The Central Bank of Liberia or CBL clarifies that the over US$449 million reported between November 2016 and October 2017 as outward personal remittance comprised all transfers in cash made by residents to non-residents and transfers between resident and non-resident individuals on one hand, while on the other, it also comprised transfers of income of border, seasonal, and other short-term workers who are employed in the economy where they are not resident. “It is the total of all monies remitted through Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria (another money transfer operator) and via SWIFT by individuals and/or businesses to the rest of the world”, a press release from the CBL says.
In the State of the Economy Report dated 27 December 2017 CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks reported that over US$449.41m left the country in personal remittances during the period November 2016 to October, 2017, while inward remittances for the same period recorded US$545.78 from 588.46 in November, 2016 to October, 2017, showing a 70.9 percent decline.
“For the 12-month period ended-October, 2017 (i.e. November, 2016 – October, 2017) as compared with the period ended October 2016 (i.e. November, 2015- October, 2016) the trend of personal remittances suggests a 70.9 percent decline in net inward personal remittances largely driven by substantial increase in outward personal remittances during the current period”, says the Executive Governor.
The Bank notes that reporting that there was US$449.41 in outward personal remittance in 2017 does not in any way suggest that the money was transmitted directly from the CBL or transmitted to unidentified foreign accounts, saying, “The CBL wishes to emphasize that the sources of the monies that were remitted were not from the Central Bank of Liberia. In addition, nowhere in the CBL publication does the issue of unidentified foreign accounts arise.”
The release says for the calendar year 2017 (i.e. January-December, 2017), provisional statistics show that the total outflows of personal remittances amounted to US$445.3 million, which about 31.5 percent was transferred through Money Transfer Operators (i.e. Western Union, MoneyGram, and RIA) while the remaining 68.5 percent were through banks using SWIFT.
Most of the SWIFT transactions (which constituted 68.5 percent of the total outflows) were carried out by businesses engaged in construction activities, rice and frozen food importation, auto parts, supermarkets and trading businesses, among others.
The CBL notes that over the last two years, preceding the elections period, the total outflows of personal remittances grew from US$293.4 million in 2015 to US$304.6 million in 2016, and that the growth in total outflow in 2017 largely reflects responses within the economy to uncertainty that may have been associated with the then impending elections.
“Where there is uncertainty, there will be outflow of funds. It is important, however, to once again emphasize that the total outflow of remittances mentioned is an aggregate of personal remittances from various sources and NOT transfers made by officials of Government or to unknown accounts as is being wrongly perceived.”
The CBL says it welcomes public scrutiny, especially from the media, but this must be done in good faith. The clarification by the Bank followed after former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently said in a BBC interview that she is not aware how over US$449m left Liberia thru remittances, calling on Executive Governor Weeks to provide sources for the money. Press Release