Pres. Boakai Lays Out Dev. Agenda -Says State of Nation Distressed; But Hope Still Alive

MONROVIA: The President of Liberia, Joseph Nyuma Boakai, says the state of the nation is in distress, but the hope of our people is alive; the President also delved into the state of the Liberian Economy that  the Boakai-led government was taking over from the Weah-led government.

However, President Boakai  indicated that the country has all it takes to overcome the self-imposed burden through greed and corruption, noting that when we work together, there is nothing we cannot overcome as a people.

Accordingly, the Liberian leader appealed to members of the National Legislature who are the representatives of the people to join him to do the business of the Liberian people by not doing business as usual.

The President made the statement when he delivered his Annual Message to the National Legislature during which he maintained that the time for a mindset to shift is now.

“We must be selfless in our service to bring about the change the Liberian People are yearning for. Again, I challenge you to join me to Think Liberia, Love Liberia, and Build Liberia, President Boakai noted.

Delivering the vision of his administration, the President his ARREST Policy, encapsulating Agriculture, Roads, Rule of Law, Education, Sanitation, Tourism shall guide the preparation of the new Medium-term National Development Plan for the welfare of the Liberian our people, and is to harness opportunities in agriculture, roads, and other infrastructure development; improve the rule of law, rethink the education sector, improve sanitation, and unlock the potential of tourism.

He expressed the belief that creating economic linkages between these development facets and reinforcing them will help reverse years of economic downturns.

The economy

On the economic front, President Boakai indicated that the state of the economy is a cause for concern, with many citizens facing perennial unemployment and economic instability. “We must not just recognize the pain and frustration that permeate our society, but also work together to introduce and pass legislations that will prioritize economic reforms that foster sustainable economic growth and job creation,” he averred.

He disclosed that economic growth of the country slowed between 2022 and 2023, from 4.8 percent to 4.6 percent, and that the rate of growth averaged was about 1.5 percent, compared with 3.1 percent between 2012 and 2017 due in part to an underperforming economy and the existing geo-political global environment.

During the past six years, he explained, the economy faced challenges in terms of growth, job creation, and poverty reduction, stating that inflation during the period 2023 rose to 10.1 percent at the end of December, from 7.6 percent in 2022.

Revenue collection, he maintained, as reported for 2023 stood at US$710.23 million while expenditure totaled US$796.32 million; hence, a large budget deficit of over US$80 million.

“We intend to change this state of the economy by thinking “outside the box”; a paradigm shift away from reliance on primary commodity export to focusing on value addition with the private sector as the engine to drive the economy,” he assured; stating “Under my Administration, the empowerment of Liberian entrepreneurship through more support will help bring back THE MADE IN LIBERIA quest for inclusive and sustainable growth and jobs.”

In our quest to expand the economy, he explained that his administration will leverage Information Communication Technology (ICT) in creating jobs, especially for our youth, said training up to 10,000 young people in various digital skills in the first half of 2024 will be a way of achieving this deliverable, which he noted will bring to reality the Liberian middle-class goal in the next six years.

Liberia’s net international reserves position reported at the end of December 2023 was US$220 million, President Boakai, notwithstanding added that the report of US $40 million as the GoL’s consolidated account balance as at January 19, 2024 is not supported by the fact.

Apparently, the indication contravened assertion by former President Weah when he stated that the CDC administration was leaving in the state coffers US $40 million as the country Liberia’s net international reserves

He said the balance reported by the CBL as of the same date was US$20.5 million, highly encumbered, NOT US$40 million.

“To this end, we re-emphasize our earlier commitment to audit and ensure that regular audits will be a culture across all branches of government, not only the Executive,” he promised.

He said the stock of public debt at End-December 2023 stood at US$2.21 billion, an increase of 8.67 percent compared to end-December 2022 stock of US$2.08 billion. “This represents a sharp increase of US$1.33 billion compared to the end of December 2017 stock of US$878.17 million (representing 601.8 percent rise). Our debt burden has clearly grown astronomically. Certainly, the rescue mission was a necessity for Liberia’s transformation,” he asserted.

