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101st Commencement Speech Delivered by Del-Francis Wreh, Executive Director/ LIMPAC

101st Commencement Speech delivered by Del-Francis Wreh, Executive Director/ LIMPAC

101st Graduating Class of the College of Business and Public Administration, University of Liberia Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex 24th February, 2021

Professor Dr. Julius J. Sarwolo Nelson, Jr., President – University of Liberia,

The Board of Trustees, the faculty and Administration of the University of Liberia The Dean, Professors, and lecturers of the College of Business and Public Administration

Distinguished Graduates and Scholars of the 101st Graduating Class of the College of Business and Public Administration

The Acting President, University of Liberia Alumni Association Parents, sponsors, and families of the graduates, Officials of Government Members of the Press , Friends, Colleagues and Students, Ladies and Gentlemen

What an honor to stand before some of Liberia’s brightest and most determined minds. Today I join your families, loved ones, mentors and the academic community of the College of Business and Public Administration, University of Liberia to express how immensely proud we are of the incredible feat you have achieved.

Today marks an extraordinary milestone in my professional sojourn to serve as commencement speaker for the 101st graduating class of the business college of the University of Liberia, the Lux -in- Tenebris. My gratitude to Dr. Nelson, the Board of Trustees and Faculty of the University for choosing me from among several qualified Liberians to serve as commencement speaker. For this honor, I shall endeavor to uphold the confidence of your esteemed recognition.

As I look out at the myriad of faces across this field, hopefully contemplating the next level of your lives and of course the unknown that the future brings, I understand the inkling of trepidation any sound woman or man of courage must have before embarking on an incredible journey. My friends, I stand here to give you courage that your success is not out of your reach and that you have been imparted a wealth of knowledge from within the very halls of this College, to attain it.

My education began at a late age. Those who know me well, can tell you that I would probably come last in a dancing contest and my singing would make a baby cry. Had I attended nursery or kindergarten, where children can express themselves artistically, those skills would be more developed and perhaps I would be recognized as a famous dancer and singer, the world will never know. In my early years I lived with my grandparents in Kanweaken, Rivergee county who taught me the value of family and hard work. When my father brought me to Monrovia, he was the driving force in accelerating my education and impressed upon me its importance, the one single gift that he gave altered the course of my life.

I struggled to read and comprehend and only showed strength in mathematics and spelling. This unlocked my self-confidence to overcome my academic shortcomings. Standing on this podium to deliver the commencement speech to you today, is a testament of these efforts and determination to not be defined by my early schooling deficits.

Now as I flip the pages of my own struggles and look up to other Liberians, like our own President Dr. George Manneh Weah who overcame great odds, current Finance Minister Samuel Doe Tweah, Jr, former Finance Ministers Augustine K. Ngafuan, Boima S. Kamara, Amara Konneh, James Kollie, Dekontee King Sackie, Deputy Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority, many of whom I have had the privilege to work alongside and many others including your professors and lecturers here at the University of Liberia, I see similar struggles most of you have endured to reach today’s commencement.

Just like you, they started with determination to complete studies at the University of Liberia and other universities within and outside of Liberia. That is why as I am proud of them, as I am equally proud of you for transforming your struggles into this milestone achievement today – congratulations!

We all can reasonably argue that the impoverish state of our communities with limited economic opportunities which gave rise to difficult beginnings can be attributed to failed implementation of pro-poor policies- mainly failing because of limited policy champions. Like you our graduates, they too struggled and faced difficult challenges but with determination prevailed and graduated from the university of Liberia and other universities and are in comfortable positions to make Liberia better as is required of each of them. That is why as I am proud of them; I am equally proud of you for transforming your struggles into this milestone achievement today – congratulations!

Looking at reasons for our historical struggles and current struggles of the younger generation which mainly arises out of the impoverishment of our respective communities, please allow me to deliver my commencement speech on the theme: Championing Pro-Poor Public Policy Implementation for Sustainable Poverty Reduction and to Improve Rural Livelihood.

We sometimes wonder why Liberia is so rich in natural resources but yet considered one of the poorest countries in World. Why Liberia develops very good laws, development agendas, and policies but ridiculously failed on implementation? We also wonder why Liberia politicians undermine the implementation of pro-poor policies and projects to gain political capital. Yes, I know you too wonder why those that design policies most times are afraid to implement. The answers for these questions are summed up in the fact that Liberia lack policy champions- champions that can become the foot soldiers for policy implementation ensuring programs and project designed are implemented to specifications. We all whether in the public sector or private sector are guilty for not the doing the most to champion pro-poor policies implementation. But most of the blames are rightfully placed on the decision makers within public sector because it is their responsibility to efficiently utilize the state resources to maximize welfare. This collective failure to champion change especially for the implementation of pro-poor policies keeps sliding more and more of our citizens into poverty as our population grows. Poverty lurks at every turn and is evidenced by the level of joblessness and dependencies, in our families, communities, counties, and our country in general.

