Vice President Joseph N. Boakai has officially launched the Co-Investment Fund (CIF) to buttress farmers’ efforts across the country. The CIF will help improve agriculture in the country and is a US$3 million grant matching scheme that sets aside 30 percent of its investment for women owned businesses.At the launching ceremony on Tuesday in Gbarnga, Mr. Boakai also opened the Bong County office of the Liberia Agribusiness Development Activity (LADA) and the Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA).VP Boakai commended USAID, FTF and the CNFA for the initiative.“The launch of the Co-Investment Fund program echoes the government’s repeated reminders to stakeholders that investment in agriculture should not be considered an exclusive preserve of the government,” he said.VP Boakai said, “We need not look far to observe abundant evidence of the huge role private investment is playing in moving nations to self-sufficiency in food production.”The Ministry of Agriculture, VP Boakai said, is true to its desire to maximize the potential in utilizing all resources available to entice investment from the private sector.He hoped that the initiative will give support to strengthen LADA and USAID goals in the private sector.He said there is no doubt that this is the key opportunity to create awareness of the critical need for the private sector to be involved in the provision of vital inputs like fertilizers, seeds and other agricultural supplies to farmers.“This cannot be the job of government and the NGO/donor sector. And that is why we are so pleased that USAID has earmarked US$ 19.3 million for Feed the Future and LADA activity, which makes for an important initiative to strengthen the provision of private sector services to farmers for fertilizers, seeds and other inputs,” Mr. Boakai said.He disclosed that with the MOA’s leadership, Liberia will maintain and even speed up its march on the course to producing what “we eat and produce. We surely know that the future of our nation lies not in the extractive industries but in agriculture.”“We, therefore, re-echo our gratitude to USAID, FTF, CNFA, and all our farmers for this positive step that hopefully will whip up greater interest of private investors in agriculture. We have high hopes that this venture will be massively rewarding to our national effort at transformation,” he said. US Ambassador to Liberia Christine Elders said US Feed the Future (FTF) initiative seeks to reduce global hunger and poverty by investing in food security and agricultural development in partner countries, and LADA will spur private sector investment in agriculture, reduce post-harvest losses and enhance access.Amb. Elders said LADA works in partnership with the Liberian government towards its Agricultural Transformation Agenda.She said most of Liberian farmers are engaged in farming techniques with little to no access to post-harvest services to boost productivity.The ultimate goal of FTF program she explained is to increase the income of small holder farmers who are key to future economic growth and its task is to increase the number of farmers with access and training to use technologies such as irrigation, high yielding crop varieties and cold storage.“We must improve farmer’s opportunities to store and to sell their increased production by improving rural infrastructure, especially by rehabilitating and maintaining farm to market roads.“As we implement LADA related activities, we must also do everything we can to ensure that the benefits of post-harvest manufacturing processes which increase the value of crops remain in local communities,” she said. Amb. Elders noted that post-harvest activities will produce a multiplier effect in the local economy and improve the lives of farming families across Liberia.She challenged farmers to raise their sights and imagine what is possible with the right mix of agribusiness policies and incentives in their power to do as similar successful farmers who are now yielding good results.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Authorities of the Liberia National Police (LNP) yesterday launched what they called a tactical operation, code name “Operation Guardian Angel.” According to an LNP release, the operation is intended to address the high incidence of criminal activities during the holiday celebrations.The LNP calls on the public to cooperate with the police by reporting any suspected criminal activities in their communities. Operation Guardian Angel commenced on December 1 and will be active up to January 15, 2017. It will entail the deployment of police officers at strategic intersections and other places to provide assistance to the physically challenged, pregnant women, and the elderly who will be crossing major roads. The presence of police officers will also serve as a deterrent to criminals, who may want to inflict harm on peaceful individuals.