Liberia: Much Ado Over President Weah’s Pick for Central Bank of Liberia
Monrovia – The internet is flooded with divided opinions over President George Manneh Weah’s choice for the Central Bank of Liberia. Mr. Jolue Aloysius Tarlue’s experience includes stints at various financial institutions in the United States of America including J.P. Morgan Chase, BNY Mellon N.A., Deutsche Bank, Merrill Lynch and HSBC Bank in the role of a compliance officer.
Former Governor Nathaniel Patray, appointed by Weah in July 2018, stepped down last month after the President announced an overhaul of the central bank’s leadership to restore confidence in the institution. Recently, Mr. Musa Dukuly was named acting director for economic affairs.
Tarlue holds an MPA (specializing in Public Policy) from Kean University, New Jersey (USA) and BA in Political Science from the King University in Bristol, Tennessee (USA). Prior to his preferment by President Weah, Mr. Tarlue was Chairman, Board of Commissioners of the Liberia Electricity Renewable Commission.
While Mr. Tarlue awaits his appearance before the Liberian Senate, the noise over his appointment is triggering waves of support and resentment on both sides of the political and partisan aisle.
Depending on who’s dissecting, Tarlue is either the most qualified pick available to fix the messy financial state Liberia currently finds itself or simply not the best man for the job.
While some Liberians are gauging Mr. Tarlue’s professional experience, others see a tribal twist. “At long last, Grand Gedeh County got something bigger as TARLUE takes on CBL,” Samuel Nyenuh opines on the social medium Facebook.
For Nyenuh, the qualification of a presidential appointee is determined by the president as enshrined in article 56 of the Liberian constitution, confirmed by the senate. “Said appointee works at the WILL & PLEASURE of the president and NOT the few breast-sucking oppositions whose heads are politically buried in the sand with hatred, envy and jealousy.”
Qualification vs. Competence
Nyenuh argues: “There’s a difference between qualification and competence. Qualification is a requirement for a job which TARLUE has met. Competence is one’s ability to do something, which TARLUE has also met. Education is not just the mere acquisition of papers but its application. What gives one a job is his qualification, and what keeps him on the job is his competence. In short, qualification comes before competence… But it is possible for one to be qualified and incompetent.”
Gabriel Nyanti follows says those arguing against Tarlue’s appointment are misguided. “Are they really arguing that he is not an Economist or a finance professional so he should not preside over the bank? Is that the contention?”, he wonders.
Nyanti draws comparison to Dr Jim Yong Kim, former president of the World Bank. “This guy didn’t only lack a degree in economics or international finance, but he is a Medical Doctor. If the perception of these pseudo-experts is anything to adopt, he was several miles away from the essentials of finance and was never to head such a global financial institution. Yet then still, he led the World Bank.”
He also argues the case of Christine Largade, the former Chairman and Managing Director of the IMF. “Does she have a degree in economics or international finance? Absolutely not. Lagarde has two masters’ degree, one in political science and the other in English, Labor and Social Law. Even now, Lagarde presides of the European Central Bank as its new head. So, the idea that one must hold a degree in economics or finance to head the CBL is logically impaired, and the validation of an apparent lack of understanding of how the central bank function.”
Nyanti says the role of the Governor of the CBL is more than just theorizing economic nuances. “Besides, the structure at the central bank exclusively provides for the segregation of technical expertise in both economic policy and Operations. I think such an argument is not well informed and fall short of any real substance.”
The lines of division also border Mr. Tarlue’s professional experience. Amos Tweh writes: “To compound the problem further, his biggest practical experience has been a Compliance officer in mostly semi-financial institutions. He has no educational or practical working experience in economic policy issues or the banking sector. He has a degree in political science and public policy. At this critical juncture of deep economic recession, it is entirely unacceptable to appoint a mere compliance officer as Liberia’s central bank governor. We urge the Liberian Senate to reject this dude.”
Patrick Tarr agrees and sees the appointment as a mistake on the part of President Weah.
