Liberia: In Prioritizing Agriculture, President Weah Signals Intent to Bolster Near-Dormant Sector
PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH went to great length last week as he sought to illustrate the importance of paying much-needed attention to the agriculture industry.
IN ORDER TO IMPROVE the external sector of the economy, the President declared that there is an urgent need to support domestic production, which requires a major structural transformation of our economy. “In this regard, under the Pro-Poor Agenda, agriculture has been considered a matter of priority to achieve this structural reform.”
IN THE PRESIDENT’S OWN WORDS: “The gross foreign reserves at the end of November 2018 was $410.2 million United States dollars, reflecting a slight decline of 1.7 percent compared to the end of December 2017. This slight decline in Gross Foreign Reserves can be largely attributed to low export earnings.”
THE DECLINE in export is a primary reason why investment in agriculture should be viewed as a necessity in reviving and restoring faith in the Liberian economy.
AS IT STANDS NOW, the current budgetary allotment for the sector is not sufficient to enable the government to achieve this goal.
QUITE RECENTLY, Agriculture Minister, Dr. Mogana Flomo called for increment in the allotment for agriculture in the draft national fiscal budget currently before the Legislature.
THE DRAFT NATIONAL BUDGET for the 2018/2019 fiscal year is US$488.8 million, with US$8.3 million being appropriated for agriculture. This amounts to 1.69% of the total national budget of Liberia, while 62.1%. goes to recurrent expenditures the bulk of which pays for huge salaries and allowances and logistics for top officials.
THE MINISTER is proposing that Liberia’s budget for Agriculture makes up 10% of the budget, in order to improve the livelihood of the ordinary people in line with the CDC government’s pro-poor agenda.
FOCUSING ON AGRICULTURE, particularly the rice value-chain development is important because it will take some of the burden on government in the wake of the rapid decline in extraction and exportation of minerals from Liberia.
THIS IS WHY WE APPLAUD President Weah’s decision Monday to visit the Ministry of Agriculture where he shared notes and brainstormed with authorities and key stakeholders on how to make agriculture a major centerpiece of Liberia’s economic development.
MONDAY’S VISIT was the first by the President since his inauguration in January and comes a week after he had made a public pronouncement calling for a new order and robust approach to the sector which he said is vital to the country’s economic rejuvenation.
SAID THE PRESIDENT: “This meeting is necessary because, as I said in my address to the nation, we are not getting what is being put into the sector,” President Weah emphatically said.
THE PRESIDENT TOLD reporters later after a close-door interaction, that now is the time for government and its partners to find new strategies to improve the sector while stressing the need to put together a technical team that would work from time to time on issues and programs aimed at achieving fruitful results.
PRESIDENT WEAH deserves credit for bringing attention to a sector we believe has a strong role to play in reviving the economy and bolstering food security which remains central to the overall development agenda for Africa’s oldest republic.