“The operation will also address the problem of traffic congestion and conduct surveillance, detection and deterrence patrols including possible arrests of violators in commercial centers,” the release said.The release quotes the Police Director Gregory Coleman as saying that Operation Guardian Angel is intended to provide an enabling and safe environment for every resident and stranger entering the country through an effective, efficient, and professional police service delivery.Coleman said modern policing is concentrated on service delivery. He called on police officers to adapt to the new trend of policing if they want the police to win the confidence of the Liberian people.He assured the public of police preparedness to provide the required security services as the country approaches the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.Director Coleman has warned LNP officers to adhere to the principals of democratic policing, discipline, excellence and to avoid getting entangled in corrupt practices. He maintained that police officers are to demonstrate professionalism that reinforces their commitment to democratic values, respect for human rights and a non- partisan approach to duty.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Ganta exchange continues to climb daily.The exchange rate between the US dollar and the Liberian dollar is rising again, from L$134-6 to US$ 1, in the commercial city of Ganta, Nimba County.The rise of the US$ rate against the Liberian dollar is creating concern among citizens, who recently expressed happiness when the rate dropped below L$120.“Things are getting tough every day and they are not even buying,” said Tantee, a fried plantain seller.“The continuing inflation in the US rate is the chief cause of high prices in both goods and transportation fares,” said a petite trader in Ganta.The streets of Ganta are, however, calm and the movement of goods and services is slow.In most of the stores, the buying rate is around L$136 to US$1, while the selling rate is around L$139 to US$1, which many say the government should find a way to stabilize.“Despite the high rate, we are not even getting the US dollar,” said one Peter, a moneychanger in Ganta.Ganta main business street was seemed very empty during rush hours (4- 6pm)In a similar development, the movement of goods and services at the Ganta border has also slowed down because of what many business people referred to as “too much bureaucracy at the border.”Ganta is one of the busiest commercial cities in Liberia, connecting the country to both Guinea and the Ivory Coast. It is also the meeting point for those traveling to the southeastern parts of Liberia.At present, there is no fixed transportation fare along the Ganta – Monrovia and Ganta – Zwedru highways. The fare was L$500 from Ganta to Monrovia, but it had recently risen to L$800.Ganta to Zwedru is about L$2,500 up from L$2,000 recently.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Mrs. Richards (R) embraces Old Lady Comfort Juah for keeping herself in businessEighty year-old African-American missionary Shirley Richards has rededicated her life to charity in Liberia and mainly in communities where vulnerable women and children are finding it difficult to meet their daily needs.Mrs. Richards is a U.S. citizen residing in Texas, but who often visits Liberia as well as other African countries where she contributes to the well-being of people whose life circumstances have placed them far below the poverty index, as recorded recently by a UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) survey.The octogenarian (a person in their eighties) informed beneficiaries of the Rock Hole neighborhood of ELWA, Paynesville, that she and her husband Robert Richards first visited Liberia as missionaries of the Church of Christ Holiness in 1975, at which time the country had reached its present level of development.Mrs. Richards’ exercise on Monday benefited over 100 community inhabitants, many of whom were the less fortunate.“My late husband and I have visited Liberia several times before and after the country’s 14-year war. This trip, I believe, is my 27th to Liberia with other friends, who also did some good jobs on our behalf,” she said.She noted that her desire to be a kind giver is an “act of defining Christian life from being a church member to a caregiver, lover of humanity and one who empathizes with those in need.”Some of the items Mrs. Richards presented and which targeted about 100 persons, included solar lights, used clothes, and a 25kg bag of rice to a family of five, so that God takes charge and elevates their living standards.“I do not see myself as benefactor whenever I share whatever items with people, but as God’s privileged individual among many others who could do better than I. I am happy and pray that the socioeconomic condition of these people, including children, are improved,” she said.Mrs. Richards (with dark glasses) poses with some of the children who benefited from her gestureShe recalled that when former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf received her Nobel Peace Prize in 2011, the president appealed to Liberians in the Diaspora to come to Liberia and invest or share their gains with the many struggling families.Mrs. Richards recalled how during the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak she had 106 students on a scholarship program, a farm in Caldwell, and a parcel of land in Paynesville earmarked for a school.“The scholarship program and the farm could not continue, owing to my age now. No one has been there to come and take over from me,” she said, adding that maintaining a scholarship program goes beyond payment of fees.According to her, she invested a little over US$7000.As done before for two other ladies, Mrs. Richards made a commitment to improve the petty trading businesses of fish seller Comfort Juah and Mary Browne, a fufu seller, by providing money to buy their goods.She called on beneficiaries to improve their little businesses but not to sell the gift items.Deborah Garto, 65; Janet Bondo, 42; and Patrick Sumo, 38 — all recipients — expressed gratitude to Mrs. Richards for being kindhearted to residents of poverty-stricken communities.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
