Time for Government to Consider Cutting Costs, Reducing expenses on Foreign missions abroad KAZAKHSTAN AND THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS last week became the latest countries to establish diplomatic relations with Liberia, pledging as many others before them to promote and strengthen the friendship in all spheres of developments as the three countries look forward to improving their interactions at the highest levels.
A COMMUNIQUÉ SIGNED at the end of last week’s ceremony asserted that the countries will exert efforts to observe diplomatic protocols including those of the United Nations Charter, the Provisions of the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic Relations of April 18, 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of April 24, 1963, respectively. IT IS GOOD that Liberia is reestablishing ties with countries around the world and it is also good that the post-war nation is back in the good books of the international community. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that Liberians are losing a lot of money because of an international bureaucratic loophole that appears far from being addressed both by the Liberian government and international stakeholders claiming to have Liberia’s best interests at heart. WITH THE EXCEPTION of the United States of America, the People’s Republic of China and the government of South Africa, no other country in the world with mission in Liberia have systems set up in place to process visa applications for Liberians in country. LIBERIANS ARE SPENDING MILLIONS each year on travel, hotel and other related fees just to process visas in next door Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria or anywhere designated by these countries as visa submission points. IT BAFFLES US that Liberia with its limited resources continue to allocated millions of dollars it does not have just to maintain operations of diplomatic mission abroad. ALL THIS when even the countries where Liberia is sacrificing to have missions are cutting down their expenses. COUNTRIES LIKE the United Kingdom and all Schengen countries require Liberians to spend hundreds of dollars daily traveling outside to process visas. WHAT LIBERIA needs to start doing is reciprocating the diplomatic medicines that its so-called international partners are sadly throwing their way. FOREIGN DIPLOMATIC MISSION particularly representing EU countries must begin to consolidate resources and see how best they can alleviate the pains and expense many Liberians are going through just to get a visa. IT BAFFLES US that in 2016, some of the bigger and more develop nations cannot come up with a way to have Liberians process their visas in country instead of having to travel outside. A central station for EU countries is one way or at least a system that allows Liberians to mail their applications through a local Schengen office instead of having to waste dollars on foreign travel just to get a visa. THE LIBERIAN GOVERNMENT must also look at ways in which it can cut down some of the costs associated with keeping its foreign mission abroad stay afloat. ONE OPTION WORTH looking at is the visa on arrival policy more than fifty African countries have now adopted. IT IS A POLICY that countries like Ethiopia, Madagascar, Kenya, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Tanzania, Uganda, Burundi, Cape Verde, Comoros, Togo and Mozambique have been exercising with some successes. MOST RECENTLY, Liberia’s next-door neighbors, Ghana declared that it will offer visas to citizens of African Union member states on arrival into the country from July. PRESIDENT JOHN MAHAMA speaking during his delivery of Ghana’s State of the Nation Address to parliament in the capital, Accra in February, stated: “With effect from July this year, Ghana will offer visas on arrival for AU member state citizens with an added option of obtaining up to 30-days visa,” Mahama said placing emphasis on fulfilling the objective of AU to bridge the gap between African citizens on the continent. THE PRESIDENT ADDED that the reason for the visa on entry requirement is to validate the security backgrounds of travelers so as to guarantee the peace enjoyed in the country. LIBERIA CAN ALSO BEGIN to explore a trend that is gaining wave and recently put in place between Ghana and Mauritius who agreed to waive visa requirements for holders of each other’s national passports. The agreement allows all Ghanaians, including holders of ordinary Ghanaian passports to enter into Mauritius without any visa restrictions. The same courtesies will be extended to Mauritius nationals coming to Ghana. LIBERIA IS TOO small a country to be spending millions of dollars on the upkeep of foreign missions. A consolidated effort to cut cost could also alleviate the pain and suffering low-paying staffers at foreign mission are enduring with peanuts for salaries and benefits. NO LIBERIAN MUST be made to spend money they do not have and no develop nation should be allow to get away with not having some kind of presence in this modern age, in Liberia to process visa requirements. If the international community are really sincere about helping Liberia, it should look at this all important issue and help keep those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder from using financial resources they do not have.