Liberia’s Economic Dialogue Recommendations – Let’s Do it Right
LIBERIA IS AT a critical crossroad again, after a decade-long period of post-conflict stabilization efforts exerted by our international development partners and a committed Liberian leadership, aimed at steering the country from the socioeconomic hellhole created by 14 years of uncivil war, coupled with the devastating effects of the Ebola virus disease and a global economic meltdown.
IT IS NO gainsaying that President George Weah inherited from his predecessor Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf an economy teetering towards recession due to these aforementioned factors. But it would be equally foolhardy to believe that this government, despite all of its vastly inherited economic imbalances, could not have put into place sound monetary and fiscal disciplinary measures to absorb these reverberating shocks.
THE CASE OF the US$25 million infused by this government to accordingly cushion the galloping United States currency rate against our free-falling Liberian dollar always comes to mind whenever this issue crops up. When President Weah took over our national leadership, the exchange rate stood at LD130 to $1United States Dollar. Right after the President appointed his economic management team (EMT) to address the failing economy; and right after the EMT started infusing monies into the economy – not through credible banking institutions, but through dubious sidewalk money exchangers, the Liberian dollar dropped as never before. Today, the rate fluctuates between LD210-LD212 against one United States Dollar.
IN THE MIDST of our local currency’s freefall against the United States Dollar, commodity prices continue to increase on a daily basis. Parents, especially mothers who have turned into sole bread winners for their families due to the harsh economic conditions, might likely not be able to send their kids to school this academic term.
OF COURSE, SOME would argue that this government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) is geared towards empowering ALL Liberians, especially those who were denied livelihood opportunities under past regimes. As a result, the current administration has seemingly resorted to bloating its payroll to accommodate stalwarts of the ruling establishment without considering the economic ramifications. As it stands, government wage bill, which falls under recurrent expenditure within our National Budget, far exceeds those of the country’s immediate past administration which had won the goodwill of its international partners at the time.
IT IS IN the midst of these confusing economic conundrums that President Weah recently called for an economic dialogue comprising our international development partners, Liberian economic experts and concerned citizens – to brainstorm on the way forward in getting us out of this fast-sinking economic quicksand.
THE SEPTEMBER 4-6, 2019 NATIONAL Economic Dialogue at the newly dedicated Ministerial Complex in Congo town ended with participants proffering tons of recommendations to the government of Liberia for prompt implementation.
WE ARE EXCEEDINGLY glad that President Weah has already started to act on some of the recommendations due to what we are witnessing over the past week. Apart from striving to follow best practices outlined for appointing staff into tenured positions, President Weah has now submitted to the Legislature the people’s recommendation for the establishment of the War and Economic Crimes Court for Liberia.
- PRESIDENT, WE are happy you have now seen the light, just as those who came out of Plato’s dungeon. But we feel you have to go a step further.
LIBERIANS REVERTED AGAINST their own constitution in 1980, 1989 and subsequently not because they actually loathed their national leaders for any personal reasons. Liberians short circuited their constitutional responsibilities mainly because they felt deprived from partaking in the national cake. Let no one tell you otherwise. The same people that popularly voted for you in 2017 will vote for you in 2023 once you are doing the right things. The people recently kicked the ruling Coalition (especially the Congress for Democratic Change) out of Montserrado’s senatorial seat just to let this government know they are not happy with how things are going on with their lives. No amount of “Never Again Montserrado” will change the people’s negative perception, except when this government does the right thing. And what are those right things?
MORE THAN ANYTHING else, ordinary Liberians, we mean the bulk of those who voted President Weah and his Coalition into power, feel they are deprived of participating in the national decision-making processes. They are not feeling anything good about the economy – except the dregs, while those whom they elected are enjoying.
IN SHORT, THIS government must do everything possible to make things right. Even if it means firing your entire economic management team and bringing in men and women of repute who will lead us to the Promised Land, do it, Mr. President.
WE KNOW THAT the tenure of the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia is up. We’ve heard that he will be retired on his birthday, following which a new governor will be announced.
The next Central Bank Governor is equally important to our economic stabilization. We cannot have a ruling party stalwart of the CBL whose mandate runs contrary to his/her Terms of Reference, but rather, to appease the ruling establishment. If the next CBL governor has such vision, then our economy will remain doomed.
IN ANY CASE, over the next few days, the preceding months and so forth, we expect that this government will abide by all of the terms of the Economic Dialogue recommendations. If we must change the ugly course of our history which seems to be wanting to repeat itself, we have to learn to do things differently this time around in order not to be seen as expecting new results from repeating the same past errors.