(MONROVIA – August 12, 2019): The Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Honorable Nathaniel R. Patray, III led a high-level Central Bank of Liberia delegation to the annual meeting of the Association of African Central Banks (AACB) held in Kigali, Rwanda from July 28 to 1st of August 2019.
The CBL Executive Governor was invited to take part as a panelist during the Symposium on the theme “Rising African Sovereign Debt and its Implications for Monetary Policy and Financial Stability.” Hon. Patray shared his experience on Liberia’s sovereign debt and its implication for monetary policy and financial stability.
In discussing the Liberian experience, Executive Governor Patray said Liberia was only at a moderate risk of debt distress, with its debt stock at about 32% of its gross domestic product (GDP), in comparison to 600% during the period when it was placed in the highly indebted poor country (HIPC) category. Currently, Liberia’s total debt as a share of GDP is far below the debt-to-GDP ratio of sub-Saharan Africa, the Executive Governor said. “It is worth noting that the current debt-to-GDP level of Liberia is also far below the ECOWAS Convergence Criteria, which shows that the Country’s is within a sustainable threshold with no risk of debt distress,” he added.
The main challenges facing Liberia, according to Executive Governor Patray, included the serious issue of borrowing to finance developmental projects with future economic and social returns. The Executive Governor used the occasion to shed light on current macroeconomic developments in Liberia, highlighting rising inflation due mainly to rapid exchange rate depreciation as a result of the weak external performance of the Liberian economy, a situation experienced by several African countries.
Liberia’s dual currency regime, Executive Governor Patray stressed, has also largely impaired the effectiveness of monetary policy, because the limited control of the Central Bank over the US dollar. This situation, he noted, has not been helped by the liberalized capital account regime in Liberia evidenced by free movement of the US dollar in and out of Liberia, which has exposed the Country to a potential source of US dollar for some ‘economic agents’ from countries neighboring Liberia.
There is a ray of hope, however, according to the CBL Executive Governor, because the Bank has recently announced a shift in its monetary policy, away from exchange rate targeting to an interest rate-based monetary policy framework which, it is believed, will help mitigate the macroeconomic challenges that Executive Governor Patray cited at the AACB confab. Governor Patray further informed the participants of the commitment of the Liberian Government under the leadership of His Excellency President George Manneh Weah to implementing sound macroeconomic policies to support the long-term development agenda of the Country under the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD). Governor Patray proffered a number of policy recommendations, among them, the strong need for policy coordination between the fiscal and monetary authorities in achieving macroeconomic stability.
The annual meeting included the meeting of the Technical Committee which was held from 28-29 July 2019; the meeting of the AACB Bureau on 30 July 2019; the Governors’ Symposium on 31 July 2019; and the 42nd Ordinary Meeting of the Assembly of Governors on 1st August 2019. Meanwhile, Liberia was announced as the Chair for the West African Bureau for the next one year. Guinea will serve as the Co-chair to Liberia to steer the affairs of the West African Bureau.
The AACB was established to drive the African Monetary Cooperation Programme with the primary goal of establishing a continental monetary union aimed at promoting intercontinental trade among African countries. This year annual meeting was graced by several high-profile personalities including the Prime Minister of Rwanda, the Commissioner of Economic Affairs of African Union, several central bank governors, and development partners.
On the sidelines of the just ended AACB’s meetings, Governor Patray, accompanied by Hon. Nyemadi D. Pearson, Acting Deputy Governor for Operations at the CBL, held discussions with representatives of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (the FED). During the discussions, the CBL briefed the Fed representatives on measures that the bank has been implementing to enhance the controls surrounding international funds transfers, including upgrading the CBL’s technological infrastructure. The Fed was pleased with the updates from Liberia and promised to field a mission to the country in September 2019.