Liberia’s Minister of Finance Mr Amara Konneh has been unanimously selected Africa’s 2914th Finance Minister of the Year, by the editorial board of Banker Magazine, a subsidiary of Financial Times Magazine.
The prestigious recognition is expected to be delivered next week in London, ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 24, 2014.
In a letter addressed to Mr. Konneh, the publisher of the Banker Magazine wrote “I am delighted to tell you that for our January 2014 edition, you have been chosen Africa’s “Finance Minister of the Year.”
The publisher noted that the “decision was made after discussions among the magazine’s editors and a survey of views among bankers and economists, and therefore represents a vote of confidence by the markets in the role played by the Liberian Ministry of Finance over the past year. “Many congratulations to you and your colleagues,” the Magazine’s editor added.
In particular, The Banker noted the wide-ranging economic reforms that are being carried out to develop Liberia’s institutions, infrastructure and financial system.
The Banker also pointed out that Konneh has embarked on a series of reforms both at the Ministry of Finance and within the broader financial and fiscal environment, introducing several economic and fiscal programs and instruments that have helped to stabilize the economy.
Amara Konneh was appointed Liberia’s 25th Minister of Finance in January 2012, charged with the daunting task of transforming the economy that is recovering from one of the worst economic collapses and creating jobs, shortly after the 2011 elections of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for a second term.
He has since coordinated the formulation and launching of the administration’s five-year development strategy, the Agenda for Transformation (AfT), its second poverty-reduction strategy, and the first step towards its Vision 2030 that lays the foundation for turning Liberia into an inclusive middle-income country by 2030.
The AfT will attempt to remove structural development obstacles through an estimated US$3.2 billion program, more than half of which is planned for roads and energy.
Minister Konneh has presided over macroeconomic stability over the past two years in the midst of sluggish global economic growth that had negative implications for the Liberian economy. He has presided over a massive public investment in key economic infrastructure projects while attracting millions in grants and concessional loans to fund the AfT.
To support the growth envisioned in the government’s medium-term growth strategy, (AfT) he quickly introduced a Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), a multi-year rolling budget framework that began in fiscal year 2012/2013 and saw an increase in public investments from a mere 7% of the budget to about 25% to finance critical economic infrastructure projects.
Through an aggressive mobilization of domestic and external financing, Konneh has led the government’s efforts that have raised US$2 billion to support the AfT, energy, roads, ports and agriculture.
The most significant project is the restoration of electricity to the country, construction of major highways to connect Liberia’s key economic corridors and rehabilitation of the Greenville Port and the main international airport. Most of the funding secured so far constitutes grants with about 20% in concessional loans to various lenders including the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other bilateral financing.
According to the Banker’s Magazine, Liberia’s fiscal policy has broadly supported macroeconomic stability through Minister Konneh’s leadership.
Government budgets have more than doubled since 2008, as government service provision has expanded with the economy. Until 2012, budgets were broadly balanced, with primary deficits below 2% of GDP.
Since Minister Konneh introduced the MTEF, overspending on key economic infrastructure resulted in an estimated 5.8% deficit, which has been paid off by the Ministry of Finance. He has also ensured full compliance with the Public Financial Management Act, by implementing its core regulations.
He also has overseen robust PFM reforms including enhancement of cash management procedures, wage bill reforms, fiscal decentralization, down-sizing the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) to twenty ministries, and the General Auditing Commission (GAC). Through his leadership, PFM reforms are generally on track with a revision for the PFM Strategy and Action Plan in the works.
Liberia, under Mr. Konneh’s stewardship, produced for the first time, a budget performance report (fiscal outturn) and a Consolidated Financial Statement for the Legislature and the President that is being audited by the General Auditing Commission—a crucial compliance requirements of the Public Financial Management Act.
The recognition comes, when Liberia is celebrating 10 years of sustained peace and resurgent economic growth and development, propelled largely by sound economic and fiscal management policies spearheaded by one of the continent’s youngest cabinet member.
Under his supersision, the Liberian economy grew an estimated 8.9% in 2012, led by the first full year of post-conflict iron ore exports, buoyant construction, and strong performance in services.
Liberia’s real GDP is projected to expand by 8.1% in 2013 and growth is projected to be impressive in 2014. It is estimated that between 25 to 30 thousand jobs have been created thus far by mining and agriculture concessions, and through labor-intensive employment programs financed by the government and donors.
Liberia has also made impressive gains in other areas. Between 2011 and 2013 it climbed eight steps to 174 (out of 187) in the UN’s Human Development Index and has risen 10 positions in the World Bank’s last two Ease of Doing Business reports, taking it above Tanzania and Nigeria.
The Treasury Chief was also very instrumental in getting Liberia’s qualifications for the United States Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Country Threshold Program (TCP) and the Compact Program in 2009 and 2012. The TCP has supported critical reforms to increase girls’ primary education completion; land rights and access; and develop a trade policy to facilitate Liberia’s accession to the World Trade Organization. These initiatives were supported with a US$15 million grant for the TCP of the MCC.
As a reflection of the high performance of Liberia’s TCP, Liberia became eligible to develop a Compact Program, which will attract additional funding for key socioeconomic develop initiatives, in line with the AfT and the Millennium Development Goals.
Speaking to the Observer via telephone, Konneh said the award was a tribute to the President’s leadership, the work and dedication of the staff of the Ministries of Finance and Planning and Economic Affairs, and his colleagues across the government.
“We are flattered by this recognition and thank the President for her preferment. We hope this will reenergize the workforce and create the impetus necessary to drive our development agenda forward. There is no time for celebration, for we have a lot of work to do,” he said.
The Banker is the premier monthly magazine on global finance since 1926, and is owned by the Financial Times group. It is the most-read monthly financial magazine in Europe, with an influential worldwide audience of senior bank executives and financial policy-makers. This is the 13th year in which we have given awards to finance ministers, it pointed out.