Min. Tweah, Boima Kamara Clash on Liberia’s Debt Increase

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“Kamara (right) failed to understand or investigate the reasons for the abnormal growth in the stock, an outcome that leaves his article seriously wanting,” Min. Tweah (left) said.

— Min. Tweah defends the government, saying that they only borrowed “US$30.6 million of the increase in external debt stock since 2018.”

Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah has denied accusations made by his predecessor, Boima Kamara, that the Government of Liberia had borrowed an average  US$170.2 million in the last two years.

Min. Tweah, in response to Kamara, said his predecessor’s assertion is correct in only one aspect: that the stock of debt has grown over time and over the two periods under consideration in Kamara’s article, being 2018 to 2020.

“But Kamara failed to understand or investigate the reasons for the abnormal growth in the stock, an outcome that leaves his article seriously wanting,” Min. Tweah said.

Arguing further, Tweah said with gross international reserves around $160 million at the end of 2017, the Central Bank of Liberia could have never lent $170.2 million to the government yearly.

“Neither could the Government consume $170.2 million in goods and services in one fiscal year for which it would owe domestic vendors that amount. These facts and issues should have come out clearly to anyone investigating the debt numbers, compelling due caution and care in reaching conclusions,” the minister said.

According to the Finance Minister, Liberia’s rising debt stock from 2018 to 2020 is due to issues that have to do with accounting reconciliation of government debt to the Central Bank of Liberia and that disbursements on external loans signed by the previous administration are happening now.

“The first reason is that disbursements on external loans from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and other multilateral and bilateral creditors, signed by the previous administration, are happening now. When a loan is taken, the loan amount is recorded as borrowing, but is not included in the official debt stock until the amount is disbursed or spent on the projects for which the loan was taken,” Min. Tweah argued.

For example, Tweah said that if the Legislature ratifies a US$50 million loan and US$10 million of this is spent six months after ratification, “the debt stock, recorded and managed by the Debt Management Unit at MFDP, goes up by $10 million.

“The remaining $40 million is recorded as undisbursed and, if canceled, will be considered as borrowing,” he added. The second reason why the total debt stock went up has to do with accounting reconciliation of Government debt to the Central Bank of Liberia. This increase was paper or accounting money added to the domestic debt stock. “

Min. Tweah further said the monies were that which the previous administration did not recognize in the total debt owed to CBL and, as such, they had a problem in taking it without a full audit, but “after a lengthy negotiation between the ministry, CBL and IMF an understanding was reached.”

“Prior to entry into the IMF program, the IMF insisted that the Government cannot continue carrying these unreconciled amounts in perpetuity but needed to validate and accept the debt as official Government borrowing from the CBL over the last decade or so,” he added. “The MFDP had issues with bringing all these amounts as debt to CBL without a full audit. Some audits had been done by KPMG, but MFDP folks still had issues with accepting the numbers. As such, a lengthy negotiation between MFDP, CBL and IMF ensued and an understanding was reached.”

However, for Kamara, this is not the case about Liberia’s public debt performance because the ministry’s recent data shows a remarkably high rate of growth in public debt within 2 years and 3 months of the current administration, compared with post-HIPC 7 years of the Sirleaf administration that ended in 2017.

“The public debt stock data for 2 years and 3 months spanning 2018 and end-March 2020 paints this picture of the current government’s debt performance. Total public debt rose by 71.15 percent (or US$624.88 million) to US$1,503.08 million at end-March 2020, from US$878.2 million at end-2017. Of the total stock of public debt at end-March 2020, external debt accounted for US$898.68 million and domestic debt, US$604.40 million,” Kamara argued.

Adding, Kamara said in terms of movements, external and domestic debts grew by 46.8 percent (or US$286.48 million) and by 127.13 percent (or US$338.3 million), respectively.

