Liberia Meets Threshold For Fragile State Graduation -WB Official Credits Milestone to Prudent Economic Policies

MONROVIA – Since Liberia’s governance architecture collapsed in the 1990 to full-scale military hostilities, not only has the country and its people not known peace and stability, the nation also descended deep in the abyss of socioeconomic and political paralyses. And for all that period, spanning over three decades, this oldest African republic was belittlingly but deservingly classified a failed state or fragile state, and it was treated as such by the comity of nations. All efforts even after the end of the civil war proved futile in lifting the country from that abyss. But the good news now is that the magic want is sufficiently applied in the last five years and the country is pronounced a graduate from its fragile state status; courtesy of an outgoing World Bank official who last week unveiled the milestone which he attributed to the phenomenal macroeconomic savviness of the Weah administration. The Analyst reports.

Africa’s oldest republic which got plunged into decades of instability and decadence has met all that is required to be called, once again, a proud member of the comity of nations.

Countries that fail to fully meet key needs of their citizens, and found to have deep gaps in security, capacity, and legitimacy, are called failed, or fragile or weak states, and Liberia was one for thirty years.

That gaps era is now over because, as result of hard work, adroitness and dexterity exercised and applied by the administration of President George Manneh Weah, Liberia has met the threshold to graduate from the failed state status.

“Your Government turned the macro-situation around that saw inflation decline from around 37% in 2019 to single digit,” Dr. Khwima Nthara, Country Director of the World Bank Group, who leaves the country this week after three years, seven months working in Liberia, said of President Weah.

“I recall when I arrived, the exchange rate was around 200 Liberian Dollars to 1 US dollar, but the Liberian dollar has gained strength and is now at around 154 Liberian Dollars to 1 US dollar. Liberia stands out in the region as a beacon of sound macroeconomic management. It is for this reason, that in 2020, Liberia also reached the threshold for graduation from the World Bank’s list of Fragile and Conflict-affected states.”

Speaking during a colorful farewell and honoring ceremonies held Thursday, March 9, 2023 at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex, Dr. Khwima Nthara said “all these achievements were possible because your Government followed through your commitment to do the right things and turn the situation around.”

He recalled that some of the steps President Weah and his government took, such as wage harmonization, were not popular, but they did not waiver.

“Indeed, it was because of your Government’s determination to do the right thing that we were also able to make a case with our Senior Management and our Board to double budgetary support to Liberia from $20 million per year to $40 million,” he asserted further.

“Just last year, the amount was even increased to $55 million. This is because your Government implemented some key reforms that attracted additional resources from one of the special windows. Liberia was the first country to in the whole World Bank to receive budgetary resources under that window.”

Dr. Khwima Nthara noted that beyond stabilizing the macroeconomic situation, “we have over the past four years broken many new records in our partnership.

“The Bank’s net commitments to national projects doubled from around $500 million to $1 billion. Today, the World Bank’s portfolio in Liberia stands at $1.4 billion. Within this portfolio, we have seen World Bank financing to agriculture triple from $25 million in 2018 to $80 million today.”

Together, he said, the Government and World Bank also put together significant amounts of financing in areas where the Bank was never involved before, such as in supporting the private sector through the Liberia Investment, Finance, and Trade Project, (LIFT) launched on Tuesday, March 8, and for the first time in the history of Liberia, the World Bank Board approved a total package of $44.6 million for the empowerment of women.

Enumerating further about World Bank support to Liberia, Dr. Khwima Nthara said, in energy, for the first time in the whole World Bank, the Board of the Bank committed to a long-term financing program under what is known as the Multi-Phase Approach.

He said he was truly humbled, privileged, and grateful for the honor that has been bestowed on him by the Government of Liberia.

He added: “While I am the one receiving this honor today, all the achievements highlighted during my time in Liberia have been due to collaboration and teamwork involving World Bank colleagues, Government officials, and other development partners some of who are present here while others are not.”

“Mr. President, today is indeed my last day in Liberia, after 3 years and 7 months. It has been such a rewarding experience, and it was a great pleasure and honor to have been of service to this very special country. I fell in love with this country before I even set foot on it. It is a very unique country because it is endowed with abundant natural resources and has been blessed with many firsts, including being the first republic on the African continent, the only country in Africa to have produced a winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year and winner of the Ballon d’Or, who later became President of this special country, and Liberia was also the first African country to elect a female President.”

President Weah Lavishes Praises

President Weah used the farewell program to heap praises on the outgoing World Bank officials, stating that he was not disappointed by the Dr. Nthara since he first met him upon his arrival in the country.

The President said: “Dr. Khwima “Sekou Dudu” Nthara, from the very start, was never one of those who doubted. He rose above the politics of the moment and saw the possibilities that lay in the Government of Liberia’s policy framework. Instead, he began a very close and intense collaboration with the relevant officials of my Government to help turn around the macroeconomic challenges.”

He said Dr. Nthara’s objectives and targets during his term in the country were to re-program the portfolio of the World Bank toward the strategic imperatives of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity; to increase the size of budgetary support Liberia was receiving from that institution, and to lend some flexibility to World Bank rules and to fight for Liberia during the very dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Where many doubted, Dr. Kwhima Nthara predicted the outcomes we see today, turning World Bank support for Liberia into a transformative tool,” President Weah said.

He asserted further: “I saw the sincerity  of this young man when he and his regional boss,  Mr. Pierre Laporte, who is present at this program today,  were granted audience by me at some time in 2019 for our first meeting… Khwima, and Pierre, you both did not disappoint me.  Since that first meeting in my Office four years ago, you have lived up to all of the assurances that you gave me that you would exert your best efforts and work assiduously to place the resources of the World Bank at the disposal of the Liberian people, and the results are there for all to see.”

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