Liberia: Nepotism Creeping Into Central? Governor Promises Members of His Ethnic Group Employment With the Bank

Monrovia — Mr. J. Alloysius Tarlue, Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), believes his ascendancy to the position is not based on his educational background, rather because he is a member of the Khran ethnic group.

"When I was in America, the people of Grand Gedeh fought from 2005 to today for this President and because of what they have done, that's why I stand on their shoulder today. So, my presence here today is not because of anything I know, it's because of the struggle my people have done, the incarceration my people went through - I appreciate that, I know that and I'll work hard to make sure that I make Grand Gedeh proud so that another son of Grand Gedeh can occupy that space tomorrow," he said.

He made the statement during the weekend at a program organized by citizens hailing from Grand Gedeh County to honor President George Weah for the preferment of Mr. Tarlue as Executive Governor of the CBL.

Governor Tarlue: "Since I came from the States, I've never met Grand Gedeans in this kind of gathering... My fellow Grand Gedeans, I'm talking to you now, the perception about us out there [is] we're warmongers. We're not. We are peace-loving people, we're good people, we want to see the best of every Liberian, so I thank you all for the struggle but the struggle continues, the struggle doesn't stop.

Tarlue: "I see the war"

"As I go the Central Bank, there would be a lot of obstacles, there's an entrenched system - people been there for a long time and we have to break that clique in the system. If there's any of our people [Grand Gedeans] who are educated, we'll try to bring some of our people on board and we'll also try to bring all Liberians on board because it's the Central Bank of Liberia.

Tarlue's pronounced plan to employ members of his ethnic group at the CBL is tantamount to nepotism. The National Code of Conduct defines "nepotism as when a public official appoints, employs, promotes, or recommends for advancement family members in any agency of Government or branch of Government in which he/she works".

Mr. Tarlue was inducted as Executive Governor of the Central Bank in December 2019 after the resignation of Mr. Nathaniel R. Patray, III, who controversially resigned in October last year.

He said he anticipates resistance at the Bank but said he would stop at nothing to ensure that the clique within the Bank is broken.

"With all the support you're giving me, I see the war on Facebook. My name is Tarlue, I'm not Cooper, I'm not Dennis... so I see the war but I think sometimes God makes us strong for the fight and we'll work so hard for that," he said.

Employment Amid Austerity?

His decision to bring educated Grand Gedeans on board at the CBL comes in the wake of efforts being exerted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reform and restore confidence and independence in the CBL and the banking sector.

It can be recalled that despite strong caution from the IMF for the government to slash a massive wage bill, former Executive Governor Patray reportedly hired close to three hundred new workers between May and August 2019.

International stakeholders have complained that decline in grants and external assistance, has prompted Liberia's wage bill, which accounts for two-thirds of government spending, to no longer be a tenable situation.

In November 2019, FrontPageAfrica reported that some 400 staff of the CBL were scheduled to be laid off in compliance with the IMF request to slice the wage bill.

However, debunking the report, the CBL said like other public sector organizations, it was implementing an austerity program that will qualify the Government of Liberia for an IMF-Supported Program, which is critical to the country's economic recovery in the medium term. "However, nowhere is CBL planning to lay-off more than half of its entire human resources. Admittedly, the current level of CBL staffing is unsustainable, but the final figure, which is yet to be decided by the Board of Governors, is not likely to exceed 10% of its wage bill and that most of the expectedly redundant staff could be considered under a contractual arrangement."

While the ongoing negotiation is in an advanced stage, the Bank said there are still issues to be concluded between the IMF staff and the Government, of which the CBL is an important player.

The CBL averred: "The austerity program that CBL is currently implementing was necessitated by several years of deficit financing, going as far back as several past administrations. More than this, CBL austerity program involves more than just laying off staff. It also includes other components of the budget. It is important to also note that the proposed budget cut of the Bank is intended to strengthen the financial position of the Bank to enable it effectively perform its primary function of ensuring both monetary and financial stability."

Time to tighten up

The IMF had previously urged the CBL to significantly tighten monetary policy to reduce the inflation that was eroding the living standards of the poorest Liberians while taking strong measures to safeguard financial sector stability.

In addition, the IMF Executive Directors in October noted that Liberia was facing major economic challenges and emphasized the need for steadfast and well-sequenced policies and structural reforms, as these were essential to regaining macroeconomic stability and promoting high, sustainable, and inclusive growth.

The directors emphasized that significant fiscal adjustment was needed going forward, including by mobilizing additional domestic revenue and rationalizing spending, especially in the wage bill, while securing needed fiscal space for social and capital spending. They also called for further progress in public financial management reforms to improve the quality of spending in a resource-constrained environment, and for improvements in the business environment to attract high-quality, growth expanding investment.

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