IMF Chief Urges Gov’t to Stay Course

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The Manager Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, has urged the government of Liberia to stay its course of improving the Liberian economy for the betterment of the country.
In spite of the huge toll that the already weak economy experienced from the Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in the country, Madam Lagarde said the Liberian government has done well by staying focus on the EVD and the economy and putting in place proper measures that ensure that the economy remains on track.
Speaking at a joint press stakeout with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf after the two had had a bilateral discussion in the President’s office, Madam Lagarde said ensuring the viability of the Liberian economy must remain the primary objective of the Liberian government because this is a massive effort of conducting democracy and growth, noting that the IMF is ever willing to help in this regard.
Madam Lagarde, along with a sizable delegation, landed in Monrovia yesterday for a two-day visit to the country. Amongst members of the delegation were two Liberians who are high-ranking officials of the IMF-including former Finance Minister, Dr. Antoinette Sayeh.
She promised that the IMF, through the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), will help the country in its post-Ebola development agenda. The ECF is a financial assistance agreement that the IMF has with the government. She said funds donated through the ECF will help the government develop the economy around key sectors such as power, peace security and sectors that would help improve the country’s growth.
The IMF Chief also said the country had been making so much progress before Ebola hit, and it is essential that partners, especially the IMF and other financial institutions do everything to help get the economy back on track.
The IMF intends to continue to support the Liberian people, through the ECF program, in their efforts. “I hope that we can help in this regard,” she said.
She had earlier stated that her visit will not only help to strengthen the IMF’s partnership with the country, “but it will also enable me to see firsthand how the country has steadily put in place plans to control the Ebola epidemic and to support the post-Ebola recovery.”
The IMF has provided Liberia with some $US130 million of new financing and debt relief, including about $45.6 million from the Rapid Credit Facility and about $36.5 million of debt relief recently approved by the IMF’s Executive Board.
The debt relief was the first time such assistance was provided under the IMF’s new Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust.
The IMF’s support has been crucial to budgetary support and allowing the deficit to expand to assist the government’s efforts to eradicate the disease and support the economic recovery.
A mission from the IMF, led by IMF Deputy Division Chief, Ms. Corinne Deléchat, visited Monrovia from September 4-14, 2013 and conducted the second review of the government’s economic program supported by the IMF under an Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement.
The IMF director’s visit to Liberia is long overdue. President Sirleaf had anxiously awaited her arrival back in June but was postponed. The President however noted that Madam Lagarde’s visit could not have come at a more appropriate time.
This is because, according to the President, the government has just concluded its fiscal budget exercise and President Sirleaf hopes that her presence in the country would help figure out where the government has performed well and where there are lapses in adherence to the ECF program.
She lauded the IMF Chief for the entity’s program in the country, some of which is extended to the Central Bank of Liberia, ensuring strong and structural reform at the CBL.
President Sirleaf said during the Ebola crisis, the IMF responded with support that helped the country stand back on its feet. “The partnership with the IMF, through you, demonstrates, nothing short of extra-ordinary.
Madam Lagarde visit was planned initially scheduled for July 16-17, but was postponed due to tight schedule. “I want to extend warm hearted congratulations to President Sirleaf’s excellent leadership and for what she and the country has done with this horrific epidemic, through the help that have come from the international community,” she said, calling for continuous efforts to ensure that the virus does not resurface in the country, and rebuilding the economy with the help of external partners.
She said that the time that the country’s economic outlook remains favorable, with output expected to expand by 8.1 percent in 2013 and around 7 percent in 2014.
This strong performance, she said, reflects higher-than-anticipated iron ore production and an acceleration in non-mining real GDP growth boosted by robust private and public investment in line with the government’s development strategy, the Agenda for Transformation. Inflation (in Liberian dollar terms) is projected to pick up to 8 percent in 2013 owing to higher domestic and international food prices and recent exchange rate depreciation pressures, and to gradually decline to 6 percent in 2014. While uncertainty in the global economic environment poses downside risks to the growth outlook, this risk is offset by the coming on stream of new mining and agricultural concessions in the next few years, which could lead to higher growth over the medium term.
Lagarde is a respected French lawyer who has been the Managing Director of the IMF since July 5 2011. She has previously held various ministerial posts in her native country’s government, including Minister of Economic Affairs, Finance and Employment as well as Minister of Agriculture and Fishing and Minister of Trade. Lagarde was the first woman to become Finance Minister of not just France, but a G8 Economy and is the first woman to head the IMF.
She was on November 16, 2009, ranked the best Minister of Finance in the Eurozone, by the Financial Times. In 2014, Lagarde was ranked the 5th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.

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