“GoL’s borrowing from the CBL increased by 88.92 percent (or US$228.62 million) to US$485.70 million, from US$257.08 million at end-2017, followed by commercial banks with a growth of 552.2 percent (or US$55.22 million) to US$65.22 million, from US$10 million for the same period. Of the US$65.22 million, LBDI, Ecobank, and IB account for over US$50 million,” Kamara wrote in an article, titled: “Liberia, Life After Debt”

Kamara, who also served as one of the Deputy Governors of the CBL, noted that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio has risen from around 30 percent during the Sirleaf Administration to 51.33 percent as of March 2020.

“It is important to point out that for the fiscal year ending FY18/19, US$88.82 million was GoL’s borrowing from the CBL largely in the form of a bridge loan of US$28 million; FY18/19 Escrow Account in US dollars, US$16.25 million; FY18/19 Escrow Account in Liberian dollars converted to US dollars, US$14.70 million; and Other Claims (there is a need to know what constitutes “Other Claims”) in Liberian dollars converted to US dollars was US$29.87 million.

“The Liberian-dollar equivalents of US$14.70 million and US$29.87 million (totaling US$43.87 million), using as a proxy for fiscal dominance (a situation where the national debt rises too quickly with a risk of debt distress and inability to repay), means a high level of deficit financing by the CBL through an expansion of Liberian dollars in circulation by over L$8.0 billion. This seems to be one of the key factors that led to the rise in inflation to 30 percent during 2019 on the heels of rapid exchange rate depreciation averaging about 30 percent to L$186.64/US$1 at end-December 2019,” he said.

Kamara added it is becoming worrisome that fiscal dominance is slowly creeping given the borrowing pressure on the CBL, which runs contrary to the spirit of fiscal-monetary complementarily.

“At end-June 2020, the IMF and World Bank jointly classified Liberia’s risk of debt distress as MODERATE, something to claim the attention of policymakers. In this regard, we advocate for greater support for the independence of the CBL as the monetary authority,” he said.

But for Tweah, Kamara failed to understand or investigate the reasons for the abnormal growth in the stock, an outcome that leaves his article seriously wanting as the current government is only responsible for “US$30.6 million of the increase in external debt stock since 2018.”

“As of December 31, 2017, the total external debt stock was US$612.03 million. As of March 2020, total external debt stock stands at US$898.6 million,” Min. Tweah explained. “This means, US$286.65 million has added to the external debt stock since President George Weah took office. Of this US$286.65 million, US$256.05 million was added to the stock from borrowing/loans taken by the previous administration.

Min. Tweah added that the total amount borrowed from the CBL over the last two and a half years by the current administration is US$30.9 million, which represents about 6.3 percent of the $487 million the government owes the CBL.

“And this is most likely the only amount that would be borrowed by this administration under the no borrowing policy.  The other reason why the domestic debt went up is that the present administration recognized domestic debts to vendors and commercial banks in the tune of US$105.78 million that the previous administration did not recognize. This recognition deserves praise from former officials of the previous administration, rather than blame for ‘increasing the debt’,” he said.

Finance Minister Tweah added that his predecessor concern about debt to GDP ratio is also misguided and if they were merely looking at debt GDP, the ratio cannot be put on the current administration; and that Liberia’s debt to GDP is among the lowest in the region.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks to the able minister of Finance in Min Samuel D Tweah Jr for the clarity. Some of us know that people like Boimah Kamara who just served as finance minister in three years and bought luxurious vehicles should not be given the attention when it comes mismanagement of state resources. In just three years under his leadership as minister of Finance, we experienced a printing of New Bank notes in excess that cause inflation in our exchange rate thereby causing serious slow economic growth. under his leadership, the CBL of Liberia experienced many economic challenges, except for min Samuel D Tweah Jr who has made the CBL to be independent and allow it meets deciplaine fiscal policies.

    • The minister is not clean also, what’s the status of the 25 million dollar? What type of vehicle is the minister driving? You now have the authority to audit the past government if possible prosecute them, what are you waiting for?

