When President Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change government took the mantle of power, the Liberian economy was in shambles. In the words of the President, the economy was in free fall and the nation was broke. Though former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf disagreed with President Weah on that, most economists opined at the time that as far as state governance requires, the amount left in the state coffers by the erstwhile government indicated that the nation was actually broke. But the broke economy has reportedly put on some fresh, with domestic revenue mobilization showing encouraging sing of steady growth. The man who holds the wheel the Ship of State and has had his fingers rolling directly on the lines, George Manneh Weah, has disclosed the good news of revenue growth—at the point of 5.7%. The Analyst reports.
President George Manneh Weah, reporting to the nation the state of the nation’s economy, says revenue collection for 2018, including grants, was $480.6 million United States dollars, as compared to $454 million United States dollars in 2017. This, the president said, represents growth of 5.7 percent of the nation’s revenue. The President indicates that this strong performance was driven by higher receipts of tax and non-tax revenues.
The President who expressed delight for what he sees as growth in the economy expressed gratitude to Liberia’s partners for contributing approximately 10 times more in budget support grants in 2018 than in 2017. President Weah told the National Legislature that the international partners contributed $38 million United States dollars in 2018, as compared to $4.8 million in 2017.
The President explained that increase in tax revenue rose from $384.9 million United States dollars in 2017, to $387.6 million United States dollars in 2018, saying that non-tax revenue increased from $55 million United States dollars in 2017, to $64.7 million in 2018, mainly on account of active collection of the Road Fund Levy.
“Correspondingly, expenditure for 2018 amounted to US$502 million compared to US$434.3 million at the end of November 2017,” the President narrated, saying “The increase in government expenditures consistently reminds us about the desire of the Liberian people for meaningful developments, which are in line with our Change for Hope mandate.
“When we came to power, we inherited a debt of $878.2 million United States dollars at the end of 2017. The debt stock now stands at $987.8 million in 2018 at the end of 2018. The increase in the debt stock of US$109.6 million during the period under review is mainly on account of disbursements from borrowing external loan portfolios, including the World Bank, African Development Bank, BADEA and Saudi Arabia, which were ratified in 2017,” he added.
To date, President Weah noted that his administration has not added to the debt stock but that does not mean that the government will not increase the stock of debt. He also said in the interest of the people, the government is working on this, adding, “Total official development assistance received from January up to September 2018 is about US$399 million in support of various programs and activities under our Pro-Poor Agenda.”
Of this amount, President Weah reported that approximately US$279.2 million represents 70% in grants; while the remaining US$120 million represents 30% received as concessional loans. “This reflects the commitment of our partners and the international community to support the dream and aspiration of the Liberian people, and their confidence in our fiscal discipline,” the president said further.
Speaking about the Maritime industry of Liberia, Dr. Weah asserted that as the world’s second largest shipping registry, Liberia has carried out several programs and activities to strengthen, to consolidate and to expand the maritime program in the face of competition from new and emerging registries.
“During the period under review, the Governments of Liberia and the People’s Republic of China renewed the favored-nation Maritime Transport Agreement for another five years, thus preserving our access to a vast market in the Far East. Additionally, discussions are in the final stages to conclude a maritime transport agreement with the Republic of India,” he added.
He assured that the government will continue to explore further opportunities to ensure that the competitive advantage we have as a world class maritime nation is increased to the benefit of the Liberian people.
Addressing further the state of the national economy for the period of the past year, Dr. Weah said long before the drafting and completion of the PAPD, our administration started immediate implementation with the Recast Fiscal Year 17/18 National Budget. “With the re-balancing, we were able to generate $9.6 million United States dollars in savings through expenditure cuts, including reductions in the salaries of all top-level government officials, including cabinet ministers, deputy and assistant ministers, heads of autonomous agencies and their deputies and assistants.
“I am pleased to inform you, Honorable Members of the 54th Legislature, that today, no member of my cabinet makes above US$7,200 monthly as compared to monthly earnings of US$15,000 to US$20,000 in the past. With your approval as Members of the National Legislature, we used these savings wisely to fund 13 Pro-Poor Projects. Today, I am pleased to inform you that most of these deliverables, consisting of our first Pro-Poor programs and projects, have now been successfully completed,” he disclosed.
He intimated that some of the major successful programs and projects include: digitizing the University of Liberia registration system; sending medical doctors abroad to specialize; feasibility study of the 14th Military Hospital; upgrade of JFK and provision of the roads maintenance and the payment of the Resettlement Action Plan.
Additionally, he also disclosed a new Presidential Lounge is being constructed at RIA to accommodate visiting Heads of State; three new dedicated jetty lines were installed at the Petroleum Storage Terminal (PST) on Bushrod Island. Another major milestone in the PST rehabilitation and expansion project was achieved with the completion of three new storage tanks. “These tanks enable the Government to store more petroleum products,” he asserted.
According to the president, in the face of rising global prices, the government has been able to reduce the basic prices of fuel on the Liberian market. “Fuel prices have been reduced as follows: Gas: 3.70 reduce to 3.30 and AGO has been reduced from 3.95 cents to 3.70. Likewise, the price of an ordinary passport has been reduced by 10%, from $50 to $45,” he told the Legislature
He said as the government commences the infrastructure portion of the PADP through road construction, his administration also wants to place a new emphasis on agriculture. He pointed out that endless national and foreign resources have been and continue to be poured into agriculture, yet returns on these investments are almost negligible, a situation which he demanded must change.
“Just as I am doing with the roads, I will directly get involved in the programs and practical implementation of agriculture development. The sector accounts for more than 70% of household earnings. Therefore, our Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development can only be sustainably achieved through agriculture. We will craft new practical and realistic agriculture policies, incentivize the sector by providing access to credit, reducing tariffs on agriculture implements, and provide small machines, modern seeds and fertilizers,” President Weah furthered.
Commenting on the business climate, the president emphasized that Liberia is opened for business, adding that under his administration the private sector will be prioritized. “With the passage of the new Special Economic Zone Law, we will create one-stop shop business zones for the private sector,” he added, stressing that Liberians have for long spoken about adding value to various raw materials to create more jobs, income and livelihood for our citizens. It is time we take practical action to make it happen.
He also disclosed that survey of the Buchanan port has already begun on land that is allocated for the establishment of a SPECIAL ECONOIC ZONE, and in this fiscal year we will work with our international partners to complete the feasibility studies. “While we try to roll out these new business opportunities, we will get directly involved in improving the business climate in Liberia,” the president disclosed further.
When he accepted the challenge to serve the people about a year ago, President Weah said not only was it the dawn of a new era for the nation; but also an opportunity to right the wrongs, address the plights of the people, heal their wounds; and confront every challenge and obstacle that stood in the way of transforming the lives of the Liberian people for the better. “Today, I can state with understandable pride, that we did not disappoint our people; neither did we fail them,” he further bragged.
Weah disclosed that with the support from the two other branches of Government and Liberia’s International Partners during the course of the first year in office, he can confidently state that Liberia is far better today under our leadership, than it was twelve months ago when the people were entrusted with the mandate to serve our people.
This he attributed to the diligence and tenacity that he and his team brought to the process. “We were resolved for change, and we remained committed to that cause during our first year of service to our people,” he added.