29 May 2014

Liberia: Ellen Blames CBL, Finance for Hardship

Photo: Liberia Government
Minister Konneh receiving the Finance Minister of the Year Award from a London-based magazine's Senior Editor Brian Caplen (file photo)

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has for the first time publicly admitted that the present economy hardship, doubled by a dropped in the value of the Liberian Dollars against the US dollar, as well as decline in revenue are results of non-corporation between the Ministry of Finance or MoF and the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL.

Smarting under heavy public criticism that her administration is doing nothing to address the current economic hardship here, Mrs. Sirleaf on Wednesday told the nation that both the CBL and MoF were responsible.

She said the absence of full cooperation between the monetary and fiscal institutions has led to decline in the level of anticipated revenues... and have also created stress in the banking system and depreciation in the exchange rate.

Mrs. Sirleaf said in addition to the non-cooperative moves between the CBL and MoF, procurement fraud and corruption have combined to delay the settlement of government's financial commitments thus exacerbating the hardship.

She indicated that the issue of fraud and abuse in the forestry sector, which compelled her administration to impose a much-needed moratorium, has resulted to significant loss of budgeted revenues and community benefits.

But despite gloomy picture, Mrs. Sirleaf expressed confidence that the nation's economy remains fundamentally strong and poised to achieve the potentials her government has identified. She said her administration was undertaking bolder and tougher measures to continue streamlining priorities to reduce wasteful spending create additional savings and increase revenues.

Her statement suggested that the intent is to continue to invest in roads, ports, electricity, education, health, security, water and sewer - all of which, she noted, would multiply opportunities and benefits for all Liberians.

As she promised to restore the economy to its full potential, President Sirleaf told the nation that it would require changes in officials, prosecutions of offenders, challenges to partners, as well as reforms in policies and actions. She said citizens were right to be concerned about repeated shortfalls in the budget, further explaining that it is a result of a number of factors.

Firstly, she said, the government was learning the details of managing a Medium Term Expenditure Framework Budget, considered important to securing and protecting important public sector investments, such as roads and energy over a three-year period.

Giving an example, President Sirleaf emphasized the need for the government to now take full responsibility of important services previously supported by partners citing programs such as free medical services, including the hiring of additional healthcare workers and provision of drugs and free education.

She also spoke about the situation of the repeated attacks along Liberia's border with neighboring Coté d'Ivoire, which has compelled her government to deploy troops across the difficult border areas.

But President Sirleaf said described the action as an absolute necessary deployment for which "we neither calculated, nor budgeted." She, however, indicated that government will continue to address deficiencies as they are uncovered.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has departed the country for a private visit to the United States of America. A release issued by the Executive Mansion Wednesday said Mrs. Sirleaf will be away for a week.

During her absence from the country, the Minister of National Defense, Brownie J. Samukai, Jr. will serve as Chairman of the Cabinet in consultation with Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. Mrs. Sirleaf, the release said is expected to return to the country on June 4th.

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