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ANC LIBERIA RADIO FM 108
Although on short notice, I want to thank you for inviting me as a panelist at the upcoming National Economic Dialogue, to share my thoughts on restoring economic growth and prosperity in Liberia. While I believe this is a good opportunity to sit with other knowledgeable and informed individuals to discuss such important matters, I regret to inform you that I will not be in country between September 4-6, 2019, the time slated for this dialogue due to prior commitments.
Nevertheless, I thought it was important to share with you my written thoughts representing some feasible short and medium-term policy prescriptions; strategies, programs and a roadmap aimed at enhancing speedy economic recovery and sustained economic growth in Liberia.
Before I do, I wish to bring to your attention that in an acutely dire situation like this, these discussions should be premised on inviting experts to discuss the problems and doing root cause analyses of the many issues hindering economic growth and prosperity. This is because proffering recommendations to the challenges without first diagnosing those challenges, could result in the wrong policy prescriptions. However, I recognize and appreciate the expertise you bring to the table as Chairman and it is my hope that the desired outcomes of this dialogue, are realized.
Having said that, here are my thoughts for consideration:
I. A Predictable environment is critical to attract investment.
Recommendation: The Government of Liberia (GOL) should work on restoring lost confidence in our economy by addressing the wave of violence in the country, properly account for financial improprieties under its watch and hire competent Liberians with the highest level of integrity and experience. This is our own Great Depression! Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the FDR Brain Trust to end the American economic disaster of the 1930s. Liberia needs its own brain trust of highly competent professionals to help rejuvenate our economy.
II. Rule of Law and Accountability; lack of which serve as constraints to economic recovery
Recommendation: The Executive branch of government needs to avoid interference (whether perceived or real) with the Judiciary branch, so as to restore investors’ confidence in our legal system. More importantly, the other branches need to respect and uphold the independence of the judiciary to include its financial autonomy. The delay or lack of payment of the salaries of judges and judicial officers has the propensity to undermine the rule of law.
Accountability – The president and his officials should make PUBLIC their assets, in the interest of transparency and accountability as it serves as a strong indicator of government’s commitment to its fight against rampant corruption and abuse in the public sector. Doing this will also help restore confidence in the system.
III. Liberia’s current economic model is spent. Basing our growth prospect on primary commodities (Iron Ore, rubber, gold, diamond, etc) is central to Liberia’s failed economic growth model.
Recommendation: The Government of Liberia (GoL) MUST put the full weight of public policy behind the development of new economic growth sectors—Cocoa, Cassava, Marine fisheries as examples. By doing so, we can expand production, processing and marketing of cocoa, cassava and fisheries for domestic trade and global export. This will create productive economic livelihood for over thousands of Liberians in 2 to 3 years. Liberia’s participation in the global cocoa, cassava and fishery trade will attract millions of dollars in foreign exchange.
Key notation: Ghana makes Two (2) Billion United States Dollars (USD) annually from global cocoa trade. Nigeria made some Thirteen (13) billion USD from cassava trade in 2018. Global cassava trade is worth some 64 billion dollars per year. China imports two third of the global supply of cassava. We need to condition Liberia in ways that allows the country to benefit from the sustainable global demand for the aforementioned agriculture commodities.