issues such as partnership between the MRU Nations and information in the region among others.
Another key component of the meeting will initially draw members of the MRU ministers, particularly Agriculture and Defense to discuss the way forward for a sustainined economic and security systems of the MRU Basin.
The Liberian leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf chair the MRU summit that would draw the participation of stakeholders to develop sub regional, collaboration and partnership in the supreme interest of the peoples of the MRU Basin.
ON REFERENDUM 2011
The National Legislature passed a joint Resolution in August 2010 proposing a constitutional Referendum to amend certain provisions of the Liberian constitution including Articles 52(C), 72(b), and 83(a) &(b)
Referendum is the process by which citizens vote directly to either accept or reject a public policy, a propose law or constitutional amendment. In the Liberian context, the Legal framework provides for the holding of a referendum only for the purpose of effecting an amendment to provisions of the constitution.
Article 52c says
“Resident in the Republic ten years prior to his election provided that the President and Vice President shall not come from the same County”.
To amend Article 52(c) which proposed that the residency requirement for President be reduced from (10) years to five years prior to an election.
“The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the subordinate court of record shall be retired at the age of seventy; provided, however that a justice or judge who has attained that age may continue in office for as long may be necessary to enable him to render judgment or perform any other judicial duty in regard to proceedings by him before he attained that age”.
To amend Article 72(b) proposed that, the Chief Justice, Associate justices of the Supreme Court and judges of the subordinate Courts shall serve for life, except that they shall be retired at age seventy-five.
Article 83a says,
“Voting for the President, Vice President, Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives shall be conducted throughout the Republic on the second Tuesday in October of each year.”
To amend Article 83(a) which proposed that the current constitutional election date be changed; and a new constitutional date for President, Vice President, members of the Senate and House of Representatives; and for chiefs, City Mayors and City Council is set.
“All elections of public officers shall be determined by an absolute majority of the votes cast .If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first ballot, a second ballot shall conducted on the second Tuesday following. The two candidates who received the greatest numbers of votes on the first ballot shall be designated to participate in the runoff election”.
To amend Article 83(b) which proposed that election for all public officers, except for the President and Vice President, shall be by simple majority of valid votes cast in any election in Liberia.
Q & A
Hon. Norris Tweah
Acting Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism
Ably assisted by:
Hon. Jerolinmek M. Piah
Deputy Minister for Public Affairs
Hon. Isaac W. Jackson, Jr.
Assistant Minister for Information Services
Conducted by Abel Plackie
Director for Public Affairs