MONROVIA – For being guided through difficult situations, crossing the threshold of countries in the category of fragile states, Liberia has been described as a “beacon of sound economic management and a pacesetter of other countries in Africa” and being attributed to the “visionary and committed leadership of President George Manneh Weah”.
This assertion was part of a moving valedictorian remark made last evening by outgoing World Bank Country Director, Dr. Khwima Nthara when he was responding to the words of appreciation from the Government of Liberia through a number of Ministries and Agencies at a farewell dinner hosted in his honor at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex, Congo Town, Monrovia.
The elated World Bank official who is ending his duty in the country after 4 years said he was excited working in the country and meeting wonder people as well as being part of the success story that turned the Liberian economy from the lowest ebb of recognition to an enviable place of reckoning where it is comfortably being seated among other countries that boast of sound economy.
Dr. Ntara said Liberia’s uniqueness was not only in its abundant natural resources but its wonder, amazing and outstanding citizenry, meaning President George Manneh Weah’s feat as a soccer hero, being the first African to win the FIFA World player of the year, winning the Ballon d’or and translating the unprecedented achievement to becoming an elected “President of the Republic of Liberia and showing strong commitment and visionary leadership through his stewardship to the country”
“Before I arrived here, I was afraid of what I had heard about the economy. However, after meeting your Excellency, Mr. President, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and other officials of government and other development partners, I became encouraged about the country and saw prospects of improvement.
“Before I arrived here, inflation was in double digit, but today it is in single digit. Before I arrived here, the exchange rate was 200 Liberian dollars to the United States dollars but today it is around 154 Liberian dollars to an American dollar. That is an outcome of sound economic management under your leadership, your excellency, Mr. President”, he said amid thunderous cheers from the audience mostly made up of top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of development partners, traditional leaders, business community, among others.
Dr. Nthara, extolled the good working relationship he had with officials of government from the various sectors as well as the synergy his office built with other development partners “in no small way contributed to whatever achievements we were able to make for Liberia and its people”
“I do not intend to bore you with all the achievements we have had over the years working with the officials of government and the cooperation we have had also with the other development partners but our major achievements in our understanding are in the area of macroeconomic performance and you can see it across the various sectors.
“Overtime, Liberia was able to cross the threshold of countries regarded as fragile states and we look forward to the country maintaining the pacesetter’s role for other African countries”, he said.
He said due to the satisfactory performance of the economy especially the prudent management of the country’s resources, Liberia’s initial budget support of $20 million increased to $40 million and in other area of assistance and economic support, Liberia is about the only country in the world that enjoys such quantum leap of funding which he emphatically stressed was possible courtesy of the sound management of the economy.
In his closing remarks, Dr. Nathara made a toast, wishing continued prosperity and God’s protection for Liberia and offered encouragement and prayer that the country should tread the path of peace and not only be the first African republic but should go on to lead others to prosperity and development.
Earlier in his introductory remark, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Dee Maxwell Saah Kemayah, said the gathering was a befitting farewell dinner in honor of the hardworking outgoing World Bank country Director who has done so much to revamp the economy and was instrumental for the various interventions that came from the international financial giant. He said the government has thought it expedient to have the program as a reciprocation for what Dr. Nathara has done for the country and various line Ministries and Agencies whose works were mainly supported by the World Bank will be appreciating him.
With that said and done, the Minister of Internal Affairs Varney Sirleaf set the ball rolling with the traditional gowning of the World Bank Official with a well knitted traditional fabric on behalf of the government and people of Liberia, stating that it was an expression of the appreciation deeply from the people for the outstanding contribution Dr. Nathara made to the country and its people during his tenure.
“This is a symbol of our appreciation and in the true sense of culture and value to thank someone who has done so well for us. Your tenure in Liberia was remarkable and our government and people have decided to also say thank you for all you have done for us”, Minister Sirleaf said.
Also speaking at the occasion, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr who spent most of the time working with the out-going World Bank official more than any other official government showered praises on Dr. Nathara for being the “most outstanding World Bank Country Director that was so passionate and committed to the development and welfare of the country, mentioning how funding to the country despite being stalled in the past, increased during the period under review.
He said the direct economic support to the country increased from $20 million to $40 million, “and actually last year, we received $55 million and an additional $15 million, a window that no other country in the world has ever benefited from”.
Tweah whose speech was a summary of achievements of the World Bank support to Liberia said, when resources were stalled, through instrumentality of Dr. Nathara, the support to Liberia from the World Bank from 2019 to 2023 now stands at $1.4 bn and covers various sectors of the economy.
“Through him, the World Bank was able to place its expertise and support to Liberia which enabled the country to navigate the macroeconomic challenges and we have recorded the achievements we have had thus far”, Minister Tweah said.
Minister Tweah also spoke about the support from the World Bank towards alleviating the shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic, and massively made interventions in procuring vaccines, medical supplies and others towards the fight against the deadly scourge.
The tough talking Minister also mentioned about the funding to the private sector of the economy, and gave reference to the recent launch of a $40m LIFT-P funding for SMEs that will address the funding gap of Liberian businesses especially businesses run by Liberian women.
He then presented a plaque to Dr. Nathara on behalf of his institution for the cordial relationship and support the outgoing country director rendered the ministry.
Words of commendations and award of gifts also came from the Ministries of Commerce and industry, Public Works and the National Fishery and Aquaculture Authority.