Liberian president bans state officials travels

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced a 60-day travel ban on all official government travels in response to a worsening economic situation.
The ban affects all ministers and heads of other government institutions, as well as their deputies and assistants, a statement from the Presidency says.

It says officials can only be allowed to travel when it is “of utmost imperative”, and such approval can only be made personally by the president.

“Exceptions will only be granted by the President herself following a one-on-one meeting with the official requesting to travel and if it is determined that such travel is of utmost imperative in the national interest,” the statement published by the Executive Mansion reads.

Ebola epidemic

It says the decision was taken following a review of the economy by the Cabinet and the Economic Management Team set up by the president.

Liberia is going through a serious economic crisis, which the government blames on the Ebola epidemic and the fall in the mining sector.

Major slump in prices of its major exports of iron ore and rubber, have further complicated the situation.

Foreign currency

The Central Bank of Liberia has been tasked to look into the “alarming situation” also blamed on illicit outflow of foreign currency. The bank was ordered to ensure it curbs the illicit flow of foreign currency.

Last week, owners of small businesses staged a three-day protest over the effect of the situation on their livelihoods.

The peaceful march to the House of Representatives also saw the traders shut down their businesses.

The traders were concerned about the government’s apparent inability to address persistent fluctuation of the Liberian dollar against the US currency.

A new tax

The Liberian government recognises both currencies as its legal tender.

The traders were also unsettled by a new tax by the government which they say the depreciation of the Liberian dollar makes hard to cope with.

President Sirleaf angered the business community when she blamed them for being part of the cause of the currency shortage by sending the money abroad.

In September 2014, President Sirleaf dismissed 10 senior officials for violating a similar directive imposed to help fight the Ebola epidemic.

A similar measure was imposed earlier in 2009.

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