Liberia: Ahead of Planned, ‘Massive’ Protest, Pres. Weah Reveals Gov’t’s Strategy to Stabilize Economy; Makes More Promises

President Weah wants Liberians to remain patient as he works hard to stabilize economy

Monrovia – President George Manneh Weah has revealed a new economic strategy that his administration has embarked on to “stabilize” the country’s failing economy.

In what some critics say was a pre-recorded address to the nation Wednesday, May 29, the President summarized the broad actions that his administration has embarked upon, even though he didn’t say when they started implementing their new strategy.

“We are delivering a new and improved fiscal policy that will be announced with the passage of a credible national budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. In the last several years, we have passed a budget that exceeds our revenue potential. We are now working together with counterparts in the other branches of Government to pass a realistic budget.”

According to the President, for his regime to achieve this feat, sacrifices will be required from all, including those in the other branches of government.

“Our actions will involve reform of our large wage bill; rationalizing Government spending to put more resources to critical sectors like health, education and agriculture; improving the way Government makes payments to Government entities and vendors who supply the Government with goods and services; and some actions on domestic arrears that the Government owes local vendors as a stimulus to the economy,” the Liberian Leader said.

One of the main places that have problems and making the economy weak is the Central Bank of Liberia. Touching on it, President Weah disclosed that his administration will take actions to instill greater confidence in the bank and the banking sector at large. This is aimed at fixing the issues with the monetary front.

“The integrity and independence of the Central Bank will be assured and protected under my administration, and this resolve will be critical in the years ahead. In this regard, I wish to announce that the Government of Liberia, under my leadership, will no longer borrow from the Central Bank of Liberia for its short-term liquidity needs,” he revealed.

President Weah has promised to do a re-structuring of the leadership of the Central Bank of Liberia

Even though not for the first time from the government, the President again disclosed that most of the Liberian dollars in the economy is outside the banking sector. He again made another promise “to announce new policy initiatives” aimed at making Liberians to have “confidence” in their local currency. As it stands, the street exchange rate between the United States Dollar and its Liberian Dollar counterpart is US$1 to L$193.

This is not going to be the first time that the government is going to be making effort again to take the excess Liberian dollars from outside the banking sector and put it under the supervision of the banks. To achieve this, the President brought in US$25 million from the country’s reserve in New York and his Technical Economic Management Team (TEMT), which is headed by Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and co-chaired by the Governor of the Central Bank, Nathaniel Patray, III, said they did “direct mopped up” and has used at least US$17 million of the US$25 million. However, the exchange rate is spiraling out of control and keeps skyrocketing daily.  

However, in the President’s “pre-recorded” message, he stated that some of the polices that he is going to embark upon, will provide strong incentives for Liberians to keep their money in the bank and for commercial banks to invest more in the Liberian dollar economy.

The President, in fact boasted that in spite of the difficult economic conditions, he did not default on his responsibility to ensure that the lives and livelihood of Liberians are improved.

According to the President, some of the things he did to “improve” the lives of Liberian in nearly one and half years of his regime, include pavement of roads in the various communities in Monrovia and some leeward counties; hiring of an additional 2000 health workers; reconditioning of JFK medical laboratory; construction of “hundreds of housing units” for low-income earners; introduction of tuition-free education in all public universities in Liberia; training of doctors for specialization in various fields of medicine; payment of all WASSCE students’ fees in 2018;  pavement of several major highway corridors in the country; etc.

Trying to speak directly to the minds and souls of his suffering compatriots, the Liberian leader said, “I am fully aware of the negative impact of the declining exchange rate on the economic well-being. I know that this is causing serious hardship for everyone, but most especially for the ordinary Liberians, who have no financial cushion to protect them from these harsh conditions. In order to slow down or halt the depreciation of the Liberian dollar, and thereby bring some much-needed relief to the suffering of our people, my Government was advised by its Economic Management Team, in close collaboration with the Central Bank of Liberia, to make an infusion of $25 million into the economy, through the Central Bank; the purpose being to mop-up the excess liquidity of Liberian dollars. At the completion of the “mop-up” exercise, criticisms and allegations were made, that the process had not been done in a proper and professional manner, and that there had been irregularities and issues of mis-management.”

The KMTV screen showing the still picture of President George Weah and airing his ‘pre-recorded’ audio

Whether the President’s pacifying address is going to make any difference especially with Liberians, who are angry with his handling of the state of the nation is yet unclear. However, some of them couldn’t hide their feelings of disagreements under the live-feed as the audio of the speech was being aired on KMTV. There was no video attached to the audio, except for a still picture of the President. The President’s nation address comes in the wake of a planned protest by a group of Liberians under the banner, ‘Council of Patriots.’ One of the council members, Henry Pedro Costa, has disclosed that on June 7, they will bring in the streets tens of thousands of Liberians to protest against the economic hardship in the country.