(former President C.D. B. King)The ongoing Economic Dialogue has been well covered in the local media and has, as indications suggest, raised hopes that an end to the country’s economic woes is in sight. But the hopes appear guarded in view of the worsening economic situation. President Weah has already declared that the outcome of this dialogue will be backed by strong political will; meaning, that he will strongly support the implementation of policy recommendations intended to fix the economy.But suggestions from some quarters (supporters of the President) that such commitments will be honored appear unlikely if concerns expressed by Bong County Representative Robert Womba are anything to go by. His concerns about extra-budgetary spending appears to be resonating with the public.Predicting another budget shortfall should the Legislature not become sufficiently knowledgeable of the matter and take the requisite corrective actions, the lawmaker cited several instances of extrabudgetary spending and illegal manipulation of the budget after it has been passed into law and printed in handbills.In one of the instances cited, Representative Womba drew attention to the Ministry of Youth and Sports which, according to him, spent over a million dollars, even though only US$300,000 was allotted in the 2018/2019 budget. Another example, he said, was the Ministry of Finance, which had been allotted an amount of US$51 million but which added an extra US$10 million, without proper approval, and which was unlawfully spent.The representative also pointed out that several agencies of the Executive branch of government have made huge increases in their 2019/2020 budgets respectively.Notably, these increases in the budget are being made at a time of great economic difficulties, with so many people staring hunger in the face, lack money to pay school fees and attend to other critical needs. At the same time a few individuals are seen to be virtually living it up.President Weah’s large delegation to Japan recently raised public eyebrows, given the costs which estimates placed at above one million US dollars. Just why was such an expenditure necessary may prove too difficult to explain to the Liberian people who are demanding answers.Thus, while promises made to support the outcome of the Dialogue with strong political will is welcome news, this newspaper is constrained to caution that such commitment must be demonstrated through concrete action and not just through talk. As the Daily Observer has repeatedly pointed out, when governments make pronouncements which they cannot follow through, it undermines their own credibility and fosters increased public distrust.All those extrabudgetary expenditures highlighted by the Bong County Representative are examples of how public funds are siphoned off by dishonest officials.More to that is the current “Salary Harmonization Plan,” which is currently being implemented and against which public opposition is growing by the day.And such concerns are exacerbated by the corresponding rise in consumer prices and drastically fallen real income occasioned by this scheme which, according to civil servants, is skewed and highly discriminatory, aside from the fact that it has severely dented their income and undermined their ability to meet their needs.This newspaper remains convinced that other means can be explored through which savings can be realized. However, this government needs to come to terms with the fact that it has bloated the payroll to unsustainable levels.Disclosures, for example, that the Ministry of Labor has allotted an amount of US$500,000 as money to pay consultants, drew the fire of lawmakers to the minister because, as one legislator (name withheld) told this newspaper, the money appears intended to be used to pay new entrants to the Ministry of Labor’s payroll.The minister fumbled and could barely explain to senators convincing reasons for such budgetary outlay. In similar straits also, was Finance Minister Tweah, who fumbled and fidgeted as he tried to explain variations in the payroll numbers he provided to legislators.In view of the above, President Weah’s expression of commitment and support to the implementation of the outcome of this Economic Dialogue will be measured by cuts in extrabudgetary expenditures, a halt to illegal manipulations of the budget after it has been passed into law and above all the stern measures he will take to address the scourge of corruption.But the buck will have to start from him and he can do that by becoming fully compliant with the Asset Declaration law, ensuring the compliance of his officials and dealing sternly (prosecute) with those crossing the line. Using himself as an example is the surest way to express political will in the fight against corruption because, as former President C.D.B. King noted, the “Fish begins to rot from its head”.