      • The pot calling the kettle black : A situation in which one person criticizes another for a fault the first person also has is what going on here bro

      • The current government doesn’t have the moral spine to audit the Sirleaf Government.. This government is equally corrupt or more corrupt than the Sirleaf Government. The fact that these thuggish government officals don’t even pretend to be honest says a lot. So now the USD 25 Millions intended for the so-called “mop up” was shared among some government officials and the story is DEAD and BURIED while millions of poor Liberians can hardly afford a decent meal.

        • Elijah Barnard, have you not been informed by the worldś policeman – the USA, THE FBI, AND THE internationally respected and ACE FINANCIAL INVESTIGATOR-KROLL that no money , whether 16.b or 25m was ever missing? Were you in coma? Now read below and be informed:

          David A. Yates

          The United States Government through its Embassy near Monrovia has released an ‘Independent Review Report’ prepared by Kroll Associates Incorporated (Kroll), an auditing firm hired to investigate regarding allegations of the disappearance of new Liberian Dollar banknotes.

          According to the Kroll report, there was no money missing, as had been reported. It however identifies systemic and procedural weaknesses at the CBL and shortcomings in Liberia’s fiscal and monetary management processes that are longstanding and continue to the present day.

          “To protect the integrity of CBL operations, we will not release this security-related information,” the report said, being careful not to get into the details of those deficiencies identified.

          This report also does not include information that contains legally restricted and/or commercially sensitive information; would identify individuals who are neither elected nor appointed; or could impinge (impose) on the security of Liberia’s banking system, including descriptions of bank security systems.

          • It is very sad to use the US Embassy as a creditable source concerning the 16 billion dollars in local currency. When the Embassy has demonstrated fear of instability and regional instability about what would happened if the actual facts surrounding the 16 billion dollar in local currency ever came out. And so there were this foreign intervention from the United States Embassy on protest, and in a manner that will not affect the stability of the state and the regime. Which was of more concerned to the Embassy than the 16 billion dollars in local currency. We have seen and based on past experiences how the US Embassy have covered up for past regimes and this present regime. Imagined the ongoing protest in the US, should that was allowed to happen without the intervention of the United States Embassy, what would had happened to the regime and the country, and the region ? In the past it was the US Embassy near Monrovia working with Prince Johnson, working with Doe( until the war came and it was the responsibility of the Liberian people and West Africa), we working with the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s regime. The Embassy knows how the citizens of that country trust whatever the Embassy says. And so far the covered up won the so-called financial investigators a bonus contract to restructure the Central Bank. With One or More Words From The US Government, the war which lasted for almost sixteen years ended. It is so sad that you do not see the full picture of what the US is capable of doing. Yes, the country is saved from political instability, but the finding from the investigation is not over, because of the influence of the powerful hands behind the scenes. Even if the FBI or the CIA investigated the 16 billion dollars in local currency, the result would be the same as Kroll. No doubt about that. Deal with the US government with caution.

    • But this car in question were bought by min. Kamara and he left it in the ministry, and it is the same vehicle that min. Tweah is riding in so why should this vehicle be a problems now sir?

  2. HPIV Part II: Tweah sinks Liberia into more debt. Bad economics.

    Tweah thinks he is at the University of Liberia. He lies about numbers and uses jargons to confuse Weah. He needs to know that the debt stock does not change the narrative of our debt burden.

  3. Thanks to the most powerful Finance Minister ever in the history of Liberia for such clarity.
    As a matter of fact, conscious people like us have no space and will give no credence to a trending fallacy from a mere bluff boy in a former Finance Minister Boimah Kamara

  4. Hummmmmmmm!

    It’s good to always think you are “don” more than everyone. Minister Tweah’s rebuttal is shrewdly constructive, with the devil in the details.

    Even a child of 5 in Liberia knows for everything the CDC does, it must contract a debt (from feeding it’s lazy and unproductive partisans to building uneconomical roads). So honorable Minister, you want us to believe since you guys came, you have contracted only $30 million? Is this not the amount you recently borrowed to feed your lazy and unproductive partisans?

