17 March 2012
The people of Liberia gave their vote of confidence to President Helen Sirleaf Johnson, after a tense and sometimes violent election, which saw the president extending an olive branch to former rebel fighter – opposition leader Prince Johnson. Many have described this messy political forge as a ‘marriage of convenience’.
But the International Monetary Fund (IMF) appears satisfied with the direction the country’s troubled economy is heading.
After meeting officials of the government – including; the Minister of Finance – Amara Konneh; Central Bank of Liberia Executive Governor – Joseph Mills Jones, head of IMF mission Mr. Christopher Lane on the 14 March 2012, said that; “Economic prospects for 2012 and over the medium term remain favourable.”
Although the IMF was in Liberia to discuss the eighth and final review of the country’s economic performance, financed under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF), it also briefed the government on “the potential role of the IMF in financing and supporting the implementation of the authorities’ Economic Growth and Development Strategy and on policy options to manage mineral revenue”.
In his statement to the media, Christopher Lane said that:
“Recent economic developments have been broadly encouraging. Preliminary estimates indicate a boost of real GDP growth to 6-7 percent in 2011, the exchange rate against the US dollar has been broadly stable, and international reserves have increased.
“Strong exports were supported by high rubber prices and the restart of iron ore production after more than two decades. However, persistent high food and oil prices in global commodity markets contributed to an uptick in inflation and an increase in trade deficit.
“Performance under the ECF-supported program has remained strong through end-December 2011. All quantitative performance criteria and an indicative target were comfortably met.
“Progress has been made in implementing the structural reform program: the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) roadmap for capital market development is under preparation; and the expansion of the integrated financial management system continued and is planned to extend into line ministries during 2012.
“Economic prospects for 2012 and over the medium term remain favourable. The expansion of iron ore exports will support high GDP growth in 2013 and in the medium term.
“Downward risks are mostly linked to the increased volatility of international commodity prices, which could raise inflationary pressures and depress private consumption growth.
“The Financial Year 2013 budget is being prepared for the first time with a medium-term expenditure framework. The mission strongly supports the authorities’ plans to expand spending on programs and projects, notably for infrastructure, agriculture and youth. To this end, steps will be taken to consolidate the FY2012 good tax revenue performance and to contain discretionary recurrent spending.
“The mission welcomes the authorities’ commitment to enhance financial oversight of state owned enterprises and to re-define their mandates while strengthening the governance framework in line with best practices.
“In addition, measures will be taken to further improve the banking supervision framework, establish a loan recovery unit, and build a national payments system that will substantially contribute to financial sector development.”