The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Coronavirus Outbreak: Government Of Liberia’s Response To Support Employees

The world has become devastated by the novel COVID-19. Healthcare Systems of sophisticated countries are struggling to deal with the pandemic. To level the curve, reduce the human to human transmissions and regain socio-economic sanity, governments across the globe have instituted stringent health protocols for all citizens, residents and visitors within their respective borders.

The pandemic is also leaving jolt of entrenched economic, social and financial impacts. Countries, on the other hand, are aggressively and courageously fighting the virus while at the same time having to deal with the backlashes.

Employers are now scaling down business operations either as a result of the economic impact or in response to the health protocols announced by the GOL. The fares for local public transport have increased, while working from home has become an additional burden as parents now have to juggle with food and other essential supplies, amongst others.

According to the Washington Post-March 25th Edition, the Trump government concluded a deal on a $2 trillion stimulus compendium to salvage the economy from COVID-19 battering. The deal targets to downpour the economy with money by giving $1,200 checks to many adult Americans and children receiving around $500[1].

Elsewhere in Italy, which is much battered by the pandemic, some businesses and families are given time off all through the financial crunch before having to pay back. Additionally, bank loan payments have been suspended amid the outbreak[2].  Many other Countries with stressed economies are wearisome about providing social support to the taxpayers, employees and other small businesses.

Through the lenses in Liberia, with three confirmed cases, the impact of COVID-19 on the economy is yet to be measured. The Government of Liberia has introduced some stimulus packages including the suspension of loan repayment, bank transfer charges. What is also welcoming is that Lonestar Cell MTN has also plummeted for one month, all mobile money transactions charges.

Still, employees, employers and business people are already sensing the warmth of the virus assault. Employers in the private sector are cutting back on headcounts due to the paralysis of their business. They are also cutting back headcounts in the interest of abiding by the government social distancing policy. Prices of essential commodities have skyrocketed; transport fares have increased; prices of primary products are mountaineering due to lack of importation, and the cost of disinfectants used to protect oneself against the pandemic are high-priced by the regular Liberians. In all this fight, inflation does not have mercy- it moving stealthily up to 24%.

Judging from a difficult time, what can the Liberian government do to support?

The Association of Liberia Human Resource professionals have reviewed trends in other countries and Liberia and herewith recommend the following:

Implementation of the Decent work Act: That the Ministry of Labor should work with private companies to ensure that the laws are implemented, and employees who are working from home or asked to take leave due to the virus maintain their job upon return.

Monitoring by the Ministry of Labor. The Ministry of Labor can work with companies to ensure that fix-term contractors or employees are paid in line with the Decent work Act. The Ministry of Labor can also work to protect employers in terms of force majeure.

Liberianization policy: There may be several international organizations coming to Liberia temporarily to support the fight against the COVID-19. Liberians must be given the opportunity to work in line with the Liberianization policy and must be paid comparatively.

Ensure Regular salary payment: The Civil Service Agency must ensure all civil servants take a regular salary to support their families during these trying times and to also keep civil servants on the payroll upon return to work. The COVID situation must not be used to de-list any civil servant during or after this period

Suspend Income Tax: The Government of Liberia must see the need to temporarily waive income tax payment One Hundred (100) per cent for the next three months (March-Mayy 2020) for all employees or contractors. The waiver is an indirect stimulus package. It will also increase the disposable income of employees and help them to support their families while they are locked down.

Suspend Employees’ NASSCORP contributions. Four (4%) contribution should also be suspended alongside the Tax Break/Waiver period. The employers ‘contributions should also be deferred to counterbalance the temporary waiver/suspension of the employees ‘contributions. However, the Injury Scheme Contribution of 2% should be paid.

Reschedule Employees Loan payment:  The Central Bank of Liberia should work with commercial banks in Liberia to reschedule loans repayment for employees who have an obligation with banks. The reschedule will allow employees to support their families during these troubling times.

Communication and engagement. Employers at this time can keep their employees engaged through regular communication and updates on COV-19 and workplace matters.

Finally, we understand that the Government of Liberia is challenged financially to meet a healthy stimulus package. Still, as the GOL tackles the growing economic and social situations, the above recommendations could form a basis for sound public policy.

ALHRP supports the putting of “the human” back in human resources as it will serve as a significant step in the fight against COVID-19. This process could be the GOL ticket to a stimulus package for the working class in Liberia. We may not have the sizable budget or resources as sophisticated countries do. Still, working with the Ministry of Labor, CSA, LRA and NASSCOROP, the above recommendations will help Liberians employees.


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