The outbreak of the tropical deadly Ebola Virus Disease or EVD had far reaching and exponential consequences on all sectors of the countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) affected by the crisis and the wider West African sub-region.
Within the space of less than six months, the Liberian economy whose real GDP was projected at 5.9 percent for 2014, with repeated revised estimates downwards, sinking to negative growth, was in a state of near collapse.
Though new estimates point to slower growth of about 0.7 per cent in 2014 and 0.9 per cent in 2015, the consequences has been truly profound. For the size of the three sub regional economies this has been quite alarming.
The drastic decline, according to the IMF and World, was largely due to drop in agricultural production particularly domestic food production, mining activities as well as activities in the service sector.
Besides the over 11,000 lives that were lost, the prices of basic commodities hit an all-time high, with drastic decline in cross-border trade, restriction on movement of people, goods and services, and rising insurance costs, contriving to place the economies of the affected countries in abyss.
Concessions companies scaled down their operations as expatriates fled the Country for fear of contracting the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, thereby resulting to a loss in income for our citizens.
Amid these scaring happenings, the Economic Management Team of the Liberian government introduced sweeping austerity measures to avert the impact.
The measures included maintaining an ongoing program of foreign exchange infusion to help stabilize exchange rate, a measure that saw inflation tackled to a large extent with prices remaining constant in spite of the economic downturn.
Further measures included relaxing tariffs on essential goods and services in order to avoid shortage of supply, particularly during the peak of the crisis.
From a public expenditure point of view, the reduction in expenditure on the so-called non-essential spending items through reduced foreign travels for officials; cuts in the line ministries and agencies operational budgets on fuel, recharge cards and consumables.
As economic activities starts to recover just on the heels of the cessation of the epidemic, the fiscal authorities is said to be reporting better budget performance in the third quarter of the current fiscal year, with the overall fiscal balance through end-March 2015 recording surplus of US$ 27 million or 1.3 percent of projected FY 2015 GDP.
Although all is not rosy, credit is due to the Government and people of the Republic of Liberia, as well as bilateral partners for their joint efforts in tackling the outbreak and ensuring the country eradicated this deadly virus.
However, we must also acknowledge the efforts of the Government’s Economic Management Team comprising the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Central Bank of Liberia for putting aside their recent bitter past and working together to avert a potential meltdown.
It is our considered opinion that both entities must continue to work together, learning from the experience in handling the Ebola crisis and bringing that experience to bear in the post-Ebola recovery phase.
It is also crucial, for the fiscal management team to pay attention to the various sectors of the economy that were hit the hardest as a result of the crisis and device ways and means of resuscitating them.
This collective partnership between both the CBL and MFDP and their respective leaders must be acknowledged. We sincerely hope that this partnership is continued to ensure that the country’s fragile economy is once more gain its footing for a steady economic growth during this post EVD period.