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2014 Year in Review Business and Economy—Part II

first_imgDuring 2014 Liberia’s economic prospects were forecast to improve significantly through the efforts of the Central Bank of Liberia’s Executive Governor, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones. However, things didn’t go as planned even with this intervention from the Governor.Dr. Jones empowered local Liberian businesses in the 15 counties through the Central Bank loan scheme and also pumped US$ 5 million into the rubber industry, but the deadly Ebola outbreak in March stalled those gains.On May 15, 2014, the CBL Governor told the business community that the CBL would encourage Liberian owned small businesses to network and think about adding value to their businesses as well as local products. “If this is done in our country, local products can also be sent abroad for marketing to help alleviate poverty in Liberia,” the CBL Governor said.He was however quick to remind participants and business owners that, “development is not a project, but it is to empower the poverty stricken Liberians.Dr. Jones has on many occasions stressed that Liberians should be the ones in stores doing business and not foreigners who are dominating the economy. He proffered the unwavering support of the CBL to the Liberian business community.“CBL will remain a friend to the private sector, especially the business community and will continue more financial loan schems to them,” he assured.He then indicated that the access to credit was the CBL’s own way of helping Liberians to do business and build the private sector and in doing so it will enable Liberia reach the middle income mark that it is targeting in the Agenda for Transformation (AfT).The AfT is the government of Liberia’s five development programs that seeks to improve the provision of basic social services and infrastructural development. It is a subset of government’s Vision 2030 agenda.Dr. Jones said: “This is not going to happen by talking, not by playing politics, but it is going to happen by actually putting citizens to work in the private sector thereby enabling Liberia to grow from a low to middle income” country.“CBL is not throwing away money, but trying to invest in the future of Liberia,” he reminded them.He told detractors that as Governor of the CBL, he sees “nothing wrong with empowering citizens of Liberia, and therefore, sees no reason to apologize to anybody for doing that.”‘Economy Has Much to Achieve’On March 25, 2014, the Minister of Finance Development and Planning, Amara Konneh said the present state of the country’s economy has the propensity to achieve several developmental objectives.Minister Konneh was briefing journalists at a MICAT press briefing, when he gave an update on the state of the Liberian economy and outlined developments made as well as challenges facing the government in improving the economy.He said that Liberia’s real gross domestic product (GDP) recorded 8.1 percent estimated growth for fiscal year 2013; attributing it largely to increased activities in the mining sector.According to him, the growth in Liberia’s GDP is expected to continue in the medium-term, especially with the export of iron ore by China Union and the increase of production by ArcelorMittal.He noted that the increase of export in the extractive sector is a result of Liberia’s stable macro-economy, which attracts foreign direct investment that generates foreign exchange and creates jobs.Minister Konneh said the government has projected a boost in tax revenue collection by about US$400 million per annum through an increase in the mining sector, which it has achieved by removing infrastructural and bureaucratic processes that hindered concessions from rolling out their operations.This, according to Minister Konneh in 2014, would help increase employment opportunities for Liberians within the next seven to 10 years.However, the Finance Minister said that the economy of Liberia partly experienced some difficulties in the second quarter of the fiscal year, as the Liberian dollar continued to depreciate against the US dollar. The GOL’s fiscal year begins July 1 and ends June 30th.This, he said, was quickly brought to a halt by the Government through the efforts of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).He said this decline in the value of the country’s currency is a testament to the need to increase the country’s exports and diversify the economy in a way that would enable the country to attract more foreign exchange.He added: “If this is not done, we will remain dependent on large aid and security-related inflows, which are likely to fall over time and be subject to global demand and prices.”Minister Konneh has meanwhile disclosed that the service sector, which is another driving force of economic growth, is expected to be hit as the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) draws down its presence in Liberia, and as NGO activities start reaching lower levels.According to him, this would cause a slowdown in domestic demand for services such as food, entertainment and domestic aid.LCUNA Appeals for Inclusion on CBL’s Weekly Forex SaleIn May, 2014, Members of the Liberian Credit Union Association (LCUNA) appealed to the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones to include them on the CBL weekly sale of foreign exchange auction in the country.The leadership of the Union made the statement at its Annual General Assembly in the port city of Buchanan where the Union honored Governor Jones for his numerous economic contributions towards the empowerment of Liberians.Making remarks on behalf of the organization, the chairman of the Board of Director of LCUNA, J. Saye Biyie noted that the CBL’s weekly foreign exchange auction remains the principal policy instrument for affecting domestic markets in Liberia.Mr. Biyie suggested that in order to improve the credit union sector, it was important to include credit union members on the foreign exchange lists, especially for those that are doing international trade.According to him, the credit union’s role is pivotal to the ongoing recovery of the Liberian economy.The credit union, Mr. Biyie said, is also helping to buttress government’s efforts by providing economic opportunity to Liberians in the business sectors.Also speaking, Baboukar Jeng, Manager of the Gambia Credit Union Movement (GAMCUM), expressed delight over the level of development that the organization has carried out in meeting the needs of Liberians after the civil conflict.Mr. Jeng noted that improving of the business Sector and infrastructural development are key to the country’s needs.