The outbreak of the Ebola Virus disease (EVD) has shattered the Liberian economy to an extent that it has made a deep dent in gross domestic product (GDP), while also fueling inflation that is pushing basic necessities further out of the reach of most ordinary Liberians.
Amid these scaring gloomy economic signs, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has said that every measure is being put in place to maintain macroeconomic stability, as well as effective management of the economy during this difficult period in Liberia.
In an end-of-year press statement, MFDP stated for the first half of fiscal year 2014/2015, the government generated approximately US$298 million in revenue.
“Out of this amount, US$209 million was generated from domestic sources (tax and non-tax revenues) while US$89 million came from external sources (grants and borrowing) as a result extensive negotiations with multilateral and bilateral partners,” the MFDP release said.
The revenue numbers are encouraging, given the extra strain the EVD caused as major investors pulled out during the months of July through October 2014.
During the same period, the release intimated, the government was able to spend more than US$35 million on healthcare services including US$9 million on Ebola Response and US$6 million for the restoration of basic health care services across the country, despite the fact that the domestic economy was severely challenged as a result of the outbreak.
To ensure that the operations of Government continued unimpeded, including regular salary payments to active civil servants and non-essential staffs who were requested to stay home due to the crisis in 2014, MFDP expended US$106 million on salaries and compensation related items. It was a decision of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that in order to minimize the livelihood impact of the Ebola crisis, non-essential staff and all civil servants continue to receive their income to purchase basic food and other supplies.
It can be recalled that at the onset of the crisis, Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh announced series of measures and disclosed that the Economic Management Team (EMT) submitted several proposals to the President for her consideration.
“The EMT has submitted for the President’s consideration a number of measures, including austerities that would create the fiscal space for more investment into our fight against Ebola,” Min. Konneh stated.
“In order for these proposed interventions to work optimally, it is extremely crucial for all government agencies to accept cuts in their respective budgets and spending plans to ensure we mobilize the required resources to fight Ebola. This is a difficult pill to swallow for all of us; but we can all agree that the result will be well worth the strain,” the Finance Minister told a news conference last year.
The Ministry’s year-end release furthered that in addition to expenses on healthcare, other critical sectors still received support: Security (US$35 million); education (US$28 million); energy (US$6 million); infrastructure (US$27.7 million), senatorial elections (US$9.5 million), among others.
“As part of measures to accelerate economic recovery, the MFDP has provided special support for Agricultural investment (US$2 million) and private sector development (US$1 million). These programs have already been established and fully funded.
As the country prepares for life in a post-Ebola era, the Government has directed its focus on the re-opening of schools across the country.
Toward this end, the MFDP has already established a US$1 million fund to assist the sector in getting ready for operations.”
The Ministry’s statement indicated that it was working through a partnership with the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve government’s revenue generation and fundraising efforts to ensure that the required resources are available to fund the rebuilding of key social services and infrastructures, among others.