The Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center (LIMPAC) within the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP) concluded a one (1) day forum on a research report funded by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) on the impact of UNMIL draw-down on the Liberian Economy. The forum attracted Economic gurus from both the public and private sectors to discuss the economic impact of the withdrawal of UNMIL and proffer workable short, medium and long terms solutions. The forum was divided into two sections. During the first session, the consultant made presentation on the full report of the impact of UNMIL. The second segment was a panel discussion of knowledgeable stakeholders from the public and private sectors about additional recommendations and strategies on short, medium, and long-term diversification programs. In introductory remarks, LIMPAC’s Executive Director Mr. Del- Francis Wreh used the occasion to extend profound gratitude to the African Capacity Building foundation (ACBF) for its continuous financial and technical supports towards research paper “Assessing the Economic Impact on the Draw-down of UNMIL on the Liberia Economic”, a research study done by Agency for Economic Development & Empowerment (AEDE) headed by Mr. Samuel Thompson. Mr. Wreh threw light on some of the achievements of LIMPAC with funding from the ACBF including three research papers of which two have been completed and validated including Assessing the Economic Impact on the Draw-down of UNMIL on the Liberia Economic. According to Mr. Wreh, the Economic Forecasting & Training Lab which was launched five months ago was also funded by ACBF under its quick win projects of 2017, and has been used to trained government employees in data entry and statistical data modeling using Stata. Speaking as official launcher of the forum, Hon. Tweah hinted on the completion of the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) policy paper and its readiness to be launched in the coming weeks.
He further stated that the PAPD remains committed to its priorities which are road connectivity and Human Capital Development. Adding on, he abreast Liberians that the economic meltdown is not unique to Liberia; the uniqueness in the economic to Liberia is the Ebola shock and the withdrawal of UNMIL, therefore something should be done to address the aforementioned impacts. It is a global crisis as interest rates skyrocket in the United States and the decline in the prices of raw commodities. He warns Liberia of the forth-coming global recession and tells Liberian economists to move fast in order to mitigate the effects on the Liberian economy, Minister Tweah Stated. According to Hon. Tweah, in order to reduce the pressure on the exchange rate in a dual currency economy, Liberia should move to a cashless economy through the use of mobile money.
During the presentation on the report, Mr. Samuel Thompson, Managing Partner of AEDE argued that if laws on land rights are solved in Liberia, the African Growth Initiative and the Tony Blair foundation estimated that Liberia can increase its current production from forty thousand (40,000) hectors to one hundred eighty-five thousand (185,000) hectors within the palm oil industry, which according to him has more potential of withstanding commodity price stocks. With this potential, he intimated that the oil palm industry could take over from the iron ore and rubber in leading growth in Liberian economy. Presenting further, Mr. Thompson indicated that the GDP’s impact of UNMIL drawdown is huge on economy but minimum on the inflation and foreign exchange rates, as the two are mainly driven by the Liberia’s unfavorable trade balance and current account balance. The second segment of the forum a panel discussions that was used for provide alternative views and recommendations on the consultant report the general performance of the Liberia economy. The panel discussants included Hon. Augustus J. Flomo, Deputy Minister for Economic Management, Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, Dr. Lester Tenny, Vice President for Technical Service, NOCAL, Atty. Kou Dorliae, Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Dr. James F. Davis, Project Implementation Unit, Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Hon. Francis A. Dennis, President Emeritus, Liberia Chambers of Commerce and Mr. Stanley Kamara, Country Economist, UNDP. The panel articulated that UNMIL presence in the country and their mild economic contribution just masked the structural inefficiencies of the economy that was already pronounced in the country since the civil crises. This clearly points to the argument that UNMIL presence did not substantively address did not address the structural challenges of the economy even though the presence of the force created an enabling security environment for both public and private investments. The panelists deepen that argument on diversification, calling on the Government of Liberia to take smart decisions that support diversification and value addition not only into oil palm, but other short cycle food and cash crops in which Liberia has dynamic comparative advantage. They suggested value addition in cocoa, rice, cassava, livestock, aquaculture, etc. to support food security while also supporting a positive trade balance that supports exchange rate stability. Members of the panel unanimously agreed that capacity building to fill critical skill gap is important to achieve diversification but narrowing such skill gaps mean reorganization of curriculum across higher institutions of learning to increase the emphasis on technical skills.