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Jagan’s 100th birth anniversary– but says stamps will be issued only once they conform to standardsGovernment is holding out that it will issue the commemorative stamps in honour of late former President Dr. Cheddi Jagan, once the stamps adhere to equity and the national criteria for such symbols.The stamps that were prohibited from being issuedAccording to a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency, stamps are national symbols, and they “must not be used for private, partisan or political messages.”Despite the fact that the stamps were supposed to be issued on a particular date to commemorate Jagan’s anniversary and were not, the Government, in its statement, denied scrapping the issuance of the stamps.“The Government of Guyana has no intention of ‘scrapping’ or ‘scuttling’ the issuance of commemorative stamps. The Ministry of the Presidency reasserts that commemorative stamps, which are national symbols, must adhere to national criteria, and must not be used for private, partisan or political messages.”President David GrangerGovernment’s message continued: the stamps “ought to be used for national purposes. The Government has stated clearly and has iterated its decision to ensure that the stamps will be distributed within that context.”The Ministry of the Presidency (MotP) has lashed out at the Guyana Times and the Stabroek News, claiming that the newspapers’ articles “seemed aimed at stirring up strife and creating controversy.”The MotP has reiterated previous statements made that national symbols will be announced shortly for both former presidents Jagan and Arthur Chung.CJRCThis publication had reported statements from the Cheddi Jagan Research Centre (CJRC) which were critical of the Guyana Post Office Corporation (GPOC) for failing to deliver on its commitment to make the collection of stamps available for Dr Jagan’s birth centenary last week.In a statement on Wednesday last, the CJRC blasted Government for the deliberate attempt to disturb the activities planned on Tuesday to launch the stamps. According to CJRC, this should have been a routine transaction…rather than a politically interfered one, and it views this as a measured attempt to hinder the work of the Centre amidst the controversy over Red House.Former Attorney General Anil NandlallThe CJRC highlighted that despite being given assurance by the GPOC and Public Telecommunications Minister Cathy Hughes that the collection would be made available, the CJRC was told by the Guyana Post Office Corporation that the Office of the President should be contacted in this regard.Former Chairman of the Board of GPOC, Juan Edghill, said it is unprecedented for a client, in this instance the CJRC, to be referred to the Ministry of the Presidency for explanations or other information as it relates to this unfulfilled transaction between the Corporation and a client.“This is nothing short of a full and open display of petty, partisan politics influencing a business transaction that could be considered purely an administrative matter,” Edghill noted on Wednesday.The CJRC had also reflected this as an “action of assault” against the late President of Guyana, who made significant contributions towards the development of the nation.No authorityFormer Attorney General Anil Nandlall, one of the most resounding voices against the Government’s move, has contended that the process should not have been politicised by the Ministry of the Presidency in the first place.In a statement issued on Sunday, Nandlall stressed that GPOC is a statutory body corporate. He pointed out that, by law, it is managed by a Board of Directors and possesses its own personnel. Hence, he chalked the Ministry of the Presidency’s actions to an exhibition of authoritarianism.“(GPOC) can attract liabilities, own assets and hire its own employees. It is not a department of the Government, but an agency of the state. It must now be inexorably clear that the GPOC is not a Government department. It is not part of the Government. Therefore, its policies and activities are not to be dictated by or interfered with, by the Government. Likewise, its employees are not employees of the Government,” Nandlall stated.“They are not public servants. Therefore, they are not subject to Government’s supervision or control. It must also be unequivocally clear that any attempt by the Government, including the President, to interfere with the day-to-day activities and operations of the GPOC and its staff would be unlawful, clear executive lawlessness, and abuse of power.”Nandlall noted that it was the CJRCI that entered into a contract with the GPOC to produce and issue the stamps. He related that after a seven-month-long discussion, the CJRC paid GPOC a 50 per cent deposit.“Although it was absolutely unnecessary, I am informed that the transaction received the positive imprimatur of the subject Minister. Yet, on the day in question, the GPOC failed to deliver the stamps. They directed CJRCI to make contact with the Ministry of the Presidency. Based upon the legal authorities to which I have referred, the Ministry of the Presidency has absolutely no authority in this matter.“The Ministry of the Presidency, in a statement, essentially admitted that (it has) prohibited GPOC from issuing the stamps. Clearly, the Ministry of the Presidency has acted ultra vires and has unlawfully usurped the functional responsibility of an independent statutory body corporate. It has also exposed the GPOC to civil liabilities for breach of its contract with CJRCI.”
