Liberia: Former NIC Boss Gives Economic Prescriptions

The former Chairman of the National Investment Commission (NIC) Dr. Q. Somah Paygai, stresses that in order to promote economic growth, the security of the state and its citizenry is fundamental to attract foreign investments, especially large scale that would see returns spread out over a long period.

Delivering the 17th convocation address of the Bethesda Christian Mission School (BCMS) in Paynesville, outside Monrovia, Dr. Paygai says Liberia needs comprehensive and fundamental changes in its tax system and structure to favor processing of local raw materials into finished products for exports.He notes that the global direction of the new structure of the country should be generally low tax on capital equipment and none on export of finished products.

Dr. Paygai, who currently serves Vice President for Administration of the faith-based African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) in Monrovia calls for an economic management policy.

"The structure and system for managing the economy must be overhauled to improve accountability, transparency and efficiency and make fiscal policies relevant and supportive of national economic and social development," he recommends and calls for new fiscal regime to move on.

On legal and regulatory framework, he emphasizes need to strengthen the judiciary both logistically and with additional people of strong integrity to provide for systematic, fair and expeditious disposal of cases Dr. Paygai, who served at helm of the NIC during the regime of jailed former President Charles G. Taylor, explains that the issue of fraud in government and economic sabotage must be addressed as an integral part of the overall reforms to restore confidence in government.

He observes current conditions and inadequacies in the country's infrastructure render most of the facilities unusable for economic and business activities.

However, he notes the development and maintenance of road networks and other public utilities such as sea and air ports have been the preserver of government.

According to him, most of these services and facilities were developed as natural monopolies since market conditions could not allow for acceptable financial returns on investments made in them, stressing that as improved technology and new ideas allow the participation of private investors, government should adopt appropriate strategies to encourage private investment in infrastructure development.

"In addition to privatization to varying degrees of some of the state-owned enterprises, Government should consider allowing private firms to construct alternative roads, bridges and charge users' fees. Private power sources in strategic economic zones could also be explored," he also recommends.

"The government reconciliation program is at the foundation of the internal peace and security we enjoy today. And the aggressive diplomatic and political drive over the last few months is bound to improve and restore good neighborliness with our Mano River & ECOWAS Member Countries and promote political stability and security in the entire West African region."

Dr. Paygai contested in the 2005 Presidential and Legislative Elections as Vice Standard Bearer of the former ruling National Patriotic Party. The NPP is now a member of President George Weah's governing Coalition for Democratic Change.

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