The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Amara Konneh Gets Int'l Award

Liberia's Finance Minister, Amara Konneh has been selected by the London based Financial Times owners of the Banker's Magazine as Africa Finance Minister of the Year 2013.

Konneh was unanimously selected by the editorial board of the Banker magazine, a subsidiary of Financial Times Magazine as Finance Minister of the Year for Africa.

The prestigious recognition is expected to be delivered soon and copies of the publication shared with World leaders at the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Konneh is among other honorees from other continents. Among them are Luis Videgaray of Mexico (Global and Americas), Michael Noonan, Ireland (Europe), Cesar Purisima of the Philippines (Asia-Pacific) and HE Sultan bin Saeed Nasser Al Mansouri of United Arab Emirates (The Middle East).

Amara Konneh became Minister of Finance in 2012 and has since presided over massive public investment spending in key infrastructure projects and at the same time, attracting millions in grants and concessional loans to fund the government flagship development blueprint the Agenda for Transformation.

In a letter addressed to Konneh, the publisher wrote "I am delighted to tell you that for our January 2014 edition, you have been chosen as "Finance Minister of the Year, Africa".

The publisher noted that 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. Many congratulations to you and your colleagues".

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 was appointed as the 25th Minister of Finance, charged with the daunting task of transforming the economy and creating jobs, shortly after the 2011 elections of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

He has embarked on a series of reforms both at the Ministry of Finance and within the broader financial and fiscal environment, introducing several fiscal programs and instruments.

To support the growth envisioned in the government's medium-term growth strategy, the Agenda for Transformation, he quickly introduced a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), a multi-year rolling budget framework that began in fiscal year 2012/2013 that saw an increase in public investments from a mere 7 percent of the budget to about 25 percent 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. Most of the funding secured so far constitutes grants with about 20% in concessional loans to various lenders including the World Bank, the African Development Bank and other bilateral financing.

Through his leadership, he has ensured full compliance with the Public Financial Management Act, by implementing its core regulations. He has overseen robust PFM reforms including enhancing cash management procedures, wage bill reforms, fiscal decentralization and the rollout of the Integrated Financial Management Information System, IFMIS. Through his leadership, PFM reforms are generally on track with a revision for the PFM Strategy and Action Plan in the works. He worked to drive reform for the creation of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Liberia Revenue Authority.

Through his administration, Liberia produced for the first time a mid-term budget performance report and a year-end report that is being audited by the General Auditing Commission, a crucial compliance requirements of the Public Financial Management Act.

The recognition comes, when Liberia is celebrating 10 years of sustained peace and resurgent economic growth and development, propelled largely by sound economic and fiscal management policies spearheaded by one of the continent's youngest member of cabinent.

Under his stewardship, post-war economic growth was sustained in 2012, with estimated real GDP growth of 8.9%, led by the first full year of post-conflict iron ore exports, buoyant construction, and strong performance in services. Liberia's real GDP is projected to expand by 8.1% in 2013 and growth is projected to be impressive in 2014.

Liberia has also made impressive gains in other areas, too: between 2011 and 2013 it climbed eight places to 174 (out of 187) in the UN's Human Development Index and has risen 10 positions in the World Bank's last two Ease of Doing Business reports, taking it above Tanzania and Nigeria.

Konneh, speaking to the local media, said the award was a tribute to the work and dedication of the staff of the Ministries of Finance and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs. "We are flattered by this recognition and thank the President for her preferment. We hope, this will reenergize the workforce and create the impetus necessary to drive our development agenda forward."

The Banker is the premier monthly magazine on global finance since 1926, and is owned by the Financial Times group. It is the most-read monthly financial magazine in Europe, with an influential worldwide audience of senior bank executives and financial policy-makers. This is the 13th year in which we have given awards to finance ministers. "

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