Liberia: Pres. Weah Boasts of Stable Economy and Multiple Completed and Ongoing Projects in 5th Annual Message
MONROVIA – President George Weah on Monday overwhelmed members of the 54th Legislature with a litany of completed and ongoing projects which he listed as part of his administration’s achievements for the year 2021 while at the same time noting that the economy is stable and performing better.
In his Fifth Annual Message, President Weah noted that the nominal value of the Liberian economy expanded by more than US$300 million in 2021 while inflation reduced to less than six percent in November 2021 from 13.1 percent in December 2020.
He said, the administration made strides in increasing the gross international reserves of the country over US$600 million. This, according to him, represents more than four months of imports and services compliance with ECOWAS convergence target.
“We have remained committed to the independence and autonomy of the Central Bank of Liberia in support of economic reforms for a stable economy. Although the year under review was challenging for the economy, my Government was fully supportive of policy implementations from the CBL that have kept the recovery of our economy on course,” he said.
“The 2022 budget was passed by the House at $785.6 million U.S. dollars. This is the largest national budget in the history of Liberia, and with the support of the National Legislature we hope to make it the most transformative. Domestic revenue is projected at $640.5 million US dollars, or 81.5 percent, while external resources are projected at $145 million US dollars, or 18.5 percent,” President Weah said.
President Weah was proud to announce the 2022 National Budget which was passed by the House at US$785.6 million as the largest Budget in Liberia’s history. “With the Support of the National Legislature, we hope to make it the most transformative,” he said.
He said, domestic revenue is projected at US$640.5 million which represents 81.5 percent of the Budget while external resources are projected at US$145 million (18.5 percent).
“We have increased capital spending in the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget. In response to the need for more development, we are putting more resources to solving the many development challenges confronting our people in various sectors.
“These capital investments will cover roads, electricity, education, national security, health, water and sanitation, transport and several other sectors,” he said.
In 2022, according to President Weah, his government would rigorously support the domestic resources mobilization strategy of the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA). This is being prompted by the fact that the success of the 2022 Budget depends on strong revenue measures.
Government, through the LPRA, has launched a program to keep 50 percent of all real estate taxes collected back to the counties, districts and cities where the real estate taxes are collected. This is a measure to boost real estate taxes by involving local communities and their residents, as well as ensure that part of the money stays at the local level, in keeping with the Decentralization Law that was recently passed under my Administration. The program is being piloted in Margibi County.
President Weah told members of the Legislature, other government officials and members of the diplomatic corps present that his administration has made significant process in restructuring the country’s domestic debt.
According to him, all legacy debts owed the Central Bank of Liberia, including debts owed the former National Bank of Liberia, have been bundled into a Restructured and Consolidated Loan. This was done at the start of the IMF-supported program two years ago.
“This Restructured Loan totaled $487.5 million U.S. dollars. The Government pays an annual interest of $13.9 million U.S. dollars to the Central Bank of Liberia on this loan and will start to pay principal in the year 2030.
“The total stock of domestic debt now stands at $660 million U.S. dollars and the total stock of external debt now stands at approximately $1.03 billion U.S. dollars for a total public debt stock valued at $1.69 billion U.S. dollars as at December 31, 2021.
“The total debt stock grew by 6.29 percent compared to end-December 2020 debt stock of $1.59 billion U.S. dollars and this growth was from disbursement on both external and domestic loans.”
The government paid US$83.4 million for both domestic and external debt. The Central Bank of Liberia, commercial banks (treasury bonds) and other institutions received up to US$62.8 million as settlement of domestic debts while US$20.6 million was paid to multilateral and bilateral partners.
Pres. Weah: “The Treasury Bonds, which were issued by the previous Government in 2013, are costing the Government more than $6 million U.S. dollars in interest annually, just to roll them over to the next period. This is a legacy debt which my Administration inherited. However, in the interest of continuity of Government, it is an obligation that we have to pay.
“Therefore, I am pleased to inform you that, working with the IMF, we have allocated $35 million U.S. dollars to completely redeem these very expensive Treasury Bonds. This will free up space for investment in education, healthcare and other important priority areas.”
According to Pres. Weah, in addition to the projects he dedicated during his county tour for which US$10 million was budgeted for projects, he has also undertaken a number of other projects which are being implemented by the
Liberian Agency for Community Empowerment, in keeping with its statutory mandate.
Completed projects include the following:
1. Popo Beach Phase 2
2. Grand Gedeh Housing Units Construction Project II
3. Kendeja Renovation Project
4. The 14th Gobachop Market Phase II – Open Markets
5. The 14th Gobachop Market Phase II – Road Improvement
6. The 14th Gobachop Market Phase II – Backfilling of Market Premises with rocks
7. 100 Housing Units Construction Project in Bong County
8. 100 Housing Units Construction Project in Nimba County
9. Three Additional Market Facilities Constructed in Omega Community
10. West Point-Waterside General Market
11. Wells Hairston High School Annex
12. The Youth Opportunities Project
Ongoing Projects being constructed by LACE include the following:
1. Popo Beach Third Phase
2. Grand Gedeh Housing Units Phase II
3. Monrovia Central Prison Compound Project
4. Duala Road Market Construction Project
5. The Youth Opportunities Project
Further to that, he said, the number of people connected to the national electricity grid has increased from 49,000 in 2018 to about 130,000 at the end of December 2021.
“New investments in transformers, meters and delivery of new sub-stations are all contributing to changing the electricity landscape. The Government was also able to provide more than 10,000 street lights in Monrovia and around the country, and under the current budget more street lights, including solar lights are going to be provided.
“I am proud to report that the cost of electricity, a major challenge for businesses and households, has been reduced from 35 cents per kilowatt hour to around 24 cents per kilowatt hour for residential customers and to 22 cents per kilowatt hour for businesses. While at 22 cents, this tariff is still higher in the West African sub-region, it is a massive development for the electricity sector in Liberia,” he said.
According to Pres. Weah, the Ministry of Agriculture developed and negotiated and signed, along with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, key new projects valued at over $73 million US dollars. The World Bank’s Rural Economy Transformation Project, (RETRAP), which is meant to expand the ongoing Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project, STAR-P, was developed for a total value of $55 million US dollars.
The RETRAP will oversee the paving of the road from Tappita in Nimba County to Toe Town in Grand Gedeh County, completing a vital portion of the Ganta-Harper Highway that is already ongoing.
The President said, this major piece of road construction will, by next year, see the paving of the road going into neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, and will facilitate the free movement of goods, passengers and services in the sub-region. In addition, the RETRAP will drive resources into the rubber, cassava, poultry and piggery sectors to complement other projects in rice, oil palm and vegetables.