President Weah’s appointment of a Compliance Officer to head the Central Bank of Liberia, in Tarr’s view, is terrible mistake. “If we had a Security Exchange, the rates were going to drop to its lowest. The country cannot be joked with in this manner. Dr. Weah promised to recruit the best Liberian to run the CBL. If this is Liberia’s best, the country is a shithole.”
Comparison to Next-Door Neighbors
Mr. Tarlue’s appointment is also drawing comparison to those in similar positions in Liberia’s next-door neighbors, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast, where economies there are on the up.
In Ghana, Ernest Addison, an economist serves as governor. He had previously worked at the same central bank as Director of Research from 2003 to 2011, and as an economist at the African Development Bank.
In Nigeria Godwin Emefiele, who heads the Central Bank, holds a B.Sc. degree in Finance in 1984 and an MBA Degree in Finance in 1986, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is also an alumnus of Executive Education at Stanford University, Harvard University (2004) and Wharton School of Business (2005).
In Kenya, Patrick Ngugi Njoroge, an economist and banker head the Central Bank. He attended Mangu High School from 1973 until 1976, for his O-Level education. From 1977 until 1978, he attended Strathmore College for his A-Level studies. He entered the University of Nairobi in 1979, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1983 and a Master of Arts in Economics in 1985. From 1987 until 1993, he studied at Yale University, graduating with a Doctor of Philosophy in economics.
The noise over Mr. Tarlue’s appointment comes at a time when many Liberians see the need for someone with strong background in finance and banking to help the CBL turn the corner.
Last July, President Weah ordered a $25 million injection into the economy to mop up excess Liberian dollars. But a Presidential Investigative Task Force found only $17 million was used for this purpose. Another inquiry into the alleged disappearance of about $100 million in cash that was printed abroad found that while no money was missing, there were lapses in the accuracy and completeness of the central bank’s internal records.
The pressure to appoint a new government coincides with the government’s attempt to print new LD banknotes as the economy continues to dwindle amid rising inflation and rapidly rising exchange rates.
This is where expertise will be expected in strong correlations with the bank’s principal objectives: “To achieve and maintain price stability in the Liberian economy. To this end, it seeks to preserve the purchasing power of the national currency; promote internal and external equilibrium in the national economy; encourage the mobilization of domestic and foreign savings and their efficient allocation for productive economic activities; facilitate the emergence of financial and capital markets that are capable of responding to the needs of the national economy, and foster monetary, credit and financial conditions conducive to orderly, balance and sustain economic growth and development.”
The Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) was established on October 18, 1999 by an Act of the National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia. It became functional in 2000 and succeeds the National Bank of Liberia (NBL).
A long-time colleague of Tarlue says while he can vouch for his integrity and is seriousness, banking is not his experience. “He is not a banker per se, but more compliance oriented which normally a lawyer would handle. So, he is serious about the law and regulations. Although he is easy going, he seems firm from the perspective that he has to protect his integrity and future. He built a reputation in the USA and I think he wants to maintain it. But in Liberia, it’s always Murphy’s law that prevails,” the colleague, speaking on condition of anonymity told FrontPageAfrica Saturday.
Big Gamble for President Weah
The same colleague said the absence of a degree in banking, finance, or economics could come back to haunt Tarlue, if things do not go well for him at the CBL.
The Act creating the CBL states that both the Executive Governor and the Deputy Governor of the Bank shall be appointed by the President of Liberia, subject to confirmation by the Liberian Senate, from among persons of unimpeachable standing and experience in financial matters, for a period of five (5) years. “They shall be eligible for only one reappointment for 5 an additional period of five (5) years on terms and conditions specified in the letter of re-appointment by the appointment authorities.”
Supporters of the Tarlue appointment says, the President is within his rights to appoint whoever he sees fit to do the job, using his discretion.
It is a gamble some critics of the appointment say could prove costly as the government struggles to stabilize the economy and consumers growing increasingly impatient with commercial banks’ ability to flood the market with cash in the run-up to the festive holiday Christmas season.