President Weah: "We have hired the expertise of a world-renowned Asset Recovery firm to assist our local team to carry out a professional exercise to recover Liberia's wealth stolen over many decades."
Amid lack of support over the past two years to anti-graft institutions across the country, President George M. Weah says his administration will continue to intensify the fight against corruption, which remains prevalent in the country and continues to negatively impact growth and development.
President Weah made the statement yesterday, January 27, 2020, during his 3rd State of the Nation Address, while indicating that he believes the CDC-led government will succeed in the fight against corruption.
"Many believe this to be an unchangeable way of life here in Liberia. I think otherwise. I believe that we will succeed in our fight against corruption and will bring to justice relevant individuals and corporations who have and continue to defraud Liberia," President Weah said.
To this end, President Weah said, the government has hired the expertise of a world-renowned Asset Recovery firm to assist the local team carry out a professional exercise to recover Liberia's wealth stolen over many decades.
"Additionally, we will continue to show political will in the fight against waste and abuse of our national resources, as we have shown in recent times when a managing director and other high profile officials were dismissed, arrested and sent to court to vindicate themselves from accusations of corruption. There will be no sacred cows as we take stronger measures to end this societal menace," he said.
Since he took office, two of Liberia's leading anti-graft institutions, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and General Auditing Commission (GAC), have complained of a lack of support from President Weah in the against corruption.
President Weah said he plans to introduce new legislation to amend the law creating the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission, in order to give it more prosecutorial powers, "and we are working to improve our anti-money-laundering framework."
"To help spur the business climate this year, we will support and re-launch the National Judiciary Conference under the leadership of His Honor the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The aim of this conference is to allow the judiciary to play a significant role in business climate reforms," President Weah.
He said this can be done by reforming rules and legal processes and procedures that can increase the confidence of potential investors and the existing business community, as well as improve the ease of doing business in Liberia.
"The domestic debt profile given above does not include domestic debt owed to vendors and businesses who have supplied goods and services to the Government over the years. I am reliably informed that, as far back as 2006, the Government of Liberia conducted an audit of domestic debt owed to vendors. Yet, up to today, this situation remains unclear," he said.
According to President Weah, his Administration will conduct a new round of audits in 2020 to determine a rationalized and fully-reconciled domestic debt figure to complete our domestic debt profile.
"A payment framework will be developed after this reconciliation, which may include packaging the debt as a bond for issuance to local and international financial markets," he said.
16 financing agreements
President Weah further said "we were able to negotiate and sign 16 financing instruments with various development partners, amounting to nearly US$274.35 million. Approximately US$194 million of this amount are loans, and about US$79 million constitutes grants."
He continued: "These loans and grants are allocated as follows: US$125.1 million for road construction linking Barclayville to Sasstown, Voinjama to Konia, and Sanniquellie to Loguatuo; US$47 million for improving results in secondary education; US$28.95 million for improving urban water supply in Monrovia; US$71.8 million for improving agriculture; and US$6.5 million for youth empowerment and employment."
He said the government's public debt has increased, largely because the country has had to finance major infrastructure projects over the last several years.
President Weah said at the end of December 2019, the total stock of public debt amounted to US$1.27 billion. This represents an increase of US$282 million or 28.5 % of Liberia's debt stock, compared to the US$987.8 million recorded at the end of 2018.
President Weah: "Of the total debt stock, the share of domestic debt is US$419.8 million, while external debt accounts for US$849.99 million."
He said the increase in the debt stock was mainly driven by disbursements from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Saudi Development Fund, and other creditors, which totaled US$129.5 million. These were loans signed and ratified by the previous administration.
As part of the IMF-supported program, the Government of Liberia has now fully reconciled and rationalized all Government obligations to the Central Bank of Liberia. As of January 1, 2020, total government debt to the Central Bank of Liberia has been put at US$487 million.
2020, Year of Positive growth?
"With these foundations in place, we see no reason why the year 2020 cannot see positive growth. We will work with determination, vigor, and focus, to stabilize the macroeconomy, reduce inflation and put Liberians to work in agriculture and other key sectors," he said.
He said "I would now like to break with tradition, and respectfully beg your kind permission to allow me to speak directly to the Liberian people. I will assume that your silence means consent, and so I will proceed accordingly.
"it has been just over twenty-four months since you voted me and the Coalition for Democratic Change into office. Before that resounding victory, we were all out there together in the political wilderness, struggling for social justice, and for improvement in our economic conditions, improvement in our lives and livelihoods, and hoping for a brighter future for ourselves and our children.
It is against this backdrop of social injustice that I, out of my love and concern for my country and people, was motivated to present myself as a catalyst of hope, peace, and change, to lead a mass movement that would challenge the status quo, and become a voice for the voiceless, and offer hope to the hopeless.
It is out of these aspirations that 16 years ago, at 38 years of age, I was inspired to found the Liberia National Congress (LINC), which was later to become the Congress for Democratic Change, as a political movement, with the objective of challenging the existing political order PEACEFULLY, through the BALLOT BOX, in order to seek justice for the poor, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized in our society.
Together, we dreamed of the impossible dream, and after 12 years of NON-VIOLENT struggle, our dreams were realized. The rest is now a part of Liberian political history: the now Coalition for Democratic Change was swept into office by a landslide of 61.5% of the popular vote, decisively defeating the ruling party that had been in office for 12 years.