Finance Minister Mr. Amara M. Konneh has asserted that the fundamentals of the economy of Liberia remain "solid" despite the 14-year civil unrest in the country.
According to him, Liberia's economy has grown at an annual average of seven percent since 2003 reflecting on the peace dividends following the end of a protracted civil war.
He said the economy of Liberia has been "mainly driven by the extractive sector. He stated that real economic growth remains on a solid footing in the country adding that, "Liberia revised projections for 2013 imply a real GDP growth of 8.1 percent."
Min. Konneh made these assertions on Tuesday, September 17, 2013 at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) special press briefing held at the Charles Gbenyon Press Hall in Monrovia. He said non-resource real GDP growth particularly in construction has accelerated reflecting on the "pick-up" in public investment compared to 2012, as well as robust private investment.
"This outlook, however, remains vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations, particularly for iron ore, rubber and Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), including the partial withdrawal of the substantial United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) force. Disputes regarding concession agreements, particularly in the forestry, palm oil, and oil sectors, also constitute substantial risks," he stated.
Min. Konneh stated that "faster job creation will be necessary" to ensure economic stability in the country.
He said the main "drawback from the growth of the economy is the "limited number of jobs created as the expansion of the mainly driven enclave sector."
This, he stated has been recognized in the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) of the Liberian government. Speaking further, the Finance Ministry boss pointed out that agriculture, fisheries and forestry represented about 36% of GDP while rubber production declined by more than 30% in 2012 due to lower international prices and reduced output due to the aging of the rubber.
He disclosed that the production of round log has doubled as compared to 2011. He said the timber production also declined last year due to the moratorium placed on the Permit Use Permits (PUPs) by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf adding that, "government is currently investigating fraud allegations in PUP contracts."
Min. Konneh stated that forestry activities would expand further "once transportation links are improved and the Greenville Port is fully operational" after investigations are concluded on the PUPs by government.
According to him, the agriculture sector which comprises of mostly subsistence agriculture suffers low productivity despite being a large "component of income and employment."
He pointed out that the industrial and manufacturing sector of the country also "expanded substantially" during the year under review.
He disclosed that the sector "accounted for about 21% of GDP in 2012, but only employed about 8% of labor force.
Min. Konneh stated that despite the achievements, "considerable obstacles continue to impede Liberia's economic growth."
He said "electricity currently reaches only 5% of the country's population."
According to the Liberian Finance Minister, the cost of electricity which stands at USD54 cents per kWh is among the highest in the world.
He added that the roads which "have been neglected for over 20 years" are gradually being built by the Liberian government to help accelerate economic growth and development in the country.