CBL’s Strategic Vision: Agriculture, Housing Banks to Inspire Agricultural Self Sufficiency and Modern Housing

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When Central Bank Executive Governor Milton Weeks met the Daily Observer Editorial team last Thursday he laid out a number of elaborate plans to change Liberia for the better.

One was, of course, in line with CBL’s primary responsibility: to create, implement, enforce and regulate the country’s monetary policies in order to manage efficiently its money, make it available on the market, and to stabilize and effectively control inflation.

Governor Weeks also laid out two other plans, which we thought were visionary and had the potential to change Liberia dramatically and for good. These were two new independently-run banks – Agriculture and Housing.

The Agriculture Bank, said Governor Weeks, would be different from the previous Agricultural Cooperative and Development Bank (ACDB), which was susceptible to a lot of central government interference. That was a recipe for failure which the bank became.

There were, of course, some good things about that bank before it was totally extinguished (snuffed out) by the civil war. We were told that ECOMOG soldiers, mostly Nigerian and Ghanaian, raided the bank, broke into its vault and took away all of the bank’s money. That spelled its unfortunate demise.

This alone should help our people to understand why, despite all the nation’s failings in the past 11 years, this newspaper has been pleading for continued peace and stability. NO MORE WAR! WAR IS NOT GOOD. In order to help our people to better understand that, ask the
Liberian people themselves, those who stayed and those who fled. Ask, too, the people of Mali and Central African Republic. Ask also the Iraqis and Syrians, whose hapless and desperate people are citizens of two of the world’s oldest nations; and like Egypt, are among the
cradles of civilization. But look what war has done to them!

What is the CBL’s vision in proposing two new independently-run banks—Agriculture and Housing?

The Agriculture Bank, said Governor Weeks, will strive to attract both
local and international investors and use the capital to empower Liberian farmers with loans to develop modern farms. For example, our rice farmers, producers of our national staple, will be able, through access to proper financing, to grow bigger farms, harvest on time,
store and mill their rice and give it added value, just like the foreign rice we import each year costing us hundreds of millions of United States dollars.

This vision is in sync with that of Lofa rice producer John Selma, who last year inspired other Lofa rice farmers to join him in producing nearly a million metric tons of rice. But due to the lack of funding, they could neither refine nor sell their rice!

Remember, the Daily Observer told the Liberian people and the world that the Gbedin rice farmers in Nimba were also in the same situation this year. How long will we Liberians continue to play with rice, our national staple, the mismanagement of which caused a riot in 1979 and led us to war?

All of us should encourage Governor Weeks and his team, as well as the entire government, to work relentlessly toward the establishment of this proposed independent Agriculture Bank that will, at long last, bring financial relief to our farmers. This would lead to self-sufficiency not only in rice, but also in fruits (bananas, plantains, citrus, plums, etc.), meats, eggs and vegetables. It will also enhance other tree crop production, especially cocoa, coffee and
oil palm.

The methodology of the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation (LPMC) should also be revisited to enhance the marketing of our agricultural produce.

And now to the CBL’s dream of a Housing Bank. Credit must here be given to the National Housing and Savings Bank (NHSB), started during the Tolbert administration. It assisted in developing our first low-cost housing estates.

But we take seriously what Governor Weeks told us during last Thursday’s interview— that the proposed new Housing Bank will invest in buying land across the country to organize and build modern housing in Liberia. So many Liberians have invested in homes in America and
know what the Governor is talking about. Look at what mortgage banking has done for that country!

See also what it has done for Kenya, right here on our continent. See how modernized their housing and building have become, beautifying their capital, Nairobi, and elsewhere.

A then young Liberian working in Kenya once hosted Liberia’s Information Minister during a 1978 transit stopover in Nairobi and showed him some of the magnificent housing developments around the
Kenyan capital. The host also took his distinguished guest to the supermarkets, where most goods, including canned foods, were produced in Kenya.

But who can imagine what this Minister, upon his return home, told President W.R. Tolbert in the presence of many of his top officials: “And that Kenneth Best boy sitting in Nairobi is so anti-Liberian, it’s not funny!”

That was nearly 40 years ago. And look at Liberia today—listed, still, as one of the world’s poorest and most backward countries, compared to Kenya that is being transformed every day. Though independent only since 1963—116 years younger than Liberia—Kenya has
for generations been the world’s most preferred conference and tourism destination in Africa. Kenya is also self-sufficient in its staple, maize, and exports daily horticultural products, meats and other farm
produce to Europe, United States, Africa and elsewhere.

The Holy Bible has once again been proven RIGHT: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18).

Let us all do everything we can to encourage Governor Weeks and his team and the entire GOL to move ahead quickly to establish the Housing Bank to change forever Liberia’s housing landscape.

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