It will most probably be recorded in history that the two smartest appointments President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has yet made at one stroke in her entire presidency were those she made last week.
She named a whiz kid (gifted), Boima Kamara, as Finance Minister. Everyone who knows him says he has been simply brilliant from childhood in his rural Suehn District, Bomi County, where he began topping his classes. He seems to have been—and probably is—the student who knew the lessons before he entered the class. We have seen quite a few of these types in Liberia. We have men like Vuyu Golakai in the 1950s and 60s, J. Mills Jones in the 60s and 70s, Augustine Ngafuan in the 70s and 80s, and now Boima Kamara in the 1990s and 2000s. Central Bank’s former governor Mills Jones, after only three years at Cuttington, was called to the office and told, “We have no more to teach you; you can go.”
There are many more Liberian whiz kids all over the country whom we cannot now name but we are sure that in due course, they will show their faces on the national scene and be ready to help lift their country.
The other distinctive trait about Boima Kamara is that he is hard working and humble, a rare combination for someone so brilliant. They say he works hard, gets things done and does so unassumingly (discreetly).
Boima also has considerable experience, having worked for the Central Bank under its most accomplished Governor, J. Mills Jones, and with Finance, under Amara Konneh.
We pray that Boima will carry his excellence to Finance and, with the cooperation of his highly experienced colleague at the Central Bank of Liberia, Milton Weeks, AND the President, will do what is necessary to turn the Liberian economy around, lifting all boats, so that the ordinary person on the street can see, feel and know the difference.
It is not only because Boima knows Milton Weeks, having worked with him as fellow CBL Governor, that we can expect a close, efficient and effective relation between the two men.
Boima will engage at CBL the most experienced banker ever to head that institution. Only few know that at 25, Milton Weeks, in the 1980s, was appointed Treasurer of Citibank, the Liberian subsidiary of the world famous American bank, overseeing hundreds of millions of US dollars.
Weeks went on to head Monrovia’s Meridien Bank and FCIB, and onward to banks in Zambia, Malawi, South Africa and Nigeria—banking experience spanning over 40 years.
When he returned home to lend his expertise to his own country, the Liberia Bankers Association (LBA) immediately cornered him and made his Devin Corporation the LBA’s Secretariat. There he worked with LBA Presidents and all the other banks in Liberia, as well as CBL. It was no wonder that about two years ago President Sirleaf, recognizing the young man’s extensive banking experience, picked him as a CBL Governor.
With the brilliant, hardworking and unassuming Boima Kamara at Finance, coupled with the unmatched banking experience of the equally unassuming Milton Weeks at CBL, we think the Liberian economy is set to overcome fairly quickly the damages done by Ebola and the precipitous fall in world prices of rubber and iron ore.
How can the two men do it?
First, working together with Agriculture Minister Moses Zinnah, they must formulate the policies and strategies and find the money to invest in Agriculture. But Kamara and Weeks must initially understand, accept and support Zinnah’s vision for Agriculture in the remaining time of this administration.
Secondly, the government’s two preeminent economic and financial leaders must help empower Liberians in business, and start in earnest the process leading to Liberians playing more considerable and commanding roles in their economy. They, especially Finance Minister Kamara, must reverse the ruinous trend of GOL’s perennial indebtedness to Liberian businesses, including the media, and arrest the trend of private businesses being reluctant to do business with government.
Thirdly, the two men are challenged to help find and effectively allocate the level of resources to support education and health, two critical sectors that need to function optimally to produce the human capacity required for successful nation building.
Fourthly, Kamara and Weeks should find a way to kick-start infrastructural development, beginning with the roads—city streets and farm-to-market roads and highways – then the completion of the Mount Coffee Hydro, mini hydros and implementation of the West African Power Pool, to expand electricity throughout Liberia.
Next to be tackled are the renovation of the Ducor International Hotel, Hotel Africa, the Unity Conference Center, the E.J. Roye and the National Housing and Savings Bank building.
Fifth, can the two men—Kamara and Weeks—help President Sirleaf to launch Liberia’s tourism industry? Yes, we believe they can, but first, the President must find another whiz kid, hardworking and patriotic, to lead the tourism initiative. The Finance and CBL leaders will help lead the charge internationally to find the contacts and money to make that happen.
Given all that has been said about their qualifications and experience, the public will be watching to see how seriously Kamara and Weeks will endeavor to keep themselves above the fog and their institutions free of corruption and the other vices that have emasculated (weakened) many who have ascended to such positions of power, access and prestige in our society.
This is indeed a tall order, yes, for these two men leading these urgent initiatives, yet keeping their hands clean and their hearts and heads in the right place. But with faith in God—and Kamara and Weeks have plenty of that—and with patriotism and hard work, we believe they surely can do it!