— President Weah assures, as public financial management, youth unemployment top national economic dialogue forum
By David A. Yates and Robin Dopoe
In the midst of the prevailing economic hardship, President George Weah has assured Liberians of his administration’s willingness to take into consideration recommendations under advisement, and where and when necessary, will back them with political will required for successful implementation.
Weah made the commitment on Wednesday, September 5, 2019 in Monrovia at the opening a three-day National Economic Dialogue (NED), which discusses the country’s fiscal situation, public finance mobilization and management, etc.
“As you are aware, the theme of the Dialogue is ‘National Economic Revival and Growth: Critical Issues, Challenges, and a Way Forward. Therefore, I am convinced that your findings and recommendations will support and enhance the attainment of the goals and objectives of our national development plan, the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD),” the President said.
The NED focuses on Public Finance Management (PFM), as well as Investment Promotion and Private Sector Growth, Youth Unemployment and Skills Development, and Peace and Reconciliation for Sustained Economic Growth.
President Weah, who declared the dialogue opened, recalled that in June of this year, he advised Liberians to cooperate with his administration to devise and support new measures, which could successfully address structural defects and imbalances in the economy.
He said it was based on deep concerns for the current state of the country’s economy that he established an independent national economic dialogue secretariat to conduct the event. Liberia’s former Planning Minister, Toga Gayewea Macintosh, chairs the NED secretariat.
Weah added, “You may recall that in my first Annual Message, which was given one week after I assumed the Presidency in January last year, I informed the nation that the state of the economy that my administration inherited left a lot to be desired. There were structural challenges, which would require major adjustments if they were not to continue having a negative impact on macro-economic stability.”
“I am highly impressed by the caliber of the various panelists, both Liberians and foreign partners, and the depth and range of their experience and knowledge in their respective fields, all of which are expected that they will bring to bear in searching for lasting solutions to our economic woes,” he said.
Weah recalled how the issues of liquidity, and a persistent decline in the value of the Liberia currency, compounded by reducing inflows of foreign exchange and investments, placed upward pressure on inflation.
President Weah added, “I am not an economist, and will never pretend to be one. Yet, the mantle of leadership that has been placed upon me, gives me direct responsibility to find lasting solutions to repair our broken economy and make life better for our people.
“You will recall that on previous occasions, I have welcomed the idea for Liberians to work together to tackle our toughest problems, and then seek the choices that will lead to changes that would have broad positive effects,” the President said.
Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, Head of NED Secretariat, said the forum is intended to strengthen transparency, participatory and accountable governance. According to him, the economic discussion will help stimulate a broad-based national conversation on the state and fate of the country’s economy; and to collectively come out with ways that would situate Liberia on a path of rapid economic recovery, sustainable inclusive growth, and social transformation.
NED is a part of ongoing efforts in support of the PAPD to address critical national issues to move the country forward.
Dr. McIntosh said the task at hand is huge, but one that can be overcome with the commitment from Liberian people; the strong political will of the government that would increase confidence at all the levels of parties to generate the required force for the task.
“We all know that the three days are not sufficient to adequately deal with the structural development challenges, but the dialogue is a major step in the right direction. the President said.”
Dr. McIntosh also told the participants that at the end of the dialogue, a national consensus would evolve on a set of short and medium-term policy measures, strategies, programs and a time-bound road map aimed at enhancing speedy economic recovery; sustained economic growth, and peace and reconciliation.
He then appreciated the government, the UNDP, bilateral and multilateral partners for their support, encouragement and hard work to ensure that “we have a successful dialogue.”
Macintosh stressed that there are series of challenges in the country, citing that debates around the country begin and end with a talk about the structural macroeconomic challenges facing the economy, something he said has dampened the economy and posed considerable risks to the survival of every Liberian.
He said that the impact of these challenges have led to slow growth of the economy, rising prices for basic commodities, a steady rise in the volume of the country’s balance of payment deficits, among others.
He, however, noted that these pressing issues which are the utmost concern of the government, the Liberian people and development partners, include corruption, governance, local content, reconciliation and decentralization of political, economic and social power, and as such the dialogue will address these issues.
The National Economic Dialogue, which is being organized by the National Economic Dialogue Secretariat under the theme: “National Economic Revival and Growth. Critical Issues, Challenges, and the Way Forward,” is expected to run from September 4-6.
The forum is being supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); European Union (EU); United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).