The West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), headquartered in Nigeria, has begun a five-day intensive training for financial and economic analysts drawn from The Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Participants include financial experts from Central Banks of these countries with others coming from autonomous agencies of the Liberian Government and the media.
A statement read on behalf of the Dr. Baba Y. Musa, Director General of WAIFEM, notes that the West African financial institution was founded by the above countries in 1996 and that, since it commenced operation, it has executed 700 courses at workshops or seminars, with 18,722 participants benefiting.
Its collaborating partners, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, Debt Relief International, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), are extolled by Dr. Musa for their efforts in ensuring that the goals and objectives for WAIFEM are achieved.
In addition to its many seminars regularly conducted, WAIFEM has begun an e-Learning program in Public Debt Management and the French Language.
The course in French, the statement from the Executive Director said, is meant to bridge the language gap with the Francophone countries while, at the same time, deepening the regional integration process. The e-Learning program in French would also build an understanding among the 15 countries of West Africa as they embark on the West African integration process that encompasses the use of a single currency and free movements of citizens in the region without visas.
In an opening remark, Central Bank of Liberia Governor, Nathaniel Patray described the workshop as "Useful" to officials of Liberia, acknowledging that most officials are not even aware of the existence of WAIFEM in West Africa.
Highlighting some economic constraints and progress in the Liberian economy, Governor Patray said in 2017 the Liberian economy was dominated by agriculture, forestry and fishing, which contributed 70.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the measurement of price and output by players in a nation's economy.
During this time, the CBL Governor said revenues increased moderately while public spending decreased; which consequently reduced in fiscal deficit to 3.9 % in 2018.
He also said the Liberian dollar depreciated by 24.5% against the US dollar in 2017 as against 27% in 2018 due to deteriorating terms of trade as well as high demand for foreign exchange needed for imports.
He further disclosed that inflation decreased slightly from 12.4% in 2017 to 11.7% in 2018 partly due to high "dollarization" which was about 70% of broad money. Additionally, Governor Patray said current account deficit marginally improved from 22.7% in 2017 to 22.4% in 2018 due to increase in gold production and modest recovery of commodity prices.
He said Liberia's gross foreign reserves also increased marginally to 3.6 months of imports at the end of June 2018 from 3.0 months of imports in 2017.
In order for Liberia to achieve positive economic outlook in 2019, Governor Patray said there will be modest growth in agriculture, fisheries and services. Concerning stabilization in the skyrocketed exchange rate between the Liberian and US dollars, the CBL Governor said "Efforts are being made to stabilize the exchange rate; prudent monetary and fiscal policies as well as measures to increase domestic food production are also undertaken."
Patray emphasized that the financial markets in most countries in West Africa are at rudimentary stages of development and, therefore, small in size and weak; citing Liberian as an example where various administrations have made efforts at financial system reconstruction in the post-war era.
He said the presence of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and operation of mobile money in Liberia is signaling improvement in the financial market.
The workshop is designed to cover a number of key topics such as; Review of Basic Macroeconomic Model, designing monetary and fiscal policies; coordination of monetary and fiscal policies; interrelationships among the Macroeconomic sectors; hands-on analysis and reporting on a budget, and concepts, and structure and preparation amongst others.