MONROVIA – Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah said the government of Liberia is now operating a stable economy, with evidence of a drop in inflation rate and a decrease in prices of commodities.
In an interactive forum on Wednesday at the ‘Center for the Exchange of Intellectual Opinions (CEIO) on Carey street, Monrovia, Minister Tweah said data from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) show inflation has dropped to 8% along with prices of goods and services.
On the back of such success, he said the foreign exchange rate is now stable and the country is now on the right path to prosper, despite the scourge of COVID-19.
“The trajectory we on today is stable, predictable and we can say the state of the economy is safe and sound under President George Weah,” he said.
He said the Weah-led government inherited a messy economy which degenerated into a 30% inflation rate. The reason, he said was due to the past government’s incessant credit from the CBL. To curb the situation, he noted that the current government has decided not to credit from the CBL in the wake of a shortage of money.
He credited the government’s ‘success’ to its salary harmonization program. Under the scheme, he said the government’s workers are now being paid on an equitable basis, and the wage bill has been reduced significantly.
In order to enroll in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) credit program, the government took several fiscal measures. One of them was the reduction of its huge wage bill (90% of the fiscal budget) through the enactment of the National Remuneration and Standardization Act of 2019, which aimed to standardize pay and benefits across all three branches of government.
He said in the past administration, most government workers, including civil servants, were not paid on the basis of their skills, but by their connection and friendship to their bosses. As the result, some people in lower categories received higher pay than professionals like medical doctors, engineers, and university professors.
However, under the current government, he said salaries, allowances and benefits are uniformed and equitable; and aligned with the associated work and the positions. Government officials including members of the Legislature and the cabinet experienced huge reductions in their salaries, which led to the reduction in the wage bill, and save US$32 million for development, he added.
He said: “We are living within our means and managing, we will continue to pay salary, domestic revenue is performing, we just launched the LPA program. So, the people who are for the government, because their salary is coming, they can go take goods, they can build a house, then later on they will be paying it small, small as the salary comes,” while adding that three banks have already signed up to the LPA and more have expressed interest.
The interactive forum attracted a huge crowd on Carey Street, leading to the obstruction of traffic for more than three hours. When asked why the inflation is down and prices are not dropping, he said the CBL data show that prices of commodities are down.