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The economy needs urgent revival

The Liberian economy is rapidly deteriorating under the Weah administration much
earlier than expected, pushing ordinary Liberians tightly to the margins of society,
as prices of basic commodities, including food, petroleum products and the exchange
rate keep rising.

The French-owned petroleum importer and distributor, TOTAL, is scaling down from the
counties, while the price for a gallon of gasoline in Monrovia has jumped from 540
Liberian Dollars to 700 LRD, amid suspected artificial shortage characterized by
hike in transport fares.

Immediately after taking office in January, President George Manneh Weah announced
that he inherited a broke economy amid rising inflation, primarily as a result of
the soaring exchange rate. In June, the President constituted an economic management
team to help salvage the economy. The team is comprised of technicians from the
Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Ministry of State for Presidential
Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Central Bank of Liberia,
among others.

The Government thru the Central Bank had announced it was releasing US$25 million
into the financial market to mop up excess liquidity in the economy in a bid to
offset the exchange rate, officially setting the rate at 150 Liberian Dollars for
one United States Dollar. But these initial steps have yielded no tangible impact,
as the current rate in the forex market is between 156 and 160 Liberian Dollars for
one U.S. Dollar.

Last week, the President again constituted another economic team, the Business
Climate Working Group to identify quick “low-hanging fruits” in the business climate
and deliver them in the shortest possible time, accompanied by an action plan.

However, Liberians are becoming skeptical, particularly so when previous
interventions by the current administration brought no relief, as the soaring
exchange rate and prices still persist amid elaborate lavish lifestyle by government
officials, some of whom have adapted a habit of buying expensive cars and houses,
costing hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars less than 12 months in a
government that professes to be for the poor people.

These challenges are being further compounded by news of the alleged disappearance
of “containers and bags of moneys” or newly printed Liberian banknotes, totally
about US$15.5 billion LRD from the Freeport of Monrovia. The Government of Liberia
is probing issue surrounding the missing moneys alongside assistance by the
Government of the United States to get the facts.

We are wondering whether the Business Climate Working Group would produce any
tangible gains in improving the general business climate in the country to impact
citizens’ lives as the Weah administration ends one year in office.

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President Weah may have good intentions for the citizenry, but he seems to be
chewing too much than he can swallow, breaking grounds here and there for roads and
other constructions despite serious lack of funds.

We believe it is not the amount of committees or projects announced that matters, but tangible results that impact lives of the people. The government can’t claim it is in financial squeeze, while its officials, including the President himself, are on purchasing spree and massive renovation of private properties, barely nine months in office.

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The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by Searchlight Communications Inc. Established on November 16, 2009, with its first hard copy publication on January 22, 2010. The office is located on UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is bilingual (both English & French).
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