Liberians must stand together and champion pro poor policies to remedy the ills that continue to hold Liberia back. It is the educated class of which you now belong, that can be positive agents of change by embracing policies that can increase our communities’ livelihood, and in so doing utilize your education for the common good.

Our actions as the educated class when compare to our education should reflect one of Mahatma Gandhi interpretation of education, which state and I quote “The True Education must correspond to the surrounding circumstances or it is not a healthy growth” In pursuit of this objective and course to change Liberia positively, we rally and recruit new and additional champions in you members of the 101st graduating class.

President Dr. Nelson, as I rally members of the graduating class, I must be fair to some of our past and current policy champions whose works have impacted the development of Liberia. Exploration of their commitment and works can and will inspire you our graduates to make the change and transform your surroundings as is required from a healthy education.

During the Tubman era as far back as 1944, two policies very pro-poor in nature stood out successfully: The Open Door Economic Policy and the National Unification policy. These policies championed by President Tubman had the most positive impact on Liberians and economy. President Tubman’s opening the Liberian economy to other foreign investment beyond just the Firestone Rubber Plantation Company that stated operations since 1926 increased the number of foreign investments beyond just Firestone to 38 major foreign companies by 1968 with a combined investment estimated at US$750 million dollars. Accordingly, Government annual revenue increased from US$1.5million to US$12million providing the fiscal space for the Government of Liberia to pay off about US$5million in debt owed Firestone. Beyond the Fiscal gains to the government, the foreign investments or concessions created jobs, incomes, and livelihoods for local residents, taking them and their generation out of poverty.

Tubman implementation of the National Unification policy provided more social and political cohesion between the ruling Americo -Liberians and the indigenous, a necessity that was needed at that time to ensure a stable and functioning state. Unlike other presidents that abandoned the implementation of their own policies, I can argue for President Tubman that his education corresponded with his surroundings through his practical action on implementation. For this reason, I salute Tubman.

Arguably, after Tubman was Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia and Africa’s first female head of State, Nobel Laureate; an African woman who overcame extraordinary struggles raising her voice among dominant male politicians to champion successful policies. After inheriting a broken country in 2006, fully devastated by 14-years civil conflict, she championed the implementation of developmental and governance policies that transformed Liberia from a failed state to a functioning democratic state. Core to President Sirleaf’s success in her government were some of our compatriots in Augustine K, Ngafuan, Amara M. Konneh, James F. Kollie, Jr, Elfrieda Stewart Tamba, Decontee King Sackie, Boima, S. Kamara, Nya D. Twayen, Jr, James Dorbor Jallah, Neto Zarzar Lighe, etc. many of whom we share struggles and overcame incredible odds like you.

Wanting to make a positive impact to transform Liberia, they all supported President Sirleaf in various capacities, from PFM reforms, to governance reforms, to educational reforms, law reforms, civil service and pension reforms. 8 They helped President Sirleaf implement the Public Financial Management reforms, paving the way for debt relief of over US$4billion in 2010 under the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) debt relief initiative, creating the needed borrowing space to fund and implement infrastructure projects that supported pro-poor growth.

Under this reform, Liberia adopted the Public Financial Management Act of 2009, setting efficient rules for the preparation, allocation, and execution of the national budget. Revenue generation also increased from US$80millon in 2006 to US$488million in 2010 through the automation of tax administration. This increased fiscal space allowed the Sirleaf’s administration to expand pro-poor public service delivery including provision of higher education at the University of Liberia whose budget increased from a mere US$500,000 in 2006 to about US$12million in 2010 to keep the University of Liberia constantly operational.

While championing her team, Madam Sirleaf also developed and implemented some critical components of her development agenda, the Agenda for Transformation (AfT). Milestone projects and programs which supported poverty reduction and improve rural livelihood includes the rehabilitation and operationalization of Mt Coffee Hydroelectric dam, pavement of roads including the growth corridors between Ganta, Gbarnga, and Red-light, and Buchanan to Monrovia, Rehabilitation of Robert 9 International Airport (RIA) including construction of a modern passenger terminal, funding for security, health, education sectors, among others.

