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The IMF report on Liberia

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The Executive Board of the International Monitory Fund published a gloomy report on the Liberian economy, noting that near- and medium-term outlook under the baseline scenario is challenging for the country, and growth is projected to slow further to about 0.4 percent in 2019 and remain below 2 percent into the medium-term.
The assessment report published Tuesday, 11 June by the Board of Directors in line with Article IV Consultation with Liberia,

The Executive Board of Directors emphasizes that significant fiscal adjustment is needed going forward, recommending that efforts should focus on mobilizing domestic revenue and rationalizing spending, especially the wage bill, while securing needed space for social and capital spending.

We believe here lies some of the key problems affecting the economy that is already in recession rationalization of speeding and the wage bill. Since the governing Coalition for Democratic Change came to power a year ago, it has bloated the wage bill from 40,000 to about 53,000 or more, with partisans clustering public offices.

At the same time, President George Manneh Weah continues to make grandeur foreign travels characterized by huge entourage at the expense of the bleeding economy. Even worse, some insensitive members of the President’s cabinet such as the Minister of Finance is in the business of upgrading his air ticket from business class to executive suite, and wants us to believe it is at personal expense, which is very unprecedented for a government official traveling on state duty.

This is a stab in the back for a post-conflict country that still remains fragile with weak capacity and limited physical and human capital accumulation.

The IMF calls on Liberian authorities to formulate realistic budgets and to implement a sound borrowing plan that ensures debt sustainability, while cautioning against in engaging in non-concessional borrowing, including progress in public financial management reforms to improve the quality of spending in a resource-constrained environment such as ours.

The Executive Directors stress the need to stamp out corruption in the administration, but how can the Weah administration be sincere in fighting corruption when all anti-graft institutions of the government are virtually paralyzed due to lack of support?

We view the IMF assessment report as a wakeup call to the government especially, following the recent mass protest in the streets by disenchanted Liberians both at home and abroad to demand reforms.

President Weah is seeking roundtable with various Liberian groups on the economy. We think the IMF assessment presents a clear picture of the depth of the problems besides concerns already raised by protesters. The President has a lot on his plate to address. What is needed is sincerity from all sides.

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