Finance Minister Amara Konneh's Tuesday affirmation that government is tackling obstacles impeding national economic growth and development before it will shoot for a double digit-growth ever since anticipated to determine the future of Liberia possesses inherent challenges.
The challenges became clearer when he told a press conference that government's medium term growth projection is quite conservative because it incorporated iron ore exports from only ArcelorMittal--one of three iron ore concessions signed to operate in the country.
"We see strong upside potential once the other mining project (China Union, Western Cluster) come on stream. In this regard, it would be important for us to obtain the latest data on mining activities, including (those) from Mittal, China Union, and other mining companies operating in Liberia," he said.
He said government has identified the lack of electricity, adequate road infrastructure and job opportunities as major obstacles that continue to impede the economic growth and development of Liberia.
But the Finance Minister struck a keynote when he blamed the steep plummet of the Liberian currency against the US dollar on the importation of almost everything Liberians, without a manufacturing factories, consume. [1 USD now buys LD80]
Granted that Liberians are constrained to import almost everything they consume spells troubles for the entire nation in case of serious financial upheavals that might affect our meager foreign reserves or if significant enough havoc befell exporter to disrupt the free flow of those commodities Liberians must import to consume in order to survive.
We notice with sadness that the names of dozens of factories where consumer commodities were manufactured before the civil war years are still dotted all along the Somali Drive but without production these days.
Also, we observe a dearth of local manufacturing factories while it appears that investors are mainly interested in exploiting non-renewable natural resources or grabbing huge swathes of land to grow cash crops instead of food commodities that could be sold and consumed locally to ameliorate food insecurity. Notwithstanding, Liberia presently yearns for means to jumpstart and speed up infrastructure development, economic recovery and job creation for its burgeoning youth population, we urge the government to exhibit extreme caution against repeating mistakes of the open door policy era when the nation's iron ore recourses that are non-renewable were exploited without leaving sustainable means to benefit the population. A survey in Monrovia and its environs would catalog a semblance of boost in economic activities; but in essence those activities involve the sale of imported goods from outsourced nations, foodstuffs, used clothing, alcoholic beverages and non-classic video cassettes from Nigeria that enthuse Liberian youths who lack such dramas depicting their cultures on national television.
However, the fact remains that all of these video films--most of which are distasteful for viewing by minors who ironically form a bulk of their audiences--have flooded the market with the sole objective of siphoning the mighty American dollar from Liberia--the only nation on earth that enforces no restrictions on capital outflows to the detriment of its fragile economy.
Therefore, we call for restrictions on capital outflow and suggest that more investors be wooed to engage in manufacturing consumer goods in order to undercut Liberia's huge capital flight to import "almost all of what Liberians consume" as Minister Konneh told the nation Tuesday.
We believe such factories could also cut the high unemployment rate in the country.
All along the Somali Drive are heard the names of so so factories like "battery factory, iron factory, shoe factory, oil refinery, biscuits factory, chicken soup factory, matches factory, gold medal factory where their are ironically no productions. We believe if Liberian entrepreneurs are not interested, the government must be keen in encouraging investors to revive some of these manufacturing entities instead of solely focusing on exploiting the nation's non-renewable resources.
We believe this vexing situation prompted Vice President Boakai to lament at a recent LIBA (Liberia Business Association) forum: "Today, we have a chicken soup (Maggi Cubes) factory where no chicken soup is produced and we have the battery factory where no battery is produced."