‘Nation Peaceful & Strong’ -Pres. Weah Reports On State of the Nation

Consistent with the 1986 Constitution of Liberia, as specifically articulated in Article 58, President George Manneh Weah, yesterday took to the Rotunda of the National Legislature and fully updated the people of Liberia through their elected representatives on Capitol Hill. In the 2-hr-45-minute speech, the Liberian leader declared that the State of the Nation, which he voyaged for the fourth year running is peaceful, stable and strong.

He reported rather exhaustively on various aspects of governance and presidential responsibilities entrusted upon him as the Chief Magistrate and Chief Executive Officer of the country, stating that the Liberian nation is headed for a more prosperous epoch.

He declared quite emphatically: “Based on the Report that I have just made to you, I can state categorically, and with confidence, that the State of our Economy is Stable and Growing, and that the State of the Nation is Peaceful and Strong!”

He assured the National Legislature that, as President of Liberia, working in close collaboration with you, he will do all that is in his power to ensure that our Nation will remain peaceful, stable and strong, and that the economy will continue on a trajectory of sustainable growth and development.

“Together, we can – and will – succeed!,” he stressed.

The Economy

Inciting the very fulcrum of the National Economy, the President told the nation that his administration is fully 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, the President noted that his Government was fully supportive of policy implementations from the CBL that have kept the recovery of our economy on course.

“Despite the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy grew by 3.6 percent from negative 3 percent in 2020, and growth this year is expected to be 4.7 percent, through increased agricultural and public investments in social compact program,” President Weah reported.

He added: “In nominal value the Liberian economy expanded by more than US$300 million in 2021.  Inflation was reduced to less than 6 percent in November 2021, from 13.1 percent in December 2020.”

According to the President, his administration was successful in increasing the gross international reserves of our country to more than US$600 million, representing more than 4 months of import of goods and services in compliance with ECOWAS convergence target.

He also said as part of the currency reform approved by the National Legislature, the members of the 54th National Legislature, the Central Bank of Liberia brought in the first consignment of banknotes totaling L$4.0 billion Liberian dollars out of the approved L$48.734 billion Liberian dollars in November 2021.

“The second consignment is expected in January 2022,” he Chief Executive also stated. “The bulk of the new currency, which will include coins, is expected in the second half of 2022, while the balance will be coming in 2024.”

In compliance with the restriction of the Joint Resolution of the National Legislature, there will be no printing or delivery of the new currency in 2023, even though the exchange exercise will continue through 2023, he said.

The President said based on the sound management and good performance of the Liberian economy, Liberia received $345.3 million US dollars in August 2021 under the general Special Drawing Rights allocation to IMF members.

Legislative Agenda

President Weah used the occasion to unveil his legislative agenda, which is one of the foremost objective of the state of the nation address by any president.

Welcoming legislators back from their Annual Recess to begin the Fifth Session of the 54th Legislature, President Weah expressed that hope that during this Fifth Session, and in the usual spirit of collaboration and cooperation that he has always enjoyed, they would work together to pass meaningful bills in the supreme interest of the people and the state.

He recalled that in 2021, 23 pieces of legislation, which include financing agreements, creation of regional universities, and ratification of international instruments, amongst others, were passed into law.

These laws, most especially the financing agreements, have important implications for the growth and development of the Liberian economy.

“While I applaud you for your hard work, I want to respectfully remind you that there are still thirty-five (35) pieces of legislation which are pending before you, eight (8) of them from your Third Session of 2020, and 27 of them from your Fourth Session of 2021.”

He said many of these proposed laws have important significance to strengthening our governance and judiciary systems, as well as our relationships within our sub-region, and that others, when enacted, will help to ensure and secure financial transactions in support of our monetary and fiscal policies, and will help to prevent our country from being a conduit of illicit financial transactions, money laundering, and terrorist financing.

“Taken together, these pending bills constitute a major proportion of our legislative agenda for the ensuing year, although we will be submitting new bills during this Fifth Session for your further consideration,” President Weah stressed.

He added: “We are counting on you to consider the expeditious passage of these pending bills, as well as the other new bills which we will be submitting to you for your timely consideration during this Fifth Session.  It is our fervent hope that we will continue to work together collaboratively, in the best interest of the Liberian People, to timeously execute our Constitutional duties.”

Revenue and Expenditure Report

Another key objective of the State of the Nation Address is to report on Government’s Revenue and Expenditure activities during the reporting year, this time speaking of 2021.

Giving such an important report, the President indicated that revenue collection for 2021, including grants, was $646 million U.S. dollars, compared to $653.9 million U.S. dollars in 2020.

According to him this apparent decrease is attributable to more international Covid-related funding that was received in Calendar Year 2020.  This revenue performance was driven by higher receipts of tax and non-tax revenues, especially taxes on international trade.

“Of this amount,” President Weah said, “domestic taxes was $577 million U.S. dollars and external resources received from our Development Partners was $68 million U.S. dollars. The last fiscal year recorded the highest level of domestic revenue performance since the end of the civil conflict.  We are all encouraged and challenged to sustain these efforts.”

On the other hand, total cash expenditure for the same period under review was $668 million U.S. dollars, the Chief Executive reported, adding: “Of this amount, 44 percent was spent on compensation of Government employees, 25 percent on goods and services, 17 percent on domestic and international debt, and 5 percent on Public Sector Investment.

In a rather elated mood, the Liberian leader reported that while for at least the last five decades Liberia has had a fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30, something that made Liberia the only country in the ECOWAS sub-region that has run this fiscal year, which is out of alignment with the rest of the countries in the region, “We have been encouraged by ECOWAS for nearly two decades now since the end of the civil war to revise our fiscal calendar.”

He said to facilitate this transition, “we had to enact a special transitional budget which you approved at $347.9 million US dollars in the year under review.   December 31, 2021 concluded this transitional budget, which was funded exclusively by domestic revenue, and the draft national budget is presently before the House of Senate for consideration, having been passed by the House of Representatives.”

The president told lawmakers that it is very clear that the success of this budget depends on strong revenue measures and that it depends on all citizens paying their lawful taxes and doing so in a timely manner.

“In this regard, the Government in 2022 will support even more vigorously the domestic resource mobilization strategy of the Liberia Revenue Authority,” he President emphasized.

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