    Technicities:
    According to Min Tweah in simple English, the rising debt burdens can be attributed to 2 factors:
    1. Accounting reconciliation, which means all lending and borrowing transactions or entries into the GOL’s journals (accounting records or bookkeeping) must be in agreement at the end of a given year (which must NOT be cumulative or over many years but monthly or quarterly or annually in accordance with the Time Period accounting principle).
    Which means the money borrowed by past administration (as Ellen will always take blame for all their mediocrity whereas they promised us FIXES) is now being recorded as liabilities in the GOL balance sheet. NO, honorable Minister, it doesn’t work like that!
    If it were the case, why should such debts appear on the yearly balance sheets of the CBL, IMF, AfDB, etc. Mr. Minister, in finance, every second, minute, hour, day, week, month and year counts in generating income on a dollar invested. That’s why in every financial transaction, the repayment deadline is determinant in setting the remuneration rates (interest rates); the principle of Revenue Recognition.
    2. Disbursement on loans, which means the agreed time set to begin to reimburse the principle (the amount borrowed) of the loan to financial institutions. It should be noted that whenever a loan is contracted, there is a “grace” period or deferral time for the borrower to begin to repay the debt. It means the borrower could be given 2 or 3 or even 10 years to begin to repay the debt, but NOT the accrued interests payable at the end of every accounting period (monthly or quarterly or yearly).
    The minister is telling us that since they have started repaying some of such debts under their regime, it means it has augmented their debt burdens, NO honorable Minister. You are misleading the illiterate Liberian populace.

    To those of you who want to know how much debt Liberia owes or reimburses annually, visit the Liberia country report on IMF website.
    Weah and team have no revenue generation creativity. They contract unproductive loans and are creating dire hurdles for upcoming administrations.
    We understand you guys bought your way to the presidency, you are now there and turning in on yourselves, STOP misleading our people. Mr. Kamara’s assessment suffers no criticisms. All the figures advanced by him are verifiable, STOP your political rhetoric!

    You see, during the last presidential debate, we saw people (presidential aspirants) come in the intellectual debate hall with bunch of hooligans to make foolish noise for them, it should STOP!
    A presidential debate should be held henceforth at our highest institution of learning (UL) or at CUC attended by students and the Liberian intelligentsia to ask candidates pertinent questions regarding their platforms and policies.
    CDC goatish followers have started heaping praises on Minister Tweah and mudslinging an astute and meticulous observer. Liberia can NEVER develop without constructive intellectual debates.

    STOP THE DIN AND PUT ON YOUR THINKING CAP FOR LIBERIA, OUR COMMON HERITAGE!

    • Getting tough and down on the details. But unfortunately, the regime is still pushing the old narrative about the country is broke. While admitting that there were actually money left by the previous regime. Now a new political narrative is being pushed, and not one that is based on actual economic and accounting principles, but political.
      The old narrative that the regime inherited from the previous regime an empty and broke country. That was the old narrative, until the overzealous Finance Minister Samuel Tweah just admitted in the article saying ” with gross international reserves around 160 million at the end of 2017, the Central Bank of Liberia could have never lent 170.2 million to the government yearly”. But the political narrative to the illiterate citizens was that the country was broke for the new regime to start with. While a personal jet plane became the official traveling vehicle for George in a broke economy, while pushing with another political narrative that it was borrowed. But still has not yet been returned. The narrative of a broke economy saw many personal developments of George’s real properties, even that of his personal church.
      And now the new narrative while political in nature, the regime is pushing yet another idea that the debt ceiling grew by 30 million which they borrowed from the Central Bank of Liberia, perhaps in two years . So whats about the 160 million dollars that was in the Central Bank in 2017 when the political narrative was that the in coming regime met the country broke. Borrowed from that too to met personal expenses ? We only borrowed 30 million dollars from the Central Bank, and we the forks at the Ministry of Finance couldn’t touched any other debt stocks because they were not audited.
      And when the legislature ratified a 50 million dollar loan, and after six months, and 10 million that is used , we at the Finance Ministry record that as the debt stock went up by 10 million. The remaining 40 million is not debt, until something else happens, then it becomes as debt. All this has to do with accounting reconciliation of government debt to the Central Bank, whatever that means. But it sounds like Black Magic accounting principles. This Samuel Tweah’s Black Magic accounting principles are something that the IMF disproved off. And so the whole nation is aware that through the Black Magic accounting principles and reconciliation of the regime’s debt by the Finance Ministry under Samuel Tweah’s regime, the debt burden of 30 million dollars is from the Central Bank. Well done Samuel, for putting pepper spray into the eyes of the illiterates.
      But Samuel, you going to have problems selling the new narrative to even the illiterates that are struggling with hardship and their personal welfare to make ends meet.
      But one thing though, the illiterate electorates are armed with reasons for voting this time around. Instead of the usual political songs led by Solomon George, the Mayor of Monrovia, Chairman Morlu and Representative Gray with palm leaves and colorful paint on their faces, saying he knows book, he na know book, we will vote for him or them. He knows book, he na blah blah blah blah blah blah.
      The opposition should not just mean a breath of fresh air to the body politics of the country, they have to demonstrate more than what they mean.