“The business sector remains one of the cardinal areas for the development of any nation, and as such, Liberians should begin venturing in the sector,” he urged.According to him, when this is done, the citizens will be in a better position to contribute to the national government as it strives to rebuild the lives of its people.Mr. Jeng, however, called on the leadership of the Union to show good leadership to its members for the betterment of the association.At the same time, the Gambia Credit Union Movement manager said that he is optimistic that the country will once more get on par with other countries due to the level of transformation taking place in every sector.Receiving the honor on behalf of the CBL Governor, EL-Tumu Trueh, Director for Microfinance at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), lauded LCUNA for the honor and said that the Bank will continue to empower ordinary Liberians.On the inclusion of LCUNA on the CBL weekly sale of foreign exchange auction, Director Trueh promised to convey their request to the Executive Governor.According to Mr. Trueh, for the past years the CBL has been engaging the movement of the credit union activities to ensure that there is efficiency within the association.He assured LCUNA members that the Bank would continue to provide better economic opportunity by lifting Liberians out of poverty.Commerce Ministry Releases Commodity PricesIn 2014, the Ministry of Commerce released its bi-monthly critical commodities bulletin highlighting the prices of key commodities in the country.The commodities include rice, the national staple, petroleum, a political commodity, and other food & non-food items.The Ministry indicated there was over 35,856 metric tons of 50 kg rice in the country which is expected to last up to the 21st of September.The retail price for rice is US$14 to 16/25kg in Montserrado and its environs while the retail price in the rural area is US$19 to 20/25kg.The pump price of Petroleum products (diesel and gasoline) is US$4.26 and $4.18 respectively.Cement, which is now being widely used in the country by everybody for infrastructure building, is now being sold at US$8.50 to 8.75/50kg in Monrovia while rural is US$9 – 10 /50kg. According to the Ministry, the bi-monthly bulletin is a product of the Ministry developed to inform the public on key commodities inventory and pricing on a bi-monthly basis.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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“Ku Belleh Finai”

first_img(In Kpelle: ‘Let us tighten our belts’)From all indications, the new “Salary Harmonization Scheme” is generating great unease amongst public sector employees and for good reasons, too. The Scheme is being introduced at a time when the nation’s economy is in free fall amid rising prices of everyday commodities. Compounding the situation is the hike in tuition fees in public and private schools, which is keeping many students away from school. According to reports received by this newspaper, these measures are recommended by the International Monetary Fund(IMF) as part of measures intended to stabilize the nation’s economy.This newspaper recalls the widespread public concern raised when hundreds of CDC supporters were employed at various public sector institutions. There was, apparently, little or no thought given to the implications such mass public sector employment implied, without the necessary budgetary allocations to underwrite their employment. Further, most of those hired were incompetent and ill prepared to handle the tasks assigned to their respective job portfolios. In some institutions employees had to scramble to work earlier than usual for fear of arriving late or even ten minutes or less to official time only to meet someone/people sitting comfortably at their desks. Faced with the economic reality of such ill-advised decisions, the GOL has resorted, it appears, to slashing salaries in order to shore up its ability to address the problem created by such unplanned mass employment.The Ministry of Finance has publicly declared that the harmonization scheme does not affect a certain category of public sector employees which includes teachers, security officers and those in the military, as well as doctors, nurses and allied medical staff. At least this is what the public is being told. On the other hand, the facts on the ground show something completely different. The adverse effects of this newly introduced measure is already being felt. Enrollment has dropped significantly in public schools this semester, primarily because public schools are now charging fees exceeding three thousand Liberian dollars (LD$3,000). And the effects are being felt more intensely in rural areas.According to reports from the Lofa County villages of Telimen and Gbanway, public school campuses are virtually empty all day, as most students lack the money to pay the required fees. Worse still, according to a local teacher, their meager salaries of thirteen-thousand Liberian dollars (LD$13,000) are being slashed by half. According to the teacher (name withheld), when they complained, they were told by Finance officials that the money will be paid back but will be in US dollars, to be placed in accounts opened in their names, respectively. But the concern is, according to the teacher, they had never been paid in US dollars before and so why now? Moreover, according to the teacher, as adults they are quite capable of opening their own