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|“Congratulate Yourself…” -IMF Africa Chief Lauds Liberia’s Progress|
|Published on October 29, 2009||Email To Friend Print Version
By D. Kaihenneh Sengbeh
The Africa Chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says significant reform and progress are taking place in Liberia, and the Liberian people must celebrate because their government and country are moving in the right direction.
“Congratulate yourselves, try to celebrate, be happy because a lot of good things are happening here,” Dr. Antionette M. Sayeh, Director of African Department at the IMF, said yesterday at a press conference in Monrovia.
Dr. Sayeh is in the country for the third program review of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and to discuss progress to date as well as challenges ahead.
The PRGF is the IMF’s concessional lending facility, which provides finance for Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). The PRGF was created in September 1999, and is crucial to the Liberian Government’s poverty reduction strategy (PRS).
Liberia’s PRS articulates the Government’s overall vision and major strategies for moving toward rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth and development during the period 2008-2011.
Dr. Sayeh—who and delegation arrived in the country on Monday—said Liberian has made significant progress in terms of institutional reform and financial management system.
She applauded the country’s recent public financial management act passed by the National Legislature and the country’s recent progress to become the first African state to become a full extractive industry transparency initiative country. The EITI initiative promotes transparency and accountability in the extractive—diamond, gold, forest—industry.
The former Liberian Finance Minister said the IMF is pleased with “The recent steps the government has been taking in public financial management, oversight and audit, including the audit of resource revenues…” saying “in our view, [these] steps in the right direction.”
Dr. Sayeh left the country 16 months ago to take up her current assignment with the IMF. The IMF Africa Chief said “I was most eager to see for myself the progress made in rebuilding the country and to consider again the most important challenges ahead and how best institutions like the IMF can help Liberia.”
On Tuesday, the former Finance Minister and Dr. Toga Mclntosh, Executive Director to the World Bank—representing 22 countries, including Liberia—and Mr. Francis Karpeh, Executive Director at the African Development Bank, representing five countries including Liberia, attended the country’s Economic Management Team’s meeting chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
The meeting focused on specific economic challenges Liberia currently faces.
“For my part I emphasized the good track record that Liberian is developing in implementing its economic programs under difficult global and regional conditions,” Sayeh said.
Liberia’s Finance Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, in his introductory remarks, said the country was pleased to receive the international “civil servants”—referring the IMF and World Bank delegations.
He noted that the IMF has over the years been seriously engaged with the Liberian government, and the Fund’s staff monitoring program led to the PRGF, which progress Dr. Sayeh and others were in the country evaluate.
Mr. Ngafuan said Liberia, working with support of the IMF, has had more than US$3bn of its debt waived, and a balance of US$1.7 is standing.
He said Liberia now fights to reach the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative—having reached the decision point—to have the rest of its debt forgiven.
“With more reform programs in place, we will meet the completion point next year,” the Finance Minister stated, noting that “though it would require tough challenges, there would be no turning back.”
The Finance Ministry, he vowed, will continue its unbending reform policies—such as implementing the new public financial management law and running a cash-based budget.
“We at the IMF expect, along with the World Bank, believe that with continued strong performance debt relief [for Liberia] will be finalized in 2010 following progress in implementing the new public financial management act, and a number of other actions,” Dr. Sayeh pointed out.
Dr. Sayeh however noted that Liberia has not escaped the wrath of the global financial recession. “It is evident that the global financial recession has not spared Liberia,” she continued. “Jobs have been lost, investments are delayed or deferred, and budgetary revenues are under some pressure.”
“Many firms in the country,” the former Liberian government official observed, “operate in a more difficult environment, and were it not for the global financial crisis much would have been achieved in the country.”
But that is not all—Dr. Sayeh sees that many other constraints still choke the country and the government’s progress: “We do not have enough skilled workers to achieve what we want to do, infrastructure bottlenecks and land tenure issues impede private investment, and many external partner find it difficult to provide more direct assistance owing to weak implementation capacity on the ground.”
Despite all of these factors, Dr. Sayeh is optimistic: “…we at the IMF share the optimism of the Liberian authorities that growth will accelerate next year in Liberia as the world economic recovers.”
Meanwhile Dr. Sayeh also visited the One-Stop-Shop for custom clearance at the Free Port of Monrovia, yesterday after she earlier held discussions with students at the City Hall of Monrovia.
She lauded the Ministry for the progress aimed at establishing transparency and accountability in the custom sector of the country. The One-stop-center was initiated when she served as Minister of Finance, her successor Mr. Ngafuan disclosed yesterday, when he made a brief remark following the tour. Contact: 231- 6 586 531; firstname.lastname@example.org