As Economic Forecasts to Grow 3%
-LIMPAC Boss Wreh Discloses
By: Arabieu Bah and Princess R. Pitt
The Executive Director of the Liberian Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Project (LIMPAC) Mr. Del-Francis Wreh has disclosed to Employ Liberia that the George Weah’s led government is aiming to lift one (1) million people out of extreme poverty in the next five years with a robust economic undertaking as enshrined in the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
The upbeat Wreh said that the government has identified agriculture and infrastructure development as the main driver to spur economy growth. He said Liberia’s vibrant and youthful population will be empowered to lead growth in array of sectors including agriculture, infrastructure, science and technology.
Wreh intoned that while he is confident that the robust Pro Poor policy that is being set in motion is capable of creating a million jobs, the overarching goal is to lift a million Liberians from beneath the pile of the economic pyramid.
“It is about getting one million people out of poverty in five years and I believe strongly that with the infusion of the right policy as in the PAPD and resources into infrastructure and agriculture, education, science and technological ventures, we can halve extreme poverty in five years” exclaims Wreh.
LIMPAC boss noted that one million people out of poverty is different from creating one million jobs in five years. Many people especially those in the opposition were quick to declare that the government goal to create one million jobs was aspiration at best.
“It is possible to get one million people out of poverty with increased jobs creation”. He said.
The PAPD, he revealed, seeks to get one million people out of extreme poverty not necessarily creating white collar jobs for everyone.
He noted that the government does not have the physical capacity to distribute money but it has the technical strength and financial advantage to enable productivity. “The government doesn’t have the physical capacity to distribute money, but it does have the technical capacity and financial leverage to build infrastructure that support productivity along agriculture, infrastructure and commerce”.
“This is why President Weah’s primary objective is road connectivity because there is no way the government can initiate productivity in the agriculture sector without roads and electricity” barked Wreh.
Recently, the Government has been inundated with series of protests over the lack of electricity in many communities in and on the outskirt of Monrovia; commercial and political capital of country.
He further opined that transportation network is very cardinal to Liberia’s progress especially in the agriculture sector, because it enables farmers to move their produce to the markets.” The roads government builds will provide access to markets by farmers, and that is why road infrastructure is very critical to achieving the PAPD of President Weah”.
He disclosed that Liberia’s economy suffered before the ascendency of President Weah. The LIMPAC boss averred that the economy started plummeting from 2013 from annual 7% growth to negative mainly due to the deadly Ebola Virus epidemic which killed five (5) thousands Liberians. He also alluded economic slump to the drastic fall in the prices of iron ore and rubber on the world market; both are key exports of the country.
“The shock on the economy came mainly on the account of Ebola outbreak in 2014 and the major fall in the prices of our major export commodities such as rubber and iron ore” he said.
The optimistic economy czar said the economy is in its best run since 2014. He said the economy grew 0.5% in 2015 and did not record any growth averaging negative in the succeeding years. “In 2016, the economy contracted to -1.6%. In the last quarter of 2017, he said the economy grew at 2.6%. “On the basis of this growth, it is estimated that the economy will grow at 3.9% by 2018 and 5.9% in 2019. The statistics shows that the economy is gradually progressing” he disclosed.
A World Bank report released last week revealed that the Liberian economy is expected to grow 3.8 %, with agriculture and infrastructure investment and development being the main drivers.
Wreh lashed out at opposition politicians who are spewing misinformation about the economy. ”The story about the economy in desperate state is just politically exaggerated to shift opinion in favor of the politicians” Mr. Wreh expressed. He said if the economy was in such desperation, government would not pay its employees, and invests in infrastructure development like the Doe Community road and other fielder roads which are currently being asphalted by government own revenues not outside funding. “We all hope the economy could grow in double digits which will give our people the urgent lease they crave for upward mobility, but they need to give the government some latitude to set in the policies that will spur double digits growth” he said.
The LIMPAC boss said the drawback of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) caused a trainload of problems for the economy especially in the real estate sector. “The real estate sector took a huge knock on but it is now gradually recovering” he said.
Wreh enumerated that UNMIL had many Liberians employed and those Liberians were made redundant by the drawback of UNMIL. He puts UNMIL expenditure on salary at $ 225M for employees’ salary.
The LIMPAC boss noted that the economy has a structural problem, “Every little thing that occurs has impact on the economy” He said the George Weah led government was working assiduously to diversify the economy by adding value to produce.
Mr. Wreh further said the Liberian economy operates on a rent system; concessions come to Liberia to acquire raw materials and export. “Changes in the prices of these materials on the global market hamper our economy, this is the condition President Weah finds himself in, this is the situation President Weah inherited; he didn’t come with it. For the fact that government is continuity, we cannot shift blame to the past regime”, he noted.
LIMPAC is one of specialized units within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) with the function and role of providing policy advisory services to the government through the MFDP. LIMPAC is also into research, policy analysis and different areas within in the government structure. Mr. Wreh further disclosed that his entity builds the capacity of government employees across various agencies and ministries. The capacity building is centered on data analysis. He believes with a sound understanding of data, the policy analysts at different agencies of government and the MFDP can gather accurate analysis which will enhance decision making for policy makers.