He then disclosed that Liberia is presently under sanction for lack of payment of dues to the African Union and the African Development Bank, adding that a default in payment of about US$650,000 to the European Investment Bank is preventing a disbursement of over US$13 million for the Sanniquellie-Loguato road.

However, he said his administration will reintroduce the Fiscal Rules and Travel Ordinance in addition to other measures to help address waste and abuse and ensure the return of prudent fiscal management. “We will ensure that the executive leads by example.”

 

Agriculture and Roads

The Liberia leader additionally proceeded in his annual address with his government’s agriculture agenda, stating that Liberia is endowed with abundant natural resources.

“With over 40% of West Africa’s rainforest, our country is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna that should help provide economic and agricultural growth opportunities,” he accentuated, said Liberia is also a leader in the discussion on climate change mitigation, further emphasizing the importance of international partnerships for sustainable agricultural production and development.

However, he importantly recognize the country’s available arable land which, he said is underutilized. “My Government is committed to harnessing the right resources and strengthening collaboration with international partners and local farmers to improve production” he maintained.

On the development of road Infrastructure he said the expansion and improvement of the road network in the country remains a top priority for his Administration. “While there has been some progress in the road and transport sector during the reviewed period, there remain considerable challenges in road development,” he said.

“The total paved roads in our national road network amount to only 1,131.1km, representing 8.7% percent of the 13,000 km road network we need,” he said, adding, “This fact underscores considerable challenges in road infrastructure and the urgent need to fund road development in the country.”

With assistance from friendly partners, President Boakai said the country made notable progress in paving some primary roads, including the corridors: the Gbarnga to Salayea, the Ganta to Saclepea, the Ganta to Yekepa, and the Sanniquellie to Loguato, and added that in addition, as of now, 37.7 percent of work on the ELWA to RIA Road Project has been accomplished.

To access all county capitals, the President furthered that his government will work to alleviate the problems faced by commuters using our primary roads, especially during the rainy season.

“This situation also causes major impediments to the economic development of our people, as these primary routes are major economic corridors to all parts of our country. The restoration of the County Road Maintenance Stations will be a key deliverable,” the Liberian leader intoned.

Accordingly, this is why he said he has commissioned a “NO CAR STUCK IN THE MUD” 100-DAY DELIVERABLE to make all major primary corridors pliable.

 

Flagship Road Program

The President laid out what he called his flagship road program deliverable, which he pointed out will include the Freeport to St. Paul Bridge Road. “Having received funding through the Government of Japan, we will begin construction of a 4-lane road from the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to the Freeport of Monrovia,” he disclosed.

Additionally, he said the Government of Japan is expected to provide funds to expand the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to 4-lanes, disclosing further that his government has also secured additional support from Japan for the conduct of feasibility studies for the expansion of the Freeport to the St. Paul Bridge corridor. “My Government will allocate funds to complete the 6.5 km Freeport to St. Paul Bridge Road,” he promised.

The Boakai-led government, he said, will ensure that funding from the National Road Fund is utilized to maintain and rehabilitate roads for the good of the public. “Through the contribution of Liberians who pay their fuel levies from every gallon of gasoline or fuel oil they purchase; we will continue to expand our maintenance program in maintaining our existing network and the construction of new community roads,” he said.

He then congratulated development partners, including the European Union, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK Aid, the German Government, KFW, and GIZ for their assistance to the country’s development agenda.

He also thanked “our Arab partners, including the Saudi Fund, the Kuwaiti Fund, and BADEA as well as the Japanese Government and JICA, the Swedish Government, the Chinese Government and its China Aid program, the Norwegian Government, the Indian Government, the African Development Bank (AfDb), and ECOWAS for their many contributions to our infrastructure development” he said.

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