President George Manneh Weah on Monday July 16, refused to walk down the pathway of many of his officials to blame the past administration for the nation’s current economic woes, rather he insists that he was well aware of the before contesting the presidency.
“We were very aware of these systemic problems when we decided to run for the high office of President of Liberia. And so, we are not surprised. And we are fully aware that we were elected with the expectation that we will solve these challenges. This is a task that we are now embarked upon with strong determination, focus, and commitment,” Mr. Weah said in a much awaited state of the nation’s address Monday, 16 July.
His shifting of the debate on the economic hardship here bore holes in arguments by some of his top officials, including House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and some of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) lawmakers who blame former President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf and her administration for the tough situation confronting the nation.
In the much publicized nationwide address Monday concerning the state of the economy, Mr. Weah rather chose to take responsibility, saying today’s situation is not to cast blame upon previous administrations but to find new and sustainable solutions to these age-old problems.
Mr. Weah reminds the nation and his supporters how in his first Annual Message he candidly described the poor state of affairs of the economy that his administration inherited, saying the economy was weak and under-performing.
According to him, government was facing solvency and liquidity challenges, and the currency was experiencing rapid and unprecedented depreciation, contributing to rising inflation here.
He recalls that unemployment was very high, and Liberia’s foreign reserves were at an all-time low.
“Today, five months later, it is not for us to complain about the bleak situation we inherited; or to cast blame upon previous administrations,” he urges.
Rather, he says it is a duty and responsibility of his government to find new and sustainable solutions to these age-old problems that have stubbornly defied solution in the past.According to President Weah, he is fully aware that he was elected with the expectation that he will solve these challenges.
“This is a task that we are now embarked upon with strong determination, focus, and commitment. As a first step in this direction, we have placed emphasis and urgency on the formulation of a comprehensive development strategy that will be supported by a strategic implementation plan,” he notes.
President Weah announces an immediate infusion of US$25m into the economy to mop up the excess liquidity of Liberian Dollars as part of a series of monetary and fiscal measures he thinks should help reverse the decline in the value of the local currency.
The local currency here has dramatically fallen against the US Dollars at a rate of LRD$162.00 to US$1.00, and it has immensely affected prices of goods in an economy that is mostly dependent on imports.
Mr. Weah said he had mandated to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to provide more effective supervision and regulation of money-changers or foreign exchange bureau.
His mandate comes in the wake of reported infusion of millions of Liberian Dollars counterfeit banknotes into the economy by a criminal syndicate here that extracts the few US Dollars from the market by exchanging counterfeits for high rates.
Mr. Weah mandates the CBL to provide more robust oversight of banks under its supervision and to conduct a comprehensive review of regulations on the hoarding of both Liberian and U.S. dollars outside the banking system.
He sated further that CBL provides incentives and safeguards to encourage the utilization of the banking system, including financial instruments.According to President Weah, since 2016 the Liberian Dollar has been on a consistent depreciating trend, while prices have been on an upward trend.
By December 2017, he recalls that the Liberian Dollar had depreciated by 25 percent and since January 2018, it has depreciated further by another 25 percent.
“This recent depreciation in the value of the Liberian Dollar has increased, inflation by 4 percentage points to 21 percent, from 17 percent back in February 2018,” he notes.
He says he is fully aware of the negative impact of the declining exchange rate on the economic well-being of the Liberian people, and the serious hardship that this is beginning to cause here.
“Let me assure you, that Government has resolved to take the necessary and urgent measures to address the situation,” he says.He tells citizens that while the fall in the prices of the nation’s traditional exports and the UNMIL drawdown have contributed significantly to this situation, government believes a stronger and more aggressive enforcement of monetary policy, along with the relevant fiscal instruments, should go a long way to partly address the problem.
As a first step in this direction, he says government has placed emphasis and urgency on the formulation of a comprehensive development strategy that will be supported by a strategic implementation plan.
According to him, the development strategy, to be known as the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, is nearing completion, and will very shortly be presented to all stakeholders, including foreign development partners, the private sector, and the general public, for consultation, input, and buy-in, before being finalized into a strategic implementation plan.
He adds that the development strategy and implementation plan will serve as a roadmap for the urgent and important next-steps to be taken in giving direction to the economic recovery, and will consist of short-term interventions, medium-term reforms, and long-term restructuring of the Liberian economy.
By Winston W. Parley