Liberia: Pres. Weah Vows Efforts to Improve Investment, Business Climate

Monrovia — President George Manneh Weah, has emphasized the importance of overhauling the Liberian business and investment climate as the surest way in fighting poverty and sustaining national growth.

He said in addition to policy measures put into place in easing challenges faced by investors and businesspeople in Liberia since his leadership, he was poised to ramp up efforts to completely overhaul the processes involved in starting and maintaining a business and simplifying them.

"I will shortly appoint a high-level Cabinet sub-committee on the investment and business climate," the President promised as he delivered a statement during the ongoing Judiciary Conference Thursday, June 10, in Congo Town.

"This Committee will be chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and will include the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Liberia Revenue Authority, the National Investment Commission, the Liberia Business Registry, the Liberia Electricity Corporation and other agencies as may be necessary," he said.

The Liberian Chief Executive said the cabinet sub-committee will be tasked to present a roadmap after this Judiciary Conference that will track the recommended actions and changes needed for improvement and that the Committee would present a report in six months to show credible progress on the business climate in a range of areas.

Speaking further on the matter, the President asserted: "Mr. Chief Justice, you will agree with me that if we make it difficult for businesses to register, to get electricity, or to pay their taxes, we affect the economy. If businesses cannot get timely legal redress from the courts, or if contracts cannot be effectively or fairly enforced, we affect the investment climate. If commercial banks cannot enforce judgment on collateral when people default on their loans, these banks may not be able lend money into our economy."

Dr. Weah therefore called on the Liberian Judiciary to join ranks with other branches of Government to re-brand Liberia through impressive reforms and actions affecting the business climate, adding: "I have no doubt that this Conference will contribute meaningfully toward this end."

He said if the law is the problem, "Then let us reform the law. If processes and systems are the problem, let us change those processes. If the lack of funding is a problem, let us find ways to provide more resources. If certain people are the problem because, for selfish motives, they stand in the way of fair and transparent processes, then let us kick those people out of our systems to improve our investment and business climate."

President Weah said rebranding the business and investment climate is of urgent necessity if the country is to be on par with countries with better business and investment climate outlooks.

Liberia ranks 175 out of 190 countries, the President observed, adding that neighboring Sierra Leone ranks 163 out of 190, and that Cote d'Ivoire, another neighbor of Liberia, ranks 118 out of 190 countries.

The President said "this indicates that we as a Government and country have some serious work to do."

He said the National Judiciary Conference provides greater opportunity for the Judiciary to look at its contribution to changing these numbers through the application of the law, in key areas such as enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, and getting credit.

Though the Executive and Legislative branches have huge roles to play in driving the business and investment climate, the President thinks the Judicial Branch is critical in the realization of this goal.

He said: "And so to say that Liberia is a just society, we do not turn to the Executive Branch of Government, neither do we turn to the Legislative Branch of Government. Only one branch of Government holds the key to people's and institutions' perception and sense of justice in Liberia. That branch is the Judiciary branch of Government."

According to him, Liberia's business and investment climate has been a subject of great importance in recent years, and that government's drive to provide jobs for the people and to grow the economy by increasing the flow of both domestic and private investments are all dependent on the structure of our business climate.

"That very structure depends on the body of laws and policies which we have in place to regulate the free flow of investments and commerce, the process and time it takes to resolve legal disputes arising from the application of these laws, and the sense or perception of justice that arises from this adjudication process," the Liberian leader declared.

He informed the gathering of lawyers that his government has been concerned with how to structure business and investment climate he took office in 2018.

President Weah recalled that the government in October 2018 established a Business Climate Working Group to look into ways of improving the business climate in Liberia, thus resulting into holding series of workshops and meetings across the Government and with Development Partners after which they were able to identify key challenges affecting the business climate and opportunities for improving it.

"These challenges are largely summarized by the World Bank's Doing Business Indicators, which include indicators such as: starting a business, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, registering property, protecting minority investors, trading across border, and resolving insolvency," the Liberian leader noted.

President Weah however used the occasion to remind the Chief Justice, Associate Justices, counselors and lawyers of the powers they hold in Liberia's democracy and over the people, saying that he is impressed that they have chosen to assess the impact of this power on "our national polity and economy through this Judiciary Conference."

"It is also commendable that, on this Fourth day of the conference, you have also chosen to specifically assess how this power may be impacting businesses, corporations and investors," the Chief Executive asserted.

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