Like Madam Sirleaf, President Weah too inherited a challenged economy occasioned by the negative impact of Ebola, fall in the price of key export commodities, withdrawal of the UNMIL force, etc. But with support of his team comprising of some of our compatriots in Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. Nathaniel Mcgill, Jefferson Koijee, Dr. Musa Dukuly, Professor Ansu Sonnie, James Thompson, Thomas Doe Nah, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, etc. with whom we all share similar life experiences in term of struggles and challenges, the Government of is tackling the economic challenges through sound macro-fiscal reforms and implementation. The quality of these reforms has attracted recognition and financial support from the international partners, including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), African Development Bank, and others. In addition to the donor recognition and support, the government through President championing the implementation of these fiscal reforms and strategies are also helping to restore growth, and a considerable degree of macroeconomic stability.

As Head of State, President Weah continues to show personal political will in championing the implementation of policies that are consistent with the Pro poor Agenda for Prosperity (PAPD), positively impacting critical sectors including education and health. Demonstration of the President’s pro-poor policy actions is reflected in the tuition-free policy for all public universities including UL and community colleges which have experienced increased enrollment and the number of graduates per graduation. Other actions include the digital registration platform for the UL, and the payment of WASSCE fee for public school students. These interventions demonstrate the concept of true education corresponding and responding to surrounding circumstances, as it has also provided relief for parents, and motivation for students within various communities. This represents a clear championing and implementation of pro-poor policies.

Other pro-poor policies implementation of the President and his current team include road construction and rehabilitation, and this includes communities’ roads which have reduced commuting cost for residents and linking local communities to major markets.

To our graduates, giving the growing need for policy implementation champions and your desire to improve the livelihood of your people and communities, let me once again rally and challenge you to become the next generation of pro-poor policies champions. I am challenging you because I believe that once given the opportunity you can do more – by championing more policies and programs that reduce poverty not just in your communities or counties, but Republic of Liberia in general. I have no doubt that you will use your understanding of various concept in your courses studies in Economics, Accounting, Public Administration, Statistics, Econometrics, etc. to maximum welfare for society while also ensuring that the private sector grows.

I stand firmly to encourage you knowing also it will not be an easy task to champion the implementation of change. You will face opposition from unexpected sources; friends, families, immediate workmates, like I and my team experienced during the harmonization of the Central Government Payroll and the on-going National Payroll Clean-up Exercise. We were bullied, called names, and in some instance physical attacked. We were the centered of negative discussions in the media and various communities. But with the political will of the President and support of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, we did not give up because doing so would have meant comprising the livelihood of 90% of the public sector workforce for the benefit of the 10% that earned extremely high salary allowances based on discretionary system before harmonization.

As you take on this role of championing the implementation of pro-poor policies, believe in your conscience and use criticisms as tools for correcting your implementation missteps. Innovate your team members, triangulate the ideas from team members instead of strangulating their ideas and perspectives on the identifications of problems and the solutions. Commit your conscience and time until the task is achieved. Yes, you have overcome greater challenges before reaching today’s graduation, so I strongly believe you can do it. And as the 101st class of new beginnings, this challenge presents a perfect opportunity to change Liberia.

In my NATIF Story voice….. A graduate like you deserves the opportunity to work…… a graduate like you can change Liberia, and a graduate like you can implement policies that reduce poverty, yes, a graduate like can do it……!!

Let me once again thank and congratulate you all on your milestone achievements. Long live the 101st graduating class, long live

Long live the college of Business and Public Administration, long live,

Long live the University of Liberia, long live

Long live the Lux-in-Tenebris, long live

Long live Mama Liberia, long live

Thank you and God Bless You!

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NEWS

LIMPAC Donates Office Supplies and Equipment to Legislature Budget Office (LBO)

The Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center (LIMPAC), a policy Think Tank and capacity-building center within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning has presented a consignment of assorted office supplies and equipment to the Legislative Budget Office (LBO), the technical policy analysis arm at the Liberia National Legislature. The donation is geared towards strengthening the capacity and understanding of the staffers of the LBO about policy analysis on critical developmental reforms, including the formulation and performance analysis of the National Budget to support their recommendations to members of the Liberian Legislature for decision making, and to strengthen the overall public financial management reforms across government. The items presented include: computers, printers, photocopiers, projectors, internet modems, office furniture, and other assorted office supplies.

