By Timothy T. Seaklon
The Government of Liberia (GOL) through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) will unveil an Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan (ESRP) in January 2015 projected to cost the government roughly US$174.0 million.
Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Amara M. Konneh, making the disclosure said his ministry has been working with other colleagues in Government and Liberia’s development partners to address some of the vexing issues undermining Liberia’s trade position and overall economic strength.
Minister Konneh said the government is fully committed to investing its meager resource envelope, to demonstrate ownership of this Plan, while engaging the country’s development partners to support itdirectly through the national budget. “In fact, we have already mobilized some resources to this effect, while a significant gap remains,” Minister Konneh disclosed.
Briefing journalists yesterday at the Ministry of Information daily Ebola Press Conference, Minister Konneh said ESRP is designed to mitigate the effects of the slump in economic activities in the short term, and institute measures to restore the economy to its former trajectory of sustained, rapid growth, consistent with Liberia’s medium and long term development goals.
“Our strategy is to invest the US$174.0 million in activities that restore the provision of basic services currently suspended or limited as a result of the crisis, as well as provide avenues for the increase of the formerly vibrant economic activity,” he added.
On how the fund will be allocated, Minister Konneh said, “We will invest US$60.0 million in revitalizing the health sector and improving basic health service delivery throughout the country, in addition to ongoing support to the sector to eradicate Ebola.”
Mr. Konneh also noted that US$30 million will go to supporting the educational sector, to reduce the illiteracy rate and enhance national human capacity development efforts, which is a necessary recipe for poverty reduction.
The Finance Minister further said US$25 million goes towards conditional cash transfers, to provide a social safety net for the significant portion of the populace affected by the Ebola Virus Disease crisis while US$35million will go to the agricultural sector, which is the lowest hanging fruit to Liberia’s economic growth and development. “This investment will serve to enhance our food security and create jobs, “Minister Konneh said.
Minister Konneh also disclosed that government will also invest US$10.0 million into the activities of the domestic private sector, Liberia’s engine of growth, to reverse the slowdown in economic activity and create jobs.
The Finance Minister said US$10.0 million will be invested in developing the Internet Communication Technology (ICT) sector, to promote innovation and efficiency in the economy; and the remaining US$4.0 million will be invested in road maintenance equipment, to improve the country’s road network and thereby enhance the farm to market value chain.
“As we mobilize this funding, we are also working with infrastructure contactors resume their infrastructure rehabilitation work, which is crucial to jump-start our economy. They earlier stalled these activities, citing the force majeure clause in their contracts, due to the Ebola outbreak,” he said.
On Ebola financing, Minister Konneh disclosed that as of October 31, 2014, the Ebola Trust Fund received a total of US$14.282 million in both US dollars and Liberian dollars and noted that of this amount, US$8.387 million has been disbursed to or on behalf of various Government entities.
He said more than US$4 million was disbursed to the Ministry of Health while more than US$2 million toward security operations; and US$745,000 toward response and burial activities.
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning Boss also noted that US$0.931 million was disbursed to six highly affected counties namely Bong, Margibi, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, Gbarpolu and Montserrado for Ebola response-related activities outside of the Trust Fund mechanism.
He said these disbursements were triggered by resolutions of the legislative caucuses of the respective counties.
“As of October 25, 2014, total donor commitments for Ebola Response aid that Government has validated with its partners, including disbursements, stands at US$373.3 million. Of this amount, US$70.0 million represents additional funding from the World Bank, which has been approved but is not yet finalized,” Minister told journalists.
He said excluding that additional World Bank financing, the remaining US$303.3 million includes a US$152 million commitment of resources from the United States Government which, at 41 per cent of total commitments, is so far the largest pledge to the Ebola effort in Liberia. “This amount includes nearly US$100 million in in-kind support from the US Department of Defense,” the minister said.
By Timothy T. Seaklon