A thirty-six-year-old La Grange, West Bank Demerara (WBD) resident, Oswald Bijulisingh, was released on $15,000 bail last week on allegations that he threatened his neighbour, Shelly Patrick.Police say the incident occurred on April 30, 2018 at Independence Street, La Grange, where the two persons reside.Unrepresented, Bijulisingh, a poultry farmer, however denied the accusation when the charge was read to him by Magistrate Rochelle Liverpool at the Wales Magistrate’s Court.The farmer confirmed that he was previously charged, but was found not guilty of the offence. He will make his next court appearance when the matter continues on July 5, 2018.
Mae’s Schools cultural wear fiascoThe issue involving the nine-year-old pupil of Mae’s Schools who was reportedly told he was dressed inappropriately for the institution’s May 25th Culture Day will take centre stage during the 12th Annual National Toshaos Council (NTC) Conference, which is slated for July.The letter the school reportedly gave with instructions for the Culture Day observanceThis was according to NTC Chairman Joel Fredericks in a recent interview with Guyana Times.The incident has garnered much public attention in recent days, with many calling on the school to apologise but the matter recently took on a new dimension when the lad’s mother felt disrespected by the school’s response on the issue which, according to her, painted the picture that she was a liar.The NTC Chairman, who had earlier bemoaned the lack of social cohesion regarding the issue, told this newspaper that Guyanese should respect each other, noting that the country has six races with diverse cultures.This publication questioned the official on NTC’s plans to engage the Education and Social Cohesion Ministries given the public outcry that the “inappropriate” comment caused.“The Ministry of Education is already on our agenda and within that slot we will deal with it; we will raise at the highest level,” Fredericks noted.He reiterated that it would be a topic of discussion at the annual event, questioning why Indigenous persons were not being treated equally.“Yes; and I think cultural awareness in some of the institutions is needed. How some are accepted and Indigenous are not accepted, why is it? People need to ask questions,” he noted.“One month we have our celebration, but I don’t know if Mae’s was a part of that,” the NTC Chairman said.Just recently, Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs Minister Sydney Allicock confirmed that the matter was under investigation. In fact, he expressed surprise at the incident, telling media operatives last week that it went against Government’s move to bring social cohesion and national unity among all the many ethnic groups, through various efforts.In the meantime, the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA) and Red Thread joined with the NTC requesting that the school apologise. At last Thursday’s picketing exercise, the mother of the traumatised pupil said she was “very dissatisfied” with the school’s response.The administration of Mae’s in a statement had said that all students were briefed on the activity, noting that no clothing that exposed them was allowed.“All children were told that plain t-shirts and tights/shorts should be worn under clothes that would otherwise expose them,” the school highlighted.The school also said that the students of the class of the child were to dress as Portuguese and said that the child turned up in Amerindian wear and was told that it may be an issue since he was exposed. His mother, the school stressed, gave him a t-shirt.“At no point was any teacher engaged on this issue either by the child or his mother. The child settled into his classes without incident. There was no crying or other discernible upset displayed by him that warranted the attention of the class teacher, head teacher, or administration of the school then or at any other time throughout the school day. The fact that this student is made the subject of national headlines is regrettable.”This description of events prompted the mother to say that she will not be sending her child back to the school in the new academic year as she was almost brought to the point of tears.“It makes me out to be a liar and I am very disappointed because exactly [what] happened to my son that is what I said and for them to come out and say that; I am very disappointed…it really took a toll on me …I thought about my son in all of this and I’m thinking, how could you?” she stressed.Michael McGarrel of the APA had noted that the statement issued by the school was a waste of time and argued that the administration should have plainly offered an apology for its actions. (Shemuel Fanfair)
A miner was on Monday slapped with a break and enter and simple larceny charge when he appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.Videsh Hansraj appeared before Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan and admitted that on September 6, 2018, while he was employed as a manual worker he broke and entered the dwelling house of Omesh Budhram and stole a quantity of gold jewellery worth $260,000.According to the facts presented to the court, the victim secured his home and went out. Upon his return at about 15:00h, the accused told him he was not feeling well and left.The victim upon inspecting the house found that his jewellery box was not in the same place he left it. Upon a closer inspection, he found that his jewellery was missing and the matter was immediately reported to the Police.The unrepresented man told the court that he was willing to reimburse his employer. However, Magistrate McLennan reprimanded and discharged the matter against the miner and placed him on a bond to keep the peace for 12 months.The matter was prosecuted by Sergeant Jillian Simmons.
