Veteran Liberian Economist, Former Finance Minister Byron Tarr Dies

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Monrovia – Dr. Stephen Byron Tarr, a veteran economist and former Minister of Planning and Finance, in Liberia has died. Dr. Tarr died late Saturday night after a prolong illness at a local hospital.

Regarded as one of the brightest economists in Liberia, Dr. Tarr has often been called upon to offer his input on the state of the local economy. 

Early this year, the Senate has constituted an independent Economic Review and Advisory Panel to research Liberia’s economic conditions and make recommendations for that body’s consideration and tapped on Dr. Tarr’s expertise to come up with ideas to improve the nation’s economic situation and the harsh economic conditions being experienced by the people. 

Never know to shy away from controversy, Dr. Tarr ruffled feathers in June 11, 1990 when he penned a stinging letter to now President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. 

Probably the most brilliant intellect of our generation, Dr. Tarr, a founding member of the Liberian Action Party, wrote: 

Dear Ellen, most of what appears below was written on June 8. I decided to forward the thoughts to you–after our telephone discussion Sunday–because specific names are not as important as the reasoning (or failure to reason) which might have influenced selection. 

After reflecting on our discussion, your question, about my plans–whether I would remain in LAP or join LPP–I become much troubled. Here are some of the things that trouble me. 

Is there an element or group perceiving itself as purer LAP than others? 

If the little view of politics–exclusion–is maintained, it might be that a contest for the soul or core or LAP–which really is a phantom–is undertaken.  I would guess that with the sting gone out of the code “socialists or communists”, LAP could easily be split up, and of course UPP would reap all the benefits from such a split.” 

He went on to write: “Let us not forget that (a) tribalism and violence have been introduced into Liberian politics.

The implications for this development, whatever one perceives them to be, require a careful approach to any post-Doe political activities. (B) Doe’s excesses notwithstanding, the problems associated with and arising from Montserrado domination of Liberia which inspired the democracy movement in the 1970s must not be brought back, or ignored, (C) Even if the expression, in terms of logic, is nonsensical, that the soul of LAP is a phantom should be clear. 

In 1985 and after, a not insignificant share of the party’s achievements was due to cooperation with those present at the creation of LAP.” 

Dr. Tarr was born December 22, 1943 at Kparaduah, Gianda Clan, #4 Chiefdom, in Grand Bassa County.

He was educated at Cuttington College (now University) with a B.A. in economics, 1966, the University of Illinois (M.A., 1970; Ph.D., 1972/economics). Professional and governmental engagements include: administrative assistant to the Special Commission on Government Operations/SCOGO (1967-68); Assistant, later Deputy Minister of Finance for revenues (1972-75); transnational corporations affairs officer at the United Nations, New York (1975-77); comptroller-general for public corporations (1977-80); and founder partner, Development Consultants. 

Dr. Tarr left his private business briefly to serve as minister of planning and economic affairs in the People’s Redemption Council government (September 1981-June 1982).

He also served as Finance Minister (1990-92) in the Interim Government of National Unity.

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