Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 December 2020:
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) last Monday completed its first and second reviews of Liberia’s economic performance, which prompted the institution to immediately disburse US$48.86 million to the Liberian government, of which US$38 million will fill the fiscal financing gap arising from the impact of COVID-19.
According to the IMF – restoring macroeconomic stability, providing a foundation for sustainable inclusive growth, and addressing weaknesses in governance remain the main objectives of its agreement with Liberia.
IMF expects Liberia’s economic activity to contract by about 3.0 percent in 2020, reflecting the effects and challenges from the COVID-19 disruptions, but says that signs of recovery are now emerging with growth projected to reach 3.2 percent in 2021.
“While the fiscal stance has been loosened to meet humanitarian needs, tight monetary policy, much improved public financial management, domestic revenue mobilization, and no central bank financing have helped achieve price and exchange rate stability, preserving the purchasing power of the poor,” the IMF said today in a statement.
“After mixed program performance initially, the authorities have taken corrective actions to address weaknesses in the program and they continue to make progress in structural reforms. Reflecting the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth forecast for 2020 has been revised down from 1.4 percent at the program’s inception to -3.0 percent. Assuming global conditions gradually normalize, growth is projected to reach 3.2 percent in 2021, but downside risks to the outlook are high. Liberia remains fragile and vulnerable to shocks as both fiscal and external buffers remain low. Liberia continues to be assessed as having a sustainable debt burden, but borrowing space is limited,” the statement warns.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exert significant strain on Liberia’s fragile economy. The authorities have taken the necessary steps to stabilize the economy amid multiple challenges. A modest fiscal loosening is appropriate to meet humanitarian needs during the COVID19 pandemic.
“The authorities are committed to fiscal discipline and further improvements in cash management, transparency and accountability in spending, and domestic revenue mobilization to finance their development agenda. The monetary policy stance is appropriately aligned with the inflation objective, and significant progress has been made in strengthening central bank independence.
“In the context of the gradual de-dollarization of fiscal spending, it is important to further refine instruments for open market operations and enhance policy coordination between the central bank and the government.
“Further efforts are needed to contain the central bank’s operational expenses and build up reserves. Rebuilding confidence in the financial sector is critical for financial stability. Priority should be given to addressing risks from weak financial institutions and ensuring the supply and quality of Liberian dollar banknotes.
“Further improvements in governance are necessary for efficient delivery of public services. Steps are being taken to clear the fiscal audits backlog, further enhance procurement transparency, and upgrade the anti-corruption legal framework. Efforts to increase borrowing space would support sustainable growth. The authorities should continue to work with donors and development partners to secure grants and concessional borrowing, and carefully prioritize the use of public resources.”