– PPDI, Prison Sentence Board also appointedGovernment has finally approved the appointment of a Juvenile Justice Committee, a necessary component of plans to integrate alternative sentencing and avoiding the criminalisation of youths.This announcement was made by Minister of State Joseph Harmon, who was at the time holding a post-Cabinet press briefing on Friday. According to Harmon, the Committee was approved by Cabinet after a proposal from Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan.According to the Minister, the Committee will comprise of William Boston as Chairman and 11 other members. Harmon laid out the terms of reference of the Committee, which will include ensuring that the Juvenile Justice Act is implemented.“The objectives of the Committee are to support the implementation of juvenile justice legislation, especially on issues related to the creation and accreditation of diversionary programmes and to ensure compliance to the required standards set up in the child rights convention and its supporting guidelines.”The Juvenile Justice Bill was passed last year, repealing the 1931 Juvenile Offenders Act and the Training Schools Act. An important part of the bill is that it abolishes offences like truancy and wandering.The draft bill was conceived in 2004 under the former Administration, with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund. Last year, the Government had announced that it would establish juvenile courts throughout Guyana. It has been opined that having these specialised courts will ensure speedy disposal of sensitive cases.PPDIAlso being approved and gazetted was the Board of Directors of the Power Producers and Distributors Incorporated (PPDI). According to the gazetted notice, the PPDI Board will serve with effect from March 1, 2019, to February 28, 2021.Returning to head the company is Mark Bender as Chairman and Arron Fraser as Vice Chairman. In addition, its membership will include Stephen Fraser, Amanza Walton-Desir, Verlyn D E Klass, Paul Chan-A-Sue, the Permanent Secretary of the Public Infrastructure Ministry and representatives from the Parliamentary Opposition and Guyana Power and Light (GPL).GPL’s interconnected system is fed with power by the Power Producers and Distributors Inc (PPDI), which replaced Wärtsilä, a company from Finland, which for two decades maintained over a dozen engines for the utility company.PrisonAlso, the Guyana Prison Service Sentence Management Board was approved for a period of one year with effect from February 1, 2019. The Board is to be chaired by prominent educator and former University of Guyana Senior Staff Association (UGSSA) President Dr Melissa Ifill.Director of Prisons, Gladwin Samuels is also listed as a member, as well as Marielle Bristol, Sylvia Conway, Rabindra Chand, Mahendra Thakurdat, Stanley Boodie, John Fraser and Shireen Andrews as Secretary.As of January 2017, there were a total of 2043 inmates in Guyana’s five jails, although the largest one – the Camp Street Prison – was subsequently gutted in a fire. At the time, the Georgetown prison had 963 inmates, 521 of whom were on remand; Lusignan had 153, of which 32 were remanded, Mazaruni, 360, and Timehri, 130 inmates including 28 remand inmates.All of the aforementioned prisoners were male, while New Amsterdam had a male prison population of 352 and a female population of 85. 150 of those men and 31 women were on remand.When it comes to prisons, much reform is needed. In 2016, a fire raged through the Camp Street Prison and claimed the lives of 17 prisoners. Afterwards, a Commission of Inquiry, which cost the treasury some $13 million, was ordered by President David Granger.According to the report compiled by the Commissioners, a combination of being overcrowded, uncomfortable and unhygienic confinement are ideal conditions for epidemics, for gangs to prosper and to propagate discontent.Moreover, the CoI found that reducing numbers in prisons to manageable levels is the single most important priority for establishing safe, humane and purposeful prisons. In the wake of another fire the very next year, which gutted the wooden section of the Camp Street Prison, the need to reduce the prison population was further emphasised to the Government.