accounts and they do not need government officials to do so on their behalf.This newspaper is further informed that the story is the same in other counties. At least one Representative from Nimba (name withheld) has confirmed receiving such reports from his District. In the capital city, Monrovia, the situation is not much different as most public schools are reported to be witnessing a drop-in enrollment. In some cases, parents no longer able to afford private school fees are, in their numbers, turning to public schools where they can more easily afford the lower fees. And this is tending to crowd out students whose parents cannot afford the fees.In view of these developments, the Daily Observer finds itself constrained to warn the GOL of the inherent risks associated with the imposition of IMF recommended austerity/policy measures, which often do not consider the human factor when such polices are being conceived. In a number of countries around the world, such policies have triggered riots, other disturbances and disruptions of public order. Some governments have been sacked and their leaderships deposed, not by soldiers, but by ordinary people.As historical evidence provides, calling on the people to tighten their belts and accept tough austerity measures when they are faced daily with ostentatious displays of power and wealth by public officials is laden with untold problems, which government would do best to avoid by exploring other ways to avert what could otherwise be a potentially destabilizing situation with dangerous and unknown implications.Such measures, amongst others, include the need to reduce waste by curbing public sector corruption, extra-budgetary spending and cutting down on excessive foreign travels with large delegations. This newspaper recalls that the UN had once before advised the past government to refrain from making public policies on the fly, something which was causing distortions and adversely impacting the implementation of sound public policy measures.Could this have been the case in the decision taken to place hundreds of CDC supporters on the payroll? Was the reported mass hiring of CDC supporters intended to placate their supporters, for example?This matter is now “water under the bridge” so to speak. There are strong indications that mass hiring of CDC supporters was indeed carried out and what we have now to contend with are the effects of such policy action. The GOL, in apparent desperation to fix the economy, has called in the IMF to help and the IMF has responded with recommendations of a host of policy measures which, in its wisdom, will eventually place the Liberian economy on an even keel.History and experience suggest that there will be resistance and, not surprisingly, the source of such resistance may come from right within GOL circles itself. The Daily Observer recalls OPEX, GEMAP and, with bitter memories, the Firestone Receivership. The nation is in deep trouble with the risk of social unrest looming high as the IMF measures begin to bite.Based on such experience, in such instances or situations, this government may either find itself faced with the tough decision to call off the recommended IMF austerity measures, or it may find itself staring right down the exit hallway.  This is the time to tighten belts; as our people say in Kpelle, “Ku belleh finai”.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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Uganda, Nigeria, Morocco qualify for AFCON

first_img0Shares0000Ugandan forward Faruk Miya tries to go past a Cape Verde opponent during their 2019 AFCON qualifier in Kampala on November 17, 2018. PHOTO/FUFAJOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 17 – Three-time champions Nigeria, neighbors Uganda and Morocco have already qualified for next year’s African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon with one match left in the qualification process.Uganda beat Cape Verde Islands 1-0 at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in Kampala to move to an unassailable lead of 13 points while Nigeria progressed with a 1-1 draw away to South Africa. Morocco qualified for the 2019 Cup of Nations when Group B rivals Malawi lost 2-1 away to out-of-contention Comoros.Uganda’s victory is a welcome result for neighbors Tanzania who will qualify on Sunday if they pick maximum points away to bottom of the group Lesotho.South Africa will meanwhile need to avoid defeat in their final match against Libya in March to qualify. Libya moved to within a point of South Africa after spanking Seychelles 8-1.Other countries to qualify include the hosts Cameroon, Senegal, Madagascar, Egypt and Tunisia. The tournament will feature 24 teams for the first time.The Comoran victory in Mitsamiouli in the Indian Ocean island state gave Morocco an unassailable six-point advantage over Malawi with only one matchday left.El Fardou Mohamed Ben Nabouhane, who has been playing for Red Star Belgrade in the UEFA Champions League, gave the Comoros a second-minute lead.Patrick Phiri equalised after 53 minutes and Nasser Chamed scored the match-winner in the 70th minute on an artificial pitch.Leaders Morocco and second-place Cameroon qualify from the group with the latter assured of a place because they are hosting the June 15-July 13 tournament.Cameroon are involved in the qualifying competition to gain match practice before defending a title they won in Gabon last year by defeating Egypt 2-1 in the final.Morocco climbed above Cameroon into first place in Group B Friday after beating them 2-0 in Casablanca through a second-half brace from Hakim Ziyech.The Ajax Amsterdam midfielder broke the deadlock by converting a 54th-minute penalty and doubled the Atlas Lions’ lead 12 minutes later.Although consistently among the strongest African national teams, Morocco have won the Cup of Nations only once, in 1976 in Ethiopia when the tournament was a series of mini-leagues.-Additional info courtesy AFP0Shares0000(Visited 2 times, 1 visits today)last_img read more

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