6 January 2014

Africa: Hats Off to Liberia's Finance Minister


Liberia's Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, has been declared winner of the prestigious "Africa Minister of Finance of the Year" by the Financial Times, subsidiary, the Banker Magazine.

Konneh is one of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's youngest members of cabinet, so there doubts over his relative inexperience and ability to handle the job of managing the country's treasury, when appointed Minister of Finance aged 40.

Emerging from relative obscurity in 2009 to head the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs, Konneh is a Harvard trained economist but with zero experience in the public sector up until his preferment.

But during his tenure at the Ministry of Planning, he soon changed the narrative and transformed the desk-based sleeping giant to a more robust development planning outfit.

Though he inherited the three-year Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS I), he succeeded in strengthening aid coordination mechanisms that has seen increased aid through direct budget support and funding acquisition for the plan.

At the Ministry of Finance, he has since embarked on a series of reforms within the broader financial and fiscal environment. To support the growth envisioned in the government's medium-term growth strategy, the Agenda for Transformation, his team introduced a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) that saw an increase in public investments from 7% to 25% of the budget intended to finance critical infrastructure projects

Through an aggressive mobilization of external financing, he has led the government's efforts that have raised $2 billion US Dollars to support the Agenda for Transformation, energy, roads, ports and agriculture.

The most significant project is the restoration of electricity to the country, construction of major highways to connect Liberia's economic corridors and rehabilitation of the sea and airports.

With all the achievements to his credit, the economy has been shaking for close to year, not necessarily due to fiscal improprieties but largely due to external shocks, his fiscal policy prescriptions cannot effectively remedied.

It is with this context, that we believe the recognition from the Banker's Magazine, a leading international financial publication, naming Finance Minister of the Year for Africa is deserved.

On January 2nd 2014, the Banker's, a subsidiary of the Financial Times Magazine posted on its website thee selection of Liberia's Finance Minister as their choice for Minister of the year.

The Banker was established since 1926 and has been involved with recognizing the efforts of emerging reformers in the developing economies for the last 13 years.

The publisher in a letter said the "decision was made after discussions among the magazine's editors and a survey of views among bankers and economists, and therefore represents a vote of confidence by the markets in the role played by the Liberian Ministry of Finance over the past year."

In particular, The Banker noted the wide-ranging economic reforms that are being carried out to develop Liberia's institutions, infrastructure and financial system.

Amara Konneh is the first Liberian Minister of Finance to win the prestigious honor, along with award recipients from six other continents.

The award sends a clear message. While the country might be experiencing domestic economic problems particularly around jobs and inflation, the Ministry of Finance seems to be spot on with its reform agenda and has made recognizable strides to reposition the country better for the future.

This paper is particularly pleased for such international recognition and would enjoin the government to see this as an opportunity to accelerate programs and interventions that would transform all these fiscal progress into employment opportunities.

The award should further energize the team at the MOF to stay focused on the bigger picture and continue its macroeconomic and fiscal management programs that have attracted this accolade.

We salute team Amara and applaud the President for his preferment.

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