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Liberia’s debt hits over US$1.5bn

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-Pres. Weah announces

President George Manneh Weah has disclosed before the 54thLiberian Legislature that the country’s total stock of public debt at the end of 2020 is US$1.580 Billion. President Weah made the disclosure when he delivered his 4th Annual Message to members of the Liberian Legislature Monday, January 25, in the William Richard Tolbert Joint Chambers of the Capitol Building in Monrovia.

Mr. Weah said of this amount, domestic debt amounts to US$643.39 million, while external debt amounts to US$940.93 million.

He explained that at end December 2019, the total stock of public debt stood at $1.28 Billion US dollars, of which domestic debt amounted to $419.8 Million US dollars, while external debt amounted to $862.87 Million US dollars.

“This increase in domestic debt stock is mainly because of the restructuring and consolidation of the Government’s debt to the Central Bank of Liberia. It includes $170.63 Million US dollars that was contracted by the previous administration but never included in official debt statistics. This irregularity has now been corrected. The repayment on our domestic debt stock has been structured under the current IMF-supported economic program,” the Liberian chief executive said.

According to him, the government is now working to validate the stock of other domestic debt, and that while this work is ongoing, payments on domestic debt have commenced as a means of stimulating the economy. However, he said government remains committed to servicing domestic debt as a clear strategy toward stimulating growth.

Discussing the national budget of the country, Mr. Weah detailed that total revenue received for the fiscal year under review was US$653.9 million and the amount comprises US$475.5 million in domestic revenue and US$178.4 million in external resources from development partners.

According to him, total expenditure for the same period amounted to US$606 million, in the period under review, the Liberian Legislature recast the 2019/2020 National Budget twice: first to address perceived revenue challenges, and secondly to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the President, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Liberian government signed a Development Objective Grant Agreement of US$640 million that will be programmed to support various projects both government and the USAID will agree on as priority areas of need over the next five (5) years. These resources are supporting key sectors and will be critical to sustain growth, going forward.

He said during the period under review, a total amount of US$399 million was announced and committed to various projects as Official Development Assistance to the government and people of Liberia, and that additionally, US$178.6 million was received as total budget support, which came from both traditional and non-traditional partners, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the African Development Bank and the United States Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Weah told the legislature, the Liberian people and world that a major feature of the year under review was a support program which was approved by the International Monetary Fund.

He explained that in December 2019, a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies was signed with the IMF to address various issues of our macro economy and that the program aimed to transform fiscal and monetary policy and improve public sector governance.

President Weah said the first and second reviews of the program have now been concluded and results show that macroeconomic stability is being restored under the program and in approving the recent disbursement of US$48.8 million to the Liberian government under the IMF-supported program, the executive directors of the IMF praised the Government of Liberia for the effective measures that have been undertaken so far to transform fiscal and monetary policy and restore macroeconomic stability.

The President quoted the IMF Executive Directors as: “The Liberian authorities are committed to fiscal discipline and further improvements in cash management, transparency and accountability in spending, and domestic revenue mobilization to finance their development agenda. The monetary policy stance is appropriately aligned with the inflation objective, and significant progress has been made in strengthening central bank independence.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of low public confidence in the Central Bank of Liberia, and by extension the banking system, President Weah announced that the Board of Governors and management of the bank were re-constituted by him during the year under review and additionally, the Amended and Re-stated CBL Act of 1999, which was passed by the Liberian Legislature in October 2020, has strengthened the operational independence of the bank, and improved transparency and accountability in its operations.

By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne

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