Del Francis Wreh, Executive Director – LIMPAC

Del Francis Wreh, LIMPAC Executive Director who presented the items on behalf of Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. who is also LIMPAC Board of Management Chairperson, noted that the LBO was created by Legislative enactment, modeled after the US Congressional Budget Office to provide technical support to the Liberian Legislature through its Committees on Ways, Means, Budget, Finance, & Development Planning by undertaking an impartial analysis of revenues and public expenditures forecasts and outturns as contained in the budget proposal of the Executive Branch, and to inform the Legislature’s consideration and approval of draft national budgets.Mr. Wreh, expressed confidence in the management team of the LBO headed by Director Othello S. Tarbah, to perform satisfactorily and move the LBO to higher standards in supporting the legislative agenda of Liberia.Wreh thanked Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr for this support to LIMPAC’s activities and gave assurances of LIMPAC’s continuous support and engagements with the National Legislature through the LBO in a collaborative fashion to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes relative to the analysis and interpretation of the national budget, and other public policy instruments. He revealed that LIMPAC will also leverage its network of donor partners to intercede on behalf of the LBO and other technical support units within the Liberian Legislature to boost collective productivity across government.

Director Othello S. Tarblah – Acting Director, LBO

For his part, LBO Acting Director Othello S. Tarblah, receiving the donation, paid special tribute to the LIMPAC Board Chair & Finance Minister, Honorable Samuel D. Tweah, Jr, describing him as a man of high professional standards and a respectable public financial management practitioner who has taken Liberia’s public financial management endeavors to higher heights.Mr. Tarbah noted that the kind gesture was an exercise in ‘triangulation’ which according to him will go a long way in Legislative strengthening. He said the logistics came at the time the LBO is analyzing the Draft FY2020/2021 national budget for passage by the Legislature. He indicated that the ‘good’ which has arrived on time will expedite critical analyses, recommendations, and decisions on the passage of the proposed budget now being considered by the Legislature.He called on the fiscal authorities of the government to continue constructive engagements at all levels of the budget process.

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NEWS REFORM

LIMPAC Completes Two Weeks Intensive Training for CSA Staffs AS HARMONIZATION TEAM TRANSITIONS PAYROLL ACTIVITIES TO CSA

The Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center (LIMPAC), the lead unit within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning  for the on-going national pay harmonization exercise  has completed two-week intensive training for staff of the civil Service Agency. The two weeks training focused on operations of the Government of Automated Payroll System, the Alternative Temporary Automated Payroll System (ATAPS).

Ms. Amelia Gweh executivng ATAPS new employment function

The main purpose of the training was to build the capacity of the CSA staff in effectively operating the  ATAPS for smooth processing payroll and related activities for  all GoL spending entities as the Interagency Harmonization Team gradually turn over rudimentary employment and payroll services and activities over to the Civil Service Agency. These periodic employment and payroll related activities  include deletion and addition of employees  for various administrative and other reasons, updates of staff promotions , and staff personal records; including the national biometric identification number, county of assignments, email addresses, cellphone numbers, etc. 

The training which ended on Friday March 20, 2020 benefited more than 20 employees of the Civil Service Agency, mainly from within the Employment Service and Payroll Divisions.  These staffs are now trained to  process the payroll, create new employment, manage existing employments; including , termination  of  employments, and remove ghost names using ATAPS. The trainers  were Miss Mabintu Mansaray , Senior Policy Research at LIMPAC, and Miss Amelia M. Gweh, Senior Budget Software Development Specialist within the Department of Budget at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Ms. Mabintu Mansary demonstrating ATAPS

At the close of the  training, the CSA Acting Director General, Hon. Jimmy Thompson, encouraged the CSA staff to full utilize skills from the training as the CSA strives to modernize   the procedures for employment and payment within central  government.

For his part  Hon. Del-Francis Wreh, Executive Director of LIMPAC  thanked the trainers for their willingness in conducting the training and  transferring knowledge to the CSA staff at this critical stage of the wage reform exercise in Liberia. Mr. Wreh also thanked the CSA staff for their  enthusiasm shown to learn and operate ATAPS, the new but temporary automated payroll system.

The Alternative Temporary Automated Payroll system (ATAPS) is a locally built software that is currently used by the Government of Liberia in automating employment and payroll processes across the government since the implementation of the National Harmonization Exercise in July 2019.  Through ATAPS, the Government of Liberia through the National Payroll Clean-up Task Force has started automating the retirement of eligible employees and blocking the salaries of the suspected ghost employees across the public sector.

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ECONOMY NEWS

LIMPAC Chairs Multi-Agency Payroll Clean-Up Taskforce

In support of the on-going wage bill and civil service reforms exercise, The President of the Republic of Liberia H.E George Weah has constituted  a Multi-Agency Payroll Clean-Up Taskforce.  The Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center(LIMPAC) within the Ministry Finance and Development Planning(MFDP) has been nominated to lead the activities for the taskforce.

The Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center(LIMPAC) is a research and policy think tank in the Ministry of Finance and Developing Planning which is currently leading on the on-going wage harmonization and standardization exercise. Over the past several months, LIMPAC, leading the Payroll Harmonization Team along with the Civil Service Agency  has been working with various spending entities within the central Government in creating  transparency and equity within the national wage bill through standardizing the pay grade system, centralizing, and automating the payroll. Through the harmonization  exercise, which is backed by the National Standardization Act of 2019, paygrades were assigned to about 74,000 employees of central government thereby achieving reduction in  the Wage bill by US$30 million, from US$327 million at end of FY18/19 to US$297  million in the approved FY19/20 National Budget. Also, through the harmonization exercise, basic salary and general allowances were collapsed into a single salary and immediate salaries increment were effected for more than 15,000 employees; mainly security officers, teachers on supplementary payroll, health workers, employees of revenue generating agencies.

The Task Force which primary objective is to remove ghost employees  from the payroll in an efficient and  sustainable manner also include the Internal Audit Agency (IAA), the Civil Service Agency (CSA), and the National Identification Registry (NIR) .  LIMPAC as chairman of the Task Force will  supervise the daily activities of the Taskforce as well as forge persistent collaboration with other members and the spending entities of interest to identify and immediately remove or blocked ghost employees from the government centralized and automated payroll system.

The Internal Audit Agency Co-chairing the  Taskforce will institute physical audits of payrolls for entities on interest and provide findings to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning through LIMPAC and the Civil Service Agency  for immediate actions. The National Identification Registry will ensure that employees have valid National Identification Number(NIN), while Civil Service Agency will provide data and support to members regarding employees’ records and job history.

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NEWS SOCIAL WORK

LIMPAC Pledge LRD 100, 000 Toward Hult Prize Youth Enterpreneur & Innovative Initiative

LIMPAC Pledge LRD 100, 000 Toward Hult Prize Youth Enterpreneur & Innovative Initiative

On December 19th 2018, the Executive Director of the Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center (LIMPAC) at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Mr. Del-Francis Wreh was invited to serve as a keynote speaker and an implementing partner and sponsor to the Hult Prize program held at the auditorium on the campus of the University of Liberia. The Hult prize is a platform that centers on youth empowerment and brings together students to compete globally by showcasing their innovative skills.  

 

The program held at the University Auditorium showcased 8 competing innovative projects about job creation across different sectors and communities in Liberia. The projects and business proposals were presented by eight groups of young Liberian students of the University of Liberia.

 

In a briefed remark, the LIMPAC boss, Mr. Del–Francis Wreh acknowledged how honored he was to be selected as one of the keynote speaker to give a motivational statement on entrepreneurship, innovation and research to young University students at the auditorium of the University of Liberia. He expressed excitement interacting with groups of young Liberian students sharing enormous ideas on different innovative projects about creating incomes and jobs in Liberia. Their effort he lamented brings joy to him and makes him to believe that they (students) are truly the emerging leaders that can ably move Liberia forward. He further lauded the effort of the organizers of the Hult Initiative and the leadership of the University of Liberia for mentoring young students under such an inspiring initiative.  He admonished the students for the different ideas and projects on jobs creation at the community levels, which by extension support Pillar Two of the Government of Liberia, Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), objectively poised to take one million Liberia out of poverty over the period of 5-years. The LIMPAC boss lamented “ I will inform Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Honorable Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., my boss that you have already started the implementation of the PAPD, and thank you once more for your extraordinary effort”

The LIMPAC boss further expressed LIMPAC willingness to partner with the organizers of the Hult Prize in the area of research, which he believe needs to be strengthened in Liberia to support the formulation of more innovative ideas for successful entrepreneurships and public administration. He later on behalf of the LIMPAC pledged 100,000 Liberian Dollars toward the traveling cost for the winner (group) who is expected to compete globally. This pledge represents LIMPAC second pledge in the space of month within 2018 towards scholarly initiatives on the campus of the University of Liberia. LIMPAC during the end of November 2018 at the induction ceremony of the  Lux –In- Tenebris Honors Scholars Program pledged LRD500,000 towards the dormitory cost of scholars under the program.

 

LIMPAC is a specialized unit within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The Center has responsibility for policy analysis, research and training of public officials in macroeconomic related issues in Liberia.

The Center, which is funded by the Government of Liberia and the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) conducts policy researches and provide advisory services to the Government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning in addition to implementing capacity building training activities.

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