  5. Government of Liberia to Experience Huge Deficit of US$41 Million – Culled from FPA during the era of the Joseph Boakai and Ellen Johnson Sirlöeaf Unity Party Government. 2006 – 2017

    “The implication this has for the next Government is that they will be starting from negative cash balance in bank with huge debts to repay.

    This could cause several donors to pull additional funding from the Government because they can no longer trust the Government to be fiscally responsible.” – Financial Expert

    The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has not commented on the issue despite inquiries made by FrontPageAfrica.

    As seen from a reconciliation report in our possession, there is a possibility of President Sirleaf leaving the next Government with a significant domestic debt.

    Financial experts have linked the huge deficit to poor fiscal stewardship of the economy.

    “Former Minister Amara Konneh was noted for the constant budgetary shortfall, but at no time did we experience such a huge deficit under his regime.

    This could probably be the result of poor economic management,” an expert told FPA.

    FPA further gathered from the experts that the government has been running a balanced budget.

    This means the Government will only spend money when it collects and by the end of each fiscal period, the books should be balanced or at least small surplus or very small deficit.

    “Running a US$42 million deficit can only be termed as reckless and irresponsible fiscal management,” the expert further told FPA.

    Review of preliminary numbers available to us indicates that the government is poised to collect the same US$525 million or thereabout as it was in other fiscal years and but it remains a mystery why the government would experience such huge loss.

    “The implication this has for the next Government is that they will be starting from negative cash balance in bank with huge debts to repay.”

    “This could cause several donors to pull additional funding from the Government because they can no longer trust the Government to be fiscally responsible,” the financial expert told this paper.”

    Some employees within the MFDP who spoke with this paper on the basis of anonymity said the deficit is a result of “dangerous spending”.

    Such spending under the current IMF program, according to expert, is not permitted as the government is only to spend what it collects.
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    “On this one, there is no room to blame those who ran the ministry before because this is a matter of spending only what you collect and so it has nothing to do with what happened in the past.”

    “It is just plain irresponsible to be spending money that you don’t have.”

    “Even in our personal lives, there is a limit to running a deficit so how can our Government, especially in these last days, be running such huge deficit?” the expert rhetorically asked.

    FrontPageAfrica has not able to go into the details and complexities of the problems, but the staff of the ministry indicated that the minister has no interest in fiscal management, unlike his predecessor who held weekly Financial Management Team (FMT) meetings to look at the entire picture of the economy and make decisions on spending.

    That FMT meeting, FPA was informed, brought the technicians together in one room to look at the revenue picture, the allotment, and then the disbursement.

    By this meeting, the necessary decisions were made on what to fund and what not to fund so that Government did not run a deficit. The staff informed us that the current minister has absolutely no interest in doing such thing.

