Mills Jones at CBL: Stewardship Par Excellence

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There have been many persons who have held important positions in government or elsewhere. At the end of their tenures, the question always is, what did they accomplish?

That is a question that all of us, in whatever positions we find ourselves, must one day be prepared to answer. There are some who may answer convincingly well, naming tangible things that all can see.

There are, on the other hand, others who have, at their tenures’ end, little or nothing to show; except perhaps their own PERSONAL “gains” that enriched them in a manner for all to see.

Not so with J. Mills Jones, outgoing Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia. Last Monday evening hundreds of invitees gathered at the Executive Pavilion to hear the CBL Board of Governors and staff shower praises on their leader, Executive Governor Jones, whom President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the onset of her own administration, had named to that position.

In his farewell speech the Governor recounted what he considered his major achievements. The audience seemed thrilled with what they heard, not only from him, but also from his Board and the staff.

For us, three achievements stand out: First, the development of the CBL staff, through advanced training, local and foreign; second, expansion and the creation of new departments to make the institution more efficient and productive; and third, reaching out in concrete and substantive ways to the country’s impoverished people, empowering them in business, lifting them out of poverty and enabling them to afford their children better education.

On what the Governor called institutional “transformation,” he reported that from three—Research, Banking and Finance—there are today six departments. Finance has been separated from Banking; there is a Microfinance Unit; a Treasury Operations Unit; a Risk Assurance Unit. Internal Audit is now a
Department, headed by a Certified Public Accountant as Internal Auditor. Instead of one, there are three internal lawyers and two retained law firms. Information Technology, staffed by local and foreign-trained experts, is playing a central role. There is a Payment System Unit, engaged in the ongoing multimillion dollar modernization of the payment system; a Switching System to connect the automatic teller machines of various banks.

The Supervision Department has been expanded, manned by local and foreign trained staff, with six currently completing training in India in a multimillion dollar system, vREGCoSS, to enable the Banking Supervisors staff in electronic monitoring and supervisory work. The Banking Department has been reorganized, expanded, dealing with commercial banks’ growing activities and collecting revenue on behalf of government. These banks are now nine, up from five in 2006.

Today, too, CBL occupies its own 11-storey office complex, currently the most modern in the country, fully paid for without touching CBL’s foreign reserves, which from US$5 million in 2006, now stands at US$550 million. Each commercial bank has a minimum US$10 million capital requirement.

Well—that’s a lot said—and done. Who can match that?

But there is more: CBL is actively supporting one development finance institution, a deposit-taking microfinance institution and above all, for the first time in Liberia’s history, 10 Rural Community Finance Institutions. Governor Jones describes this as “transformation—the result of visionary leadership . . . that can make what seems impossible, possible.”

The aim of this microfinance initiative, touching each of the 15 counties and implemented by commercial banks using their own credit criteria, is to empower ordinary Liberian entrepreneurs to become a meaningful part of the Liberian economy.

To date, 51 farmers in 11 counties have benefitted, at maximum 7% interest. CBL’s first mortgage program has supported 190 borrowers, 84 of whom are female and 60% government employees. Under the Liberian Business Association (LIBA), 151 businesses in 14 counties have received loans. The employment sustainability is around 80%.

The microfinance program, which is exclusively in Liberian dollars, not touching CBL’s foreign reserves, has supported 1,178 Village Saving and Loan Associations, 256 Credit Unions and 13 microfinance institutions.

All of these, like the rest of the country, suffered severely from the Ebola outbreak, which reduced the Liberian economy from over 6% growth rate to 0.4%. Yet, Governor Jones insists, the microfinance loans are being repaid, with the CBL assisting in the same way it assists the rest of the economy including the rubber planters, which received US$5 million from the GOL through CBL.

Who, again we ask, can beat such an achievement record?

That is why we say without fear of contradiction, that Governor Jones at CBL is Stewardship Par Excellence.

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