MONROVIA – In 2018, when the freshly minted government led by George M. Weah took over from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, they were quick to announce that the country’s economy was completely broken. This was emphasized in Pres. Weah’s first Annual Message to the Legislature. Weah said: “… it is possible to inform you that the state of the economy that my administration has inherited, leaves a lot to be desired. This is plain for all to see, for we are all affected by it. Our economy is broken, our government is broke, our currency is in free-fall, inflation is rising, unemployment is at an unprecedented high, and our foreign reserves are at an all-time low.”
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
But the former President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, would not let this slide without her own redress. In a BBC interview in February 2018, she insisted that she left over US$150 million in the national coffers when she handed power to Weah on January 22, 2018. She maintained that the records were there, and the “figures speak for themselves”.
The two contradictory statements from the President and the former President at the time prompted the House of Representatives to cite the then Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Mr. Milton Weeks to provide clarity on the state of the economy. Weeks disclosed to the House that as at January 22, 2018, “the total balances was US$5,637,000”. Weeks further disclosed that the total aggregate balances in Liberian dollars was L$5534 million.
Now Boakai Vs. Weah
In the final days of Weah’s presidency, he disclosed to the nation unlike his predecessor, he was leaving the presidency with US$45 million in the government’s consolidated account.
Weah: Fellow compatriots, rumors and misinformation have played a large part in our politics over the last six years. It is my hope we as a country will overcome this challenge over the next six years. To begin this, we must start with the facts of the transition.
I must report to you that we are leaving behind a better economy than we inherited. Tomorrow, president elect Joseph N. Boakai, will inherit a stronger economy than I inherited.
There is a bigger net international reserve position than was handed me in 2018. I inherited about NINETY-FOUR MILLION, NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY-NINE THOUSAND United States dollars in net international reserves, and I am handing over to the next administration a net international reserve position of TWO HUNDRED TWENTY-TWO MILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND United States dollars. This is a 136 percent increase in net international reserve position. The total cash balance in the Government’s Consolidated accounts is UNITED STATES FORTY MILLION, FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND, THREE HUNDRED SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS AND NINETY CENTS. In 2018, my Government inherited a Consolidated cash position of about SEVEN MILLION UNITED STATES DOLLARS.
The next administration thus has more resources to deal with emergency macroeconomic challenges than my administration had at its disposal in 2018.
But in his first Annual Message, President Boakai stated that his predecessor’s assertion of leaving US$45 million to jumpstart his government was nothing but a hoax.
President Boakai: The net international reserves position reported at the end of December 2023 was US$220 million. The report of US$40 million as the GoL’s consolidated account balance as at January 19, 2024 is not supported by the fact. The balance reported by the CBL as of the same date was US$20.5 million, highly encumbered, NOT US$40 million. To this end, we re-emphasize our earlier commitment to audit and ensure that regular audits will be a culture across all branches of government, not only the Executive.
What the CBL Report Indicates
FrontPageAfrica obtained a copy of the Government of Liberia Consolidated Cash Balances for FY2023 and FY2024 as of January 17, 2024. The balances show that the total for FY2023/2024 in US Dollars is US$28,270,302.87, while the total balance in the Liberian dollar consolidated account is L$2,237,071,975.08. Therefore, the equivalent of the Liberian dollar component in US Dollars at the exchange rate of 190 is US$11,774,063.03. The sum of the US Dollar balance and the equivalent of the Liberian dollars amounts to US$40,044,365.90.
FrontPageAfrica observed that not only did Pres. Boakai understate the balance in the US Dollar component of the consolidated account, he also completely omitted the Liberian dollar component of the consolidated account.