Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs Discusses Liberia’s Post Covid-19 Recovery Plan

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The government is opting to tackle the fallout from the pandemic in two-fold: focusing on immediate priorities and implementing reforms to boost resilience beyond the crisis.

Monrovia – In the wake of the enormous challenges posed by the devastating economic effects of COVID-19, the Government of Liberia is committed to ensuring the success of the Pro-poor agenda, says Samora P. Z. Wolokolie, Liberia’s Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs.

“The Government of Liberia has drafted an economic recovery plan with the objective of ensuring that the fundamentals of the economy are strengthened. This recovery plan will touch every sector or the economy with the expectation that business will rebound from the effects of the pandemic,” he said at the special Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum organized by the Press Union of Liberia on June 29  at the YMCA.

The forum that features a panel of epidemiologist, politician, anti-graft, and a civil society actor, discussed the social, economic and health impact of COVID-19 on the country.

Minister Wolokolie, who predicted the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy, also postulated several concepts that aimed at to resuscitate an economy that was already ravaged before Covid-19.

“While there is no consensus among economists and policy makers about how long it would take for economies around the world to recover, we in Liberia are proceeding with the understanding that with a proper mix of fiscal and monetary policies, Liberia’s economy can be returned to pre-COVID levels in a relatively short period,” Wolokolie said.

The ambitious and optimistic Wolokolie then outline the “core pillars” for the recovery plan, which he said includes protecting “embryonic economic recovery after almost two years of macroeconomic volatility; provide critical support to health and related sectors directly dealing with the pandemic; and protect the soundness of the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) and the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) which were placing the country on a path to recovery and growth” before the pandemic.

The Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs also mentioned “secure national budget credibility and shelter national budget execution from COVID-19 expenditure derailment and providing stimulus relief for key sectors hardest hit by the pandemic” as part of the core pillars of the COVID-19 recovery plan.

Liberia has recorded 780 confirmed cases with 420 being active case and a total of 36 recorded deaths as of June 30. President George Weah recently extended the State of Emergency by 30 days and adjusted the lockdown time from 9pm to 6pm in a bid to flatten the curve.

In early June, the government relaxed some restrictions which appear like the country was nearing a full opening-up for economic activities but when cases began to increase, the government then back track a little.

Samora P. Z. Wolokolie, Liberia’s Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs

However, plans to reopen the Roberts International Airport has gone ahead despite a one-week delay. Experts have warned that a Western-style lockdown is not applicable in Liberia and might become more devastating for African economies in Liberia’s.

Amid these economic concerns, Minister Wolokolie was cognizant that trade and investment disruptions have hit bigger economies the hardest, causing massive decline and creating challenges for small economies like Liberia’s including local manufacturers that rely on imports.

“The Government of Liberia has drafted an economic recovery plan with the objective of ensuring that the fundamentals of the economy are strengthened. This recovery plan will touch every sector or the economy with the expectation that business will rebound from the effects of the pandemic.”

– Samora P. Z. Wolokolie, Liberia’s Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs.

Due to low collection of revenue, the government has “less money available to spend on health, education and critical infrastructure, as overhead and debt payments are usually prioritized during crises,” he said, adding that “decrease in spending could be very bad for a country that already has one of the worst health outcomes worldwide” amid unending concerns of the extreme poverty that continues to ravage a large number of the country’s population.

However, Minister Woloklie is optimistic that the government is opting to tackle the fallout from the pandemic in two-fold: focusing on immediate priorities and implementing reforms to boost resilience beyond the crisis.

Mentioning the health response, he said, support is going toward the sector “through adequate funding, incentives for health workers, and healthcare subsidies for the most vulnerable people”.

“Through targeted tax incentives, social transfers, and regulatory support, the Liberian government helps minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable businesses and citizens,” he said of the economic response, adding that the government is working with informal groups “to deliver monetary support to people in vulnerable employment”.

At the same time, the Deputy Minister said the government has reduced the cost of governance by cutting down administrative costs and prioritizing the most effective development programs.

“This will free up more money for health and education spending, as well as infrastructural spending and the build-up of fiscal buffers to improve the country’s resilience,” he assured.

“Similarly, reducing the misuse of public finances through commitment to transparency, opening up budgets, and strengthening anti-corruption institutions will be a priority during and post COVID-19.”

He also assured that government’s policy makers are “responsive to lessen the effects of the impending social and economic crises and better prepare” the country for life after COVID-19.

As part of a continental plan which includes Liberia, Minister Wolokolie said, “the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is currently coordinating African finance ministers to mobilize US$100 billion financial support across Africa.”

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