14 June 2018

Liberia: Do the Right Thing, Liberia!!! - the IMF, a Friend - Not an 'Enemy' Has Spoken

editorial

THE INTERNATIONAL MONETARY FUND(IMF) has been one of Liberia's strategic partners for years. The monetary body regularly dispatch delegations to Liberia to assess the outlook of the economy, offer suggestions on how the government could take steps to improve existing framework or what is necessary to make the economy stronger, so that Liberians can reap the benefit of their natural resources and get the best sound financial responsibility of the government of the day.

THIS IS WHY we feel strongly that the monetary body's latest Article IV Consultation assessment should be a wake-up call for President George Manneh Weah and his team of advisors to reassess the way they have been proceeding, especially after the IMF expressed concerns that the government has not been able to come up with a clear-cut medium-term framework for the country, five months after assuming the leadership mantle of the state.

THE IMF TEAM emphasized that future Liberia debt obligations should be undertaken transparently, limiting new debt to concessional terms, with effective implementation of infrastructure projects.

THE TEAM ALSO expressed concerns that all the elements of the government's medium-term development agenda have not been fully outline. "The baseline scenario presented in this Article IV consultation is staff's interpretation of the authorities' stated policies as articulated at the time of the March 2018 mission. The resulting analysis yielded insights into various sustainability issues. However, assuming the implementation of sound policies, the medium-term outlook appears favorable. The main upside risk is an increase in commodity prices and output, while downside risks include difficulties in mobilizing resources to fill the financing gap and in pursuing structural and institutional reforms."

FOR WEEKS NOW FrontPageAfrica, some civil society groups and critics of the government have been raising concerns about two controversial loans, a US$536 and US$420 million aimed at constructing roads and connecting Liberia to the southeast.

GOVERNMENT DEFENDERS have blindly ignored criticisms regarding clear breach of the code of conduct and conflict of interest and gone as far as to label critics of the loan as "Enemies of the State".

PRESIDENT WEAH, responding to his critics told residents in Bong County at the weekend not to listen to the critics who he described as enemies of the state. "My people, don't listen to those criticizing for lobbying for loans. Those doing so are enemies of the country. The loans I am taking will be able to complete the roads in three years. When I am asking partners for loans, any of them who tell me that they want complete the roads in six years, I can say no because I know in the next six years, if I don't do anything for you, I will not be re-elected"

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is, the IMF in plain diplomatic language is saying there is no plan. By assuming sound policies, the bank expects improvement in the economy but they're also saying the medium-term policy framework is inconclusive. In short, things will get worse if we stay in the same path, particularly with no capital inflow, high prices, no clear agenda and an undefined medium-term agenda.

IT IS HIGH TIME that those commanding President Weah's ears begin to look at the big picture and realize that those opposed to these two loans have as much stake in Liberia as those in favor of them for selfish reasons.

EVEN MORE TROUBLING is the fact that members of the national legislature, elected by the people of Liberia to seek their best interests have failed to show leadership in vetting and demanding more answers from the Executive Branch of government.

THIS WAS EVIDENT this week when some members of the lower house signed and voted on a resolution mandating President Weah to secure more loans in addition to the two already on the table.

SADLY, THE LAWMAKERS are riding on the backs of their constituents in stating that the resolution was based on a unanimous petition from their constituents who requested them to ensure that government constructs roads on all critical corridors.

THE RESOLUTION IS BEING sponsored by Representatives Joseph Momo Matthews (CDC-District #3 Gbapolu County), Thomas Fallah (CDC-District #5 Montserrado County), Francis Saidy Dopoh (UP-District #3 River Gee County), and Beyan Howard (UP-District #5 Lofa County).

ARTICLE 34 (III)OF THE 1986 Constitution states that, no loan shall be raised by the government on behalf of the Republic or guarantees given for any Public institution or authority otherwise, then by, or under the authority of Legislature enactment.

BOTH THE EBOMAF financing agreement and the Eton US$536 million bring to nearly US$1 billion received as loan for road construction under the Weah-led government, just six months in office.

WE HOPE that President Weah and his advisors will not descend on the IMF as they have done on their own citizens, some critics and the media that have raised red flags on these loans.

A LOT IS RIDING on Liberia's future and too much is at stake for the country to reverse the gains made in the past few years.

AFTER A BLOODY civil war which sent thousands into exile, it is time for government to do all it can to restore economic sanity and ensure that those languishing at the bottom of the ladder feel a part of the government's pro-poor agenda amid rising costs of basic commodity and very little signal of a light at the end of the tunnel.

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