Experts from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) Sub-regional Office for West Africa on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, commenced a three-day virtual capacity building workshop for several government employees on the production of economics and National Transfer Accounts (NTA) profile on Liberia.
The workshop which is being highly supported by UNECA, is in partnership with the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).
The NTA is aimed at strengthening the capacities of government staff to undertake activities that would support member states including Liberia to integrate demographic dividend issues in their development policies.
The three-day events brought together two staff members each from key government institutions including the Ministries of Labour, Justice, MFDP, Agriculture, and Health as well as the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
Barthelemy Biao, who spoke on behalf of UNECA virtually from Niger, said that with a population of 391 million inhabitants in West Africa in 2019, there is a need to invest in the demographic transition with urgency.
“Capturing the demographic dividend in West Africa is essential for improving the living conditions of our populations through sustainable development and the structural transformation of our economies,” she said.
Mrs. Biao said Liberia is now the only country in the region that does not have the NTA demographic profile and as such, the training is intended to build the capacity of Liberians that will help the government to develop the NTAL profile on Liberia.
She highlighted the need for staff to familiarize themselves with the handbook for measuring the generational economy published in 2013 by the United Nations, citing its importance in the Sub-regional Office’s vision of investing in approaches aligned with demographic economics, adding that the ECA will do everything possible to institutionalize the NTA approach and support countries to institutionalize it.
According to her, the program has a window of economic growth if accompanied by an appropriate government’s policies including investment in health and education, among others.
Mrs. Biao said demographic dividends are economic benefits that arise from changes in population age structure and from other demographic forces, enhancing opportunities for economic development.
“As falling fertility results in fewer dependent children relative to workers, a country experiences a first demographic dividend with resources becoming available to increase investments and raise standards of living,” the UNECA representative noted.
She said economic boost can be substantial, but it eventually comes to an end as the smaller population of children grows up to become a smaller population of workers while the number of elderly keeps growing.
Biao said: “For the many countries currently experiencing a first demographic dividend, NTA can help understand how the benefits can be accelerated, prolonged, and directed toward important development goals. Other countries, which have completed the first dividend, can use NTA to understand how economic benefits can be sustained and how governments and families can best prepare for population aging.”
At the same time, the Assistant Finance Minister for Development Planning, Benedict Kolubah, who declared the training opened, expressed gratitude to UNECA for selecting Liberia to host such an occasion.
He said, “Today marks the beginning for a new day for our country. This program is a roadmap of enhancing the national demographic for our country and setting the profile comes at a time when Liberia is in its preparatory stages for conducting a national census.”
The Assistant Finance Minister for Development Planning assured UNECA members that the teams from Liberia are prepared to be trained to participate as well as make sure that “we cannot be the only country in the region without an NTA.”