24 November Press Briefing

Monday, 24th November 2008
Monrovia, Liberia - Members of the Press:

We’ll begin with the two-day visit to Liberia over the weekend by Ghanaian President John Kufuor upon the invitation of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  The visit was a success. We want to thank all those who came out on Sunday to grace the visit of the Ghanaian leader.  In addition to the honor bestowed upon President Kufuor by President Johnson Sirleaf, the visit provided an opportunity for the two leaders to review bilateral relations between Liberia and Ghana and discuss other possible avenues of further collaboration between Liberia and Ghana.

Prior to the visit of the Ghanaian leader, President Johnson Sirleaf continued her town hall meetings Friday with a visit to Grand Cape Mount County. During the interactive session with the President, residents of Grand Cape Mount advanced several suggestions, which in their view, if carried out, will buttress the successful implementation of the ‘Lift Liberia Initiative.
Among other areas, they discussed agriculture, education, the economy and infrastructure.
  • Agriculture – The residents say Government’s support is crucial to enable them to successfully engage in agricultural production.They agreed that self-sufficiency in food production rests with the participation of the citizenry. The provision of seed rice, farming and other tools as well as other incentives by Government, the residents recommended, is key.
  • Education - The residents expressed concern that despite Government’s decision to provide free primary education, most students in their communities were receiving inadequate instructional time due to the absence most often of teachers during school hours.  They urged Government to address the issue to enable students to acquire an education.
Grand Cape Mount residents are also recommending that Government bans video clubs in their area because they distract students from attending classes.
  • Economy - the residents of Cape Mount welcomed news that negotiations are being concluded to get the Guthrie Rubber Plantation up and running. They believe that the rejuvenation of the plantation to full scale activities will provide more jobs for the inhabitants and boost the economy of their area.The residents are also suggesting that Government sets aside a special account to purchase rice produced by local farmers. The exercise, they say, will encourage local farmers and provide some economic relief for the farmers.They expressed hope that Government will continue to attract more investment to the country to help ease unemployment. The residents also want Government to address the high cost of transportation in their area.
  • Security – The residents say they are concerned that the country’s borders continue to remain porous and are recommending that Government put in place measures to protect borders. They are attributing the increase in the use of illicit substances to drug traffickers who smuggle these dangerous substances into the country.
  • Infrastructure - The lack of farm to market roads, the residents also say, is another handicap to development. They want Government to speed up the implementation of road reconstruction and rehabilitation to help farmers transport their produce and facilitate the free movement of people.
  • Women's empowerment also took center stage during Friday’s Town Hall Meeting in Garwular District. Community women boasted of their involvement in the activities of their community with women occupying leading roles in Garwular, including the post of chief, which in the past was reserved for men. They say they will not relent until women are elected in the National Legislature to represent their county in the next national elections.
PREZ’S RESPONSE: The President welcomed suggestions of a seed bank to help local farmers and promised to discuss the suggestion with the Ministry of Agriculture. On the lack of teachers in schools in the area, the President said the Education Ministry is working on measures to correct the problem. She said most of the teachers currently rendering services in some of the areas are volunteer teachers who had to step in when most of the regular teachers left the country. The Education Ministry, the President said, is now working out plans to train more teachers, while regularizing the status of some of the volunteer teachers who meet the Ministry’s guidelines.

The President assured citizens that Government will continue to provide the necessary support and incentives to encourage more farmers to return to the soil. Government, she said, has already provided seed rice, tools and other instruments to farmers in other parts of the country and is working provide assistance to local farmers throughout the country.

The President said more efforts are being made to attract investment into the country, but regretted that Liberians are not taking advantage of vacancies being advertised daily in the local press. She encouraged qualified Liberians to take advantage of the openings or risk losing the job offers to foreigners.

The successful implementation of the 'Lift Liberia' initiative, the President reminded the residents of Cape Mount, rests with all Liberians.
  • DEDICATIONS:  Administrative building in Garwular District. (county financed project)Tenegar Clinic – Montserrado County (constructed with funding provided by Mercy Ships)
    Korma Public School – Township of Korma, Bomi County (constructed with funding provided bySave the Children)

    PRESIDENT MEETS STREET VENDERS:
  • The President on Sunday met with a cross-section of street venders and petty traders in Monrovia to discuss issues concerning their relocation.  The discussions also centered on what assistance can be provided the petty traders to improve their activities.
The traders are appealing to Government for an orderly relocation that will not hinder their business transactions.  The venders assured the President that they are not against relocation, but are requesting the President to suspend the relocation exercise pending the proper identification of areas earmarked.

The venders also appealed to the President to intervene in ensuring that the city and national police halt the constant seizure of their goods without due process of law. They have assured the President of their cooperation in helping to keep their selling areas clean.  The President expressed concern that the unregulated activities of street venders and petty traders was creating safety problems for the city of Monrovia and said their was a need to locate the venders to an ideal location to be provided by Government. The Liberian leader said as Government works to improve the appearance of the city and make it more habitable, venders must work with the Monrovia City Council to ensure the program is successful.

GOVERNMENT TO ADDRESS AUDIT REPORT THIS WEEK
  • The Government will this week issue a statement on the recently released reports of the General Auditing Commission (GAC). The statement will cover the Government’s thoughts on the report and actions being taken.
  • We also want to inform you that the Program Conversation with the President is now ‘The Conversation.'
‘The Conversation’ will feature Government officials and other policy makers in a live one-hour interactive radio program to be aired on all major radio stations throughout the country. The first edition of 'The Conversation' will be aired this Thursday, featuring Vice President Dr. Joseph Boakai.

Thank you all for coming, I will now take your questions, if any.