The United States Ambassador to Liberia says there is a need for the Legislature to see reason to speedily pass the Revenue Sharing Bill and Local Government Acts into law.
Ambassador Michael McCarthy said these legal instruments, when passed, will give power to authorities in rural areas to share in the administration of the country. He made the assertion on Wednesday in Monrovia during a courtesy visit to the office of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Varney Sirleaf.
The Ambassador’s visit to the ministry comes following a recent trip to counties across the country to ascertain perhaps the level of development undertaken under the administration of President George M. Weah.
Since his appointment as an Ambassador to Liberia, McCarthy has remained very critical of the internal affairs of the country. Issues like addressing corruption and the delivery of basic social services to the citizens are some of the concerns the ambassador has raised in recent times.
After the Ebola crisis that ravaged the Liberian economy, the American government has spent more than US$110 million as foreign assistance to support various sectors.
According to Ambassador McCarthy, the passage of the two laws is important for the government to be very responsive to its people.
“Those legislations are very critical for the development of the country. The government has tried with the decentralization policy but without the enactment of these pieces of laws, all efforts by the government will not be achieved to the fullest, he warned the officials of the Internal Affairs Ministry.
He further asked the Minister if there is a way that the U.S. Embassy can help in lobbying for the passage of these pieces of laws before the Legislature.
The Ambassador also said that the county service center idea is good, but more resources need to be allocated to make it effective. He lamented in a report that some counties are receiving US$6,000 annually as support for the activities of cities.
“Why would a city receive such a little amount? The local authorities are not getting much from the government. I wonder if you are happy at the level at which the counties are treated, he asked the minister.
According to him, some of the things that he discovered from his trip are that the road pavement project is slow; traders, mainly women, were finding it very difficult to transact business at border points; and revenues generated from the ports are not benefiting rural people.
“I am told that a Turkish ship comes and takes out produce from the country and sends them outside the country without adding value to the communities,” he explained.
Ambassador McCarthy also said that companies like CEMECO should be interested in investing in the ports to create more jobs for rural citizens.
“What I also discovered from my trip is that border points are governed very differently when it comes to COVID regulations,” he said.
He disclosed that municipalities are finding it very difficult to run the affairs of their respective cities due to limited resources. Responding to the Ambassador’s concerns, Minister Varney acknowledged that decentralization still remains a challenge for the government as some agencies are not willing to give out authority.
“We still have a challenge on this issue but it is a process. But regarding our ministry, we have done extremely well to ensure that our authority is shared with administrations of rural areas,” he explained.
According to him, his Ministry is working tirelessly with the Legislature to ensure the passage of the revenue sharing bill.
Minister Sirleaf stated that the bill, when passed into law, will help bring about revenue improvement that will help local administration to do a lot of jobs. He further said that his Ministry is working with the Land Authority to settle boundary land disputes in the counties.
According to him, reconciliation is one of the paramount issues that confronts the country which his Ministry is working to address. The Internal Affairs minister promised to work with county authorities in resolving the challenges confronting Liberian women in trading outside with neighboring countries.
He also used the meeting to thank the United States government for its numerous support for Liberia.
The Minister said that the U.S government has contributed a lot to making the government decentralization policy work to a greater extent.