1 June 2014

Liberia: Ellen Confesses On State On Liberian Economy

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 admitted that the rate of growth projected for 2014 is at 5.8 percent which falls short of the growth rate projected in the Agenda for Transformation that calls for at least 8 percent annual growth rate, if Liberia is to stay on track in becoming a middle-income country by 2030.

President Johnson-Sirleaf made the admission last Wednesday in a nationwide address on the state of the economy at her Foreign Ministry office in Monrovia.

According to President Johnson-Sirleaf, there are several reasons for this projected decline.

The President named the 2009global financial meltdown, fraud and abuse among others as some of the reasons for this projected decline.

She explained that the 2009 global financial meltdown had its toll on Liberia.

Listen to her: "For varying reasons, and as already indicated, our negotiating teams have taken more time than previously anticipated in closing negotiations with interested investors. These delays have meant delays in operationalizing investments that have already been committed."

She continued: "In some instances where the negotiations have been concluded and work plans have been drawn up for implementation, the lack of required infrastructure such as roads, electricity and ports, which sometimes required separate and difficult decisions, have also slowed the timely implementation of many of the committed investments.

The rubber sector, our traditional strength in exports and jobs is experiencing a sharp decline in production on account of replanting by major plantations. Additionally, demand for rubber by our trading partners themselves affected by the global financial meltdown has led to drastic reductions in the global price of rubber."

"Then there is the issue of fraud and abuse in the forestry sector which compelled us to impose a much-needed moratorium resulting into significant loss of budgeted revenue and community benefits.

To add to these issues - many over which we lacked complete control - community issues relating to land and benefits, have too often resulted to violence and destruction, which continue to undermine not only the operations of the investments but also the renewed confidence that Liberia is still a good destination for investment."

Moreover, the Liberian leader pointed out that although core targets have been met, decline in the level of anticipated revenues on account of procurement fraud and corruption have combined to delay the payment of government's financial commitment which, in the absence of full cooperation between the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Liberia, have created stress in the banking system and the depreciation in the exchange rate.

"Added to this is the situation of the repeated attacks along our border with Coté d'Ivoire which has compelled us to deploy troops across the difficult border areas - which is an absolute necessary deployment for which we neither calculated nor budgeted.

Through it all, we have continued to address deficiencies as we uncover them, and are confident that the Liberian economy remains fundamentally strong and poised to achieve the potentials we have identified," she mentioned.

However, she said her administration is undertaking bolder and tougher measures to continue to streamline priorities, reduce wasteful spending, create additional savings and increase revenues so as to continue to invest in roads, ports, electricity, education, health, security, water and sewer - all these things that will multiply opportunities and benefits for all Liberians.

President Johnson-Sirleaf then assured that the economy will be restored to its full potentials.

"This effort is already underway with my direct leadership. This effort will require changes in officials, prosecutions of offenders, challenges to partners, as well as reforms in policies and actions.

It will require the various Branches of our Government continuously working together for the common good of those we were elected to serve. It will require new thinking and strategic repositioning.

It may require new and more robust partnerships with civil society and the media. And it will require understanding from our citizens to whom we owe so much," she among other things added.

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