While Liberians are yawning in a broke economy, governors at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) seem to be in joy as reports reaching The New Dawn say governors at the CBL took home US 300,000 each as car loan in December 2017 under the of Executive Governor Milton A. Weeks.
Inside sources say the amount was dished out to senior bank officials just about the time President George Manneh Weah was preparing to take office as the 24th elected President of Liberia.
CBL’s head of Communication Mr. Cyrus Badio defended the governor’s action on Wednesday saying the CBL has in place a car loan scheme under which the employees can request loan.
“CBL, like other entities, has in place a car loan scheme under which employees can request a loan, which if approved can be secured with payment terms spelt out,” Mr. Badio said in an email response to the New Dawn on Wednesday February.
This was after several calls placed in to the CBL Communication Manager, by the receptionist at the desk but received no response. “This man is hard to respond to call”, a female receptionist remarks.
Governors of the CBL were said to be locked in a serious meeting during several visits there this week by this paper in an effort to verify the information.
News of what is being dubbed as a “car loan bonanza” at the Central Bank comes amid serious financial squeeze being experienced in the economy since the October 10, 2017 Presidential and Representative Elections and the subsequent December 26 runoff presidential poll characterized by barrage of legal actions against results of the first round of polling.
In his first Annual Message to the 54th Liberian Legislature delivered in January, President George Weah announced that the economy is in poor condition, beset by among others, walloping unemployment, rapid depreciation of the Liberian dollar against the United States dollar, which is currently between 131 and 132LRD to $1.00 in the forex market and salary arrears running up to two months, among others.
In the State of the Economy Report dated 27 December 2017 CBL Governor 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.
He stresses that “key prospects to attaining low levels of inflation over the medium term are hinged on the stability of the Liberian dollar, the level of domestic food production, improved access to markets, the behavior of international oil and food prices, Government tax policies on key commodities, and greater certainty in the political climate during and after elections in order to boost investors’ confidence.”
In short, the government is reportedly broke, but former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disagrees, as she told the BBC on Tuesday, 13 February that her left behind reserves of US$150m.
She urges Liberia’s new Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweh, to follow the necessary papers in order to get his figures correct.
Madam Sirleaf, who recently won a US$5m Mo Ibrahim prize for African Leadership, however says she is not aware how over US$449m left Liberia thru remittances, calling on Executive Governor Weeks to provide sources for the money.
In his response to former President Sirleaf’s statement Mr. Badio said Regarding ex-President Sirleaf’s assertion on remittances, outward remittances in 2017 amounted to US $449.41 million, compared to inward remittances which amounted to US$545.78 million, covering the same period. The transfers, it is important to note, were personal remittances done within the framework of the banking system.
By Jonathan Browne