John G. Bestman, retired member of the Central Bank of Liberia Board of Governors has outlined several achievements being made under Governor J. Mills Jones Administration, which he said; the bank provided US$5.0 million dollars through commercial banks for onward lending.
Mr. Bestman recalled that the fund was provided as three percent interest rate for onward lending at eight percent to qualified borrowers.
The risks were mitigated by the reserves of the commercial banks and the program was hugely successful and ended in 2013.
Bestman, a former Governor of the National Bank of Liberia (NBL), which later became the CBL succeeded said, “A Home Mortgage Program of US$10 million was inaugurated through the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) and placement of US$5 million plus
L$181,250,000 to Afriland First Bank at 3 percent interest for long term funding to agriculture to support planting of cocoa, coffee, rubber, and oil palm.”
“The Central Bank of Liberia continues to promote its financial inclusion strategy and it is working. The CBL’s US$5.0 million 3-year term placements with commercial banks to support medium-term lending to Liberian-owned businesses have been redeemed with interest,” the retired CBL Board of Governors member intimated.
He disclosed that a total of 93 businesses benefited, 31 of which are owned by women; 10 sectors were covered, including fisheries, transportation, woodwork, agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing.
According to him, these businesses are employing about 3,000 individuals more than Arcelor Mittal and China Union combined.
“The increasing success of the financial inclusion strategy is also evident in the growth of credit unions, which until a few years ago were virtually stagnant in the country,” Mr. Bestman said.
Governor Bestman said, “Because of the steps taken by CBL, Liberia now have 350 credit unions, up from 29 two years ago. The Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) program is now in all of the 15 counties and comprises 400 associations, mainly dominated by women.”
Mr. Bestman said so far, over 10,000 women have benefited from being members of these associations, and have told their stories about how access to credit has made a difference in their lives.
He said over the past 9 years, massive improvements have occurred in the nation’s banking systems, saying, “Instead of four commercial banks in existence when this administration came to power, there are now 9 commercial banks in the country with 82 branches.”
He recounted that the minimum capital required of banks to operate in Liberia has increased from 2 million United States dollars to ten million United States dollars and the liquidity of banks have greatly improved, leading to aggressive lending.
“I graciously acknowledge my tenure of service during the past nine years of the Unity Party led administration, under our illustrious President, Her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. My experience over these years has been hugely blessed and richly rewarding. I also commend her for the quality of the professional men and women she continues to appoint to the Board of Governors,” Mr. John Bestman said.
Mr. Bestman also commended CBL’s Executive Governor, Dr. Joseph Mills Jones and the members of the Board for the high level of professionalism demonstrated during his tenure in advancing the interests of the Liberian people over the past 9 years.
He said all evidences exist that indeed the nation’s banking system is on a sound footing as he is being retired.
He added, “We have managed to keep inflation in single digits, while in many countries in the region, inflation due to currency depreciation is in double digits. The value of the Liberian dollar, despite limited export capacity and low productivity is still relatively stable Vis a Vis the value of international currencies. We have managed to keep the Liberian dollar at a reasonable rate by active interventions in the market place.”
Governor Bestman said, “Despite the successes achieved in improving financial inclusion by the CBL, there are some people who seek to politicize the intent of the Bank in promoting the wellbeing of Liberians.”
“They continue to make all kinds of irresponsible remarks about the direction of the Bank including insinuating that the money being used to provide stimuli to the economy comes out of the consolidated account of the central government,” he stated.
“This is false and misleading and the accusations are baseless and dangerous. Not one penny of Government’s money is spent on economic stimuli to the real sector,” Retired Governor Bestman disclosed.
He recalled that the national government’s effort places great emphasis on its poverty reduction strategy (PRS) in order to lift Liberians out of extreme poverty and deprivation as well as promoting shared prosperity.
“As a result, the Central Bank of Liberia developed the strategy for Financial Inclusion from 2009 – 2013 in order to respond to the needs for expanding banking services in all parts of Liberia,” he indicted.
He maintained that the plan has received lots of commendation from those impacted in communities all over the country.
Mr. Bestman, who is also a former Minister of Finance said the CBL currently supports the numerous programs in the furtherance of its strategic objectives such as the opening of six rural community finance institutions (RCFI’s), with three additional planned.