2014 Year in Review Business and Economy—Part II

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During 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 Sale
In 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 Prices
In 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.

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