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Weah rejects illegal arrest claims

Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah rejects suggestions by his predecessor Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that her son, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Charles E. Sirleaf, was unjustifiably and illegally arrested for his alleged role in the LRD$16bn scandal.

“As you are all aware, those prosecutions are ongoing through the Liberian legal system, under due process of law. No one has been arrested illegally, or detained unjustifiably, in connection with these trials. I hereby pledge to ensure that the trials will continue until the courts of Liberia issue final verdicts in this matter,” President Weah said Wednesday, 29 May in a nationwide address.

In a nationwide address delivered here just a little over a week to the commencement of the much publicized June 7 protest to demand reforms, President Weah says prosecution of officials and employees of the Central Bank of Liberia whose duty and official responsibility it was to manage the printing and delivery of Liberian dollar banknotes has commenced and is ongoing.

He argues that government’s action against the CBL officials followed submission of two separate investigative reports by the Presidential Investigative Team (PIT) international audit firm, Kroll Associates, hired by the United States Government to ensure an independent view.

President Weah’s government is prosecuting five CBL officials including Mr. Sirleaf, former CBL Executive Governor Milton Weeks, DorborHagba, Joseph Dennis and Richard Walker for their alleged roles in the $16bn scandal, pressing the defendants to account for alleged 2.6 billion plus Liberian Dollars and over US$800,000.

In relations to suggestions that alleged $16bn Liberian Dollars went missing, President Weah explains that the two separate investigative reports found that no money was missing, adding that LRD$15.5 billion was delivered to the Central Bank while additional excess amounts could not be accounted for.

In addressing the economic crisis here, President Weah informs the nation that Liberia is no longer receiving the emergency aid that came in the years after war, and large grants from its multilateral partners have also dried up.Further, he laments that the amount of remittances Liberia receives from abroad in US dollars has also declined.

“All of these realities complicate our macroeconomic situation. The sudden drop in US dollar inflows puts pressure on the economy, and devalues the Liberian dollar, moving prices upward,” he adds.

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According to him, the macroeconomic policies Liberia has today are policies tailored to the time that it had free inflows of United States dollars.But he discloses that his government is now changing these policies to reflect the economic realities of today.

President assures Liberians that he is aware of the difficulties and hardships that the rising exchange rate is causing the citizenry, and the effect it is having on prices of all goods and commodities in the market.“I am deeply concerned about these issues, and I am working day and night to resolve them,” he says.

As part of efforts to stabilize the economy, President Weah announces that government is delivering a new and improved fiscal policy that will be announced with the passage of a credible national budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

In the last several years, he explains that government has passed a budget that exceeds the country’s revenue potential. But he notes that government is now working together with counterparts in the other branches of Government to pass a realistic budget.

According to him, government’s actions will involve reform of its large wage bill; rationalizing Government spending to put more resources to critical sectors like health, education and agriculture; improving the way Government makes payments to Government entities and vendors who supply the Government with goods and services; and some actions on domestic arrears that the Government owes local vendors as a stimulus to the economy.

On the monetary front, President Weah announces that government is taking actions to instill greater confidence in the Central Bank of Liberia and the banking sector at large.

He adds that the integrity and independence of the Central Bank will be assured and protected under his administration, and this resolve will be critical in the years ahead.

In this regard, President Weah vows that the Government of Liberia, under his leadership will no longer borrow from the Central Bank of Liberia for its short-term liquidity needs.

For monetary policy to work, he believes that Liberians must develop confidence in the banking sector.President Weah suggests that today, most of the Liberian dollars in the economy here is outside the banking sector.

“We are shortly going to announce new policy initiatives that should increase the confidence of Liberians in the Liberian dollar. These policies will provide strong incentives for Liberians to keep their money in the bank and for commercial banks to invest more in the Liberian dollar economy,” President Weah announces.By Winston W. Parley

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