President George Manneh Weah says despite challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy grew by 3.6 percent from negative 3 percent in 2020.
He notes that growth this year is expected to hit 4.7 percent, through increased agricultural and public investments in social compact program, adding that in nominal value, the Liberian economy expanded by more than US$300 million in 2021 with inflation reduced to less than 6 percent in November 2021, from 13.1 percent in December 2020.
Addressing the 54th Liberian Legislature in joint assembly Monday, January 24th at the Capitol when he presented his economic agenda for 2022 and the state of the nation during the past year, said during the period under review, government succeeded in increasing gross international reserves to more than US$600 million, which represents more than four months of import of goods and services in compliance with ECOWAS convergence target.
“In our effort to extend the visibility of the Central Bank of Liberia beyond Monrovia, the Bank completed the construction of a modern cash hub in Gbarnga, Bong County, to provide more financial services for our people outside Monrovia, which was dedicated by me last month. The Bank is planning to commence the construction of an additional four (4) cash hubs in other rural areas of the country that will make it easy to access financial facilities”, the President discloses.
He continues that as part of the currency reform approved by the 54th National Legislature, the Central Bank of Liberia brought into the country the first consignment of banknotes totaling L$4.0 billion Liberian dollars in November 2021, out of the approved L$48.734 billion Liberian dollars being printed to mop up mutilated currency in the market.
He further disclose the second consignment is expected here this January, and that the first and second consignments are all denominated in 100 dollars bills, intended to respond to the liquidity demand in December of last year and to commence the replacement of mutilated banknotes respectively.
President Weah says bulk of the new currency, which will include coins, is expected in the second half of 2022, while the balance will be coming in 2024.
He notes that in compliance with the restriction of the Joint Resolution of the National Legislature, there will be no printing or delivery of the new currency in 2023, even though the exchange exercise will continue through 2023.
He says in the interest of transparency and credibility, the Central Bank of Liberia has ensured that the process is inclusive of the National Legislature, media community, the Liberian Marketing Association, the Liberia Business Association, traditional elders and youths, as well as international partners, including the IMF and Kroll through USAID.
President Weah explains that based on sound management and good performance of the economy, Liberia received $345.3 million in August 2021 under the general Special Drawing Rights allocation to IMF member countries.
The President reports that Liberia recently completed its Third Review under the IMF External Credit Facility, and the results show strong fiscal and monetary performance, quoting the Executive Directors of the IMF as noting the Liberian economy is on track to rebound strongly next year, following setback from COVID-19 pandemic and the medium-term outlook is favorable, as Liberian authorities are committed to the steadfast implementation of macroeconomic stabilization and structural reform program.
He says this positive review from the IMF was immediately followed by the disbursement of $23.64 million U.S. dollars to the Central Bank to add to the nation’s reserve stock.
“We have remained committed to the independence and autonomy of the Central Bank of Liberia in support of economic reforms for a stable economy. Although the year under review was challenging for the economy, my Government was fully supportive of policy implementations from the CBL that have kept the recovery of our economy on course”, President Weah tells members of the 54th Legislature.
Article 58 of the Constitution of Liberia mandates the President to, on the fourth working Monday in January of each year, present the administration’s legislative program for the ensuing session, and give the state of the Republic, covering expenditure and income; writes Jonathan Browne