President George Manneh Weah has called on stakeholders in the economy to come up with workable solutions that will improve the business climate in the country.
Speaking at the closing session of the 4th edition of the National Judicial Conference yesterday, Thursday, June 10, 2021 at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Monrovia, President Weah told the audience that the business and investment climate Liberia has been a subject of great importance in recent years which is the function of the drive to provide jobs for the citizens and to grow the economy by increasing the flow of both domestic and private investments.
“That very structure depends on the body of laws and policies which we have in place to regulate the free flow of investments and commerce, the process and time it takes to resolve legal disputes arising from the application of these laws, and the sense or perception of justice that arises from this adjudication process”, President Weah said. While tendering his regret for not being at the opening of the conference due to his county tour in Lofa, President Weah said he was however excited to be present for the segment that dwelled on the interaction of the judiciary and the business and investment climate.
He laid the basis on the importance of the Judiciary in the country’s democratic setting, stating that the branch of Government constitutionally empowered to interpret the Constitution and the body of statutes enacted by the National Legislature, the Judiciary sits at the center of our society. He added that the law is what the Judiciary says it is, through its court system that goes all the way to our venerable Supreme Court, which ultimately has the final say.
“And so to say that Liberia is a just society, we do not turn to the Executive Branch of Government, nor do we turn to the Legislative Branch of Government. Only one branch of Government holds the key to people’s and institutions’ perception and sense of justice in Liberia. That branch is the Judiciary branch of Government”, Mr. Weah said
He underscored the importance of the Judiciary to the and lauded the legal community that included the Chief Justice, Associate Justices , learned counselors and lawyers for attaching the needed attention to the conference.
“Your Honor Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices and learned counselors and lawyers, the powers you hold in our democracy and over our people are awesome. I am very impressed that you have chosen to assess the impact of this power on our national polity and economy through this Judiciary Conference. It is also commendable that, on this Fourth day of the conference, you have also chosen to specifically assess how this power may be impacting businesses, corporations and investors”
President said in October 2018, the Government established a Business Climate Working Group to look into ways of improving the business climate in Liberia and after series of workshops and meetings across the Government and with Development Partners and other stakeholders identified key challenges affecting the business climate and opportunities for improving it.
The President noted that these challenges are largely summarized by the World Bank’s Doing Business Indicators, which include indicators such as: starting a business, getting electricity, getting credit, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, registering property, protecting minority investors, trading across borders, and resolving insolvency.
Mr. Weah did not mince words of the poor rating Liberia’s is associated with comparing relative to the standing of other countries and challenged the Judiciary to take steps to get the rating improved.
“In this regard, I am informed that Liberia ranks 175 out of 190 countries, that our neighbor Sierra Leone ranks 163 out of 190 and that Cote d’Ivoire, our other neighbor, ranks 118 out of 190 countries. This indicates that we as a Government and country have some serious work to do. Today at this Conference, the Judiciary will be looking at your contribution to changing these numbers through the application of the law, in key areas such as enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, getting credit”.
President Weah, whose facial expression showed how unhappy the situation is, said the Executive under him will stand in partnership with the Judiciary to overhaul business processes and simplify them. Accordingly, he said he will shortly appoint a high-level Cabinet sub-committee on the investment and business climate which will be chaired by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, and will include the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Liberia Revenue Authority, the National Investment Commission, the Liberia Business Registry, the Liberia Electricity Corporation and other agencies as may be necessary.
“This cabinet sub-committee will be tasked to present a roadmap after this Judiciary Conference that will track the recommended actions and changes needed for improvement. The Committee will be required to present a report in six months to show credible progress on the business climate in a range of areas”, the President said.
The President went on to outline some essential actions or decisions to be taken which if not done will definitely affect the economy.
“Mr. Chief Justice, you will agree with me that if we make it difficult for businesses to register, to get electricity, or to pay their taxes, we affect the economy. If businesses cannot get timely legal redress from the courts, or if contracts cannot be effectively or fairly enforced, we affect the investment climate. If commercial banks cannot enforce judgment on collateral when people default on their loans, these banks may not be able to lend money into our economy”, he said.
He then urged the Judiciary to work with the Executive as a Government to rebrand the country through what he called and expressed confidence that the conference will contribute meaningfully towards it.
“If the law is the problem, then let us reform the law. If processes and systems are the problem, let us change those processes. If the lack of funding is a problem, let us find ways to provide more resources. If certain people are the problem because, for selfish motives, they stand in the way of fair and transparent processes, then let us kick those people out of our systems to improve our investment and business climate. These are the actions we will expect to see following this important Conference.
Mr. Weah whose speech drew wide applause ended his address by thanking the international development partners who continue to stand with the country as the government aims to transform the business and investment climate.