    Staffs at MFDP also accused the Minister of not consulting many of his staffs on decision making based on his conviction that many of the staffs there are corrupt.

    FPA was further informed that the Deputy Minister for Budget is no longer responsible to allotments as Minister Kamara has taken that responsibility unto himself.

    FrontPageAfrica has, however, not been able to verify this information.

    “In the past, when a request came from the President or another cabinet minister, the Finance Minister will send the request to the Budget Minister who will then seek the advice and analysis of the technical staff responsible before a decision can be made, but now things are different.

    The Minister is not law and gospel. In some cases, the boasts that he has divine power and understanding so when God speaks then he makes decision,” another staff told this paper.

    The minister also stands accused of taking money from various donor projects under the Project Financial Management (PFM) Unit to fund the expenses of Government.

    “Now, because those funds are intended for specific projects, if the Government is not able to return those funds to those accounts, those projects will be at risk and donors could pull back their funding to those projects and future projects,” an insider said.

    “This situation needs to be brought under control immediately because this singular event has the propensity to rewrite the history of her administration,” the financial expert who is an insider at the MFDP told this paper.

    The reconciliation report further shows that the Government has raised approximately US$525 million in revenue but have paid US$3 million to ECOWAS as trade levy (ETL) so therefore the net revenue collected for FY16/17 is about US$522 million.

    Additionally, the report shows that Government has borrowed nearly US$39 million from the CBL and also took another US$27 million from various project accounts, some of them being World Bank project intended for special use. It means that those projects will be stalled because their monies have been used by the central Government on something else.

    At the moment, our sources inform us that in spite of the huge deficit, the Minister is still making efforts to ensure that additional US$4 million is paid to the contractor working on the Executive Mansion, while another US$6 million should be paid to George Haddad’s Prestige Motor.

    If these amounts are added, it will carry the potential deficit to US$50 million

    • Very interesting points, but did you read from the horse’s mouth, the overzealous Finance Minister Samuel Tweah as stated in this article? That at the end of 2017, the gross international reserves around 160 million US dollars ? The END of 2017 . Meaning that there was money available to the incoming regime. But for the personal properties developments , the narrative was sold to the disbelief of every citizen that the country was broke. The previous regime said there was almost two hundred million dollars left for the incoming regime. Debt is something that a country can not covered up. It is felt in the schools, road constructions, health care system, payment of salaries, safe drinking water, electricity and many more challenges. It is very unfortunate that the gatekeepers with the oversight responsibility just decided to receive every sealed envelopes. And the debt is climbing. When citizens start to protest for social services, then they are met with the usual intimidation and force. Citizens do not have to confront their law enforcement officers in the streets, because government cannot afford to meet up to its obligations because or debt repayments. Especially so when the borrowed money was not utilized for its intended purposes. The debt is responsible for the official delays or postponement of the Senatorial elections. Not necessarily because of the virus. And there will be by-elections again, as lawmakers from the House are seeking political positions in the Senate. What’s next , borrowed again ? Is the regime behaving like someone of its citizens eating from hand to mouth, and unable to meet up with its obligations ? The overzealous Finance Minister Samuel Tweah is under stress. Every time the regime has to come out with money on more important political developments. To respond to his stress, this is What Samuel Tweah had to say during his visit to Maryland County: George Weah was not elected to pay salaries on time. Another stressful statement was , under no circumstances was he going to use civil servants payments for elections. The cursed of debts on a three or four years old regime. Read the article again. Samuel is not having all the fun, when he has a personal reputation to uphold.

  6. This SDT thinks all of us are fools like his partisans to think that they are not obligating the country more and more; they said the country was broke, where did the money in the oversea reserve come from, they are even borrowing from the National Social Security Pension funds, by the time we retire, there will be no money in our pension funds to carry home, frustration will kill lots of us.
    Another lie was that there was a budget surplus, where is the surplus that you are borrowing our pension money? If no money was missing, why are you prosecuting Mr. Weeks? Criminal minded people.

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