Agriculture Economist Questions COVID-19 Household Food Distribution Rationale

by Paul Kanneh
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On June 13, 2020, the Government of Liberia in collaboration with local and international partners began distribution of the long awaited COVID-19 household food distribution.

It can be recalled that in March 2020, the Government of Liberia announced that it would distribute food as part of stimulus package for underprivileged people amidst COVID 19 outbreak. Following 3 months of uncertainties, the food distribution exercise finally kicked off on Saturday, June 13, 2020 in Bassa Community, Montserrado County. Each household of 5 persons is entitle to 2 bags of 25kg rice, a gallon of oil and beans.

But as the food distribution exercise enters its 3rd weeks, Liberia’s Agriculture Economist and Civil Society Actor, Abraham Billy has challenged the government of President George Weah over its economic policy surrounding the stimulus package. In a one page analysis posted on his social media page, Mr. Billy termed the initiative as unsustainable and waste of resources for a government in need of strategic intervention to resuscitate the country’s economy.

“Like Senator Sherman, I think it would have made little sense subsidizing prices of foods in the entitlement package, and I think it would have made more sense redirecting this fund to a more sustainable intervention through the agriculture sector”, Mr. Billy is quoted as saying in his post.

According to him, although the food distribution initiative cannot justify the under-performance of the Agriculture Ministry, but redirecting the over US20 million for the food distribution to the sector could be a better option for food aid.

“I see that we are in no emergency time, nor under pressure by the Liberian people to provide food aid. Yet, I can see our government being pushed to making this ‘no impact on the country’s economy’ decision”, said Billy.  Mr. Billy expressed shock over how news of the stimulus package has even captured the interest of some decision makers, instead of the ordinary citizens.

He expressed serious disappointment in the COVID-19 Household Food Support Program, adding, many are unhappy with the response strategy designed by government to alleviate poverty on vulnerable citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I wonder who forced them to take this wasteful decision”, he further questioned the exercise.

Like the COVID-19 Household Food Distribution program, the government of President George Weah has often come under criticism over critical policy decision its takes since its inception. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is one of the institutions that has often warned CDC government about some of its policy decisions, including employment scheme.

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