Liberia leader bars official travel abroad for 60 days

AP News
Posted: Feb 06, 2017 7:12 AM

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia's president has ordered a 60-day moratorium on official overseas travel to save the country's depleted foreign currency holdings.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's office said the measure applies to all ministers and the heads of other government bodies as well as their deputies and assistants, according to a weekend statement.

Exceptions can only be obtained by a one-on-one meeting with the president herself and these will only be granted "if it is determined that such travel is of utmost imperative in the national interest," the statement said.

The West African nation's economy has been hit hard by the Ebola epidemic and price slumps for export commodities iron ore and rubber. Liberia is facing an "alarming situation of capital flight," the statement said.

Business owners organized a three-day shutdown last week to protest the situation. Their grievances included the persistent fluctuation of the value of the Liberian dollar.

Returning from the latest African Union summit, Sirleaf angered protesters by accusing some business owners of creating foreign exchange shortages by "putting the money in their suitcases and taking it out of the country."

The president's' critics say her own officials are responsible because they routinely send huge sums overseas.

Sirleaf, the country's first elected postwar president, recruited many Liberians who had been living in the U.S. when she assumed office after the 2005 election.

She last placed restrictions on official travel during the Ebola epidemic and in September 2014 her office announced that 10 people had been dismissed for failing to follow the rules.