World Bank “Early Warning”: Focusing On Agriculture

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
The phrase, “Early Warning” may be common in many professions, but in the journalism profession, it is always used to prepare people and country about pending consequences. Because of the gravity of such pending consequences, the media would report these stories, sometimes, accompanied by editorials or commentaries for greater public awareness to get citizens and countries prepared to take appropriate action to mitigate the consequences or avoid or to avoid the occurrence of such dangerous situation that would have a devastating consequence on the people and country.
Furthermore, “Early Warning’ is all geared towards urging people or country to take precaution on what is expected to take place. Precaution, as it is defined, is“ something that is done forehand to guard against harm, danger, mistakes or accidents.”Besides, it prevents the loss of lives.
 It is in this vein that the World Bank this week released its report named “Africa’s Pulse” which was launched in Washington DC on Monday. It noted that Sub-Saharan Africa countries will continue to face low and volatile prices in the global commodity markets.  The report then stressed the need for Africa to transform herself by increasing shares and production of non-resources commodity like Agriculture in a bid to content with the prevailing low commodity prices that have been predicted to impede growth.
The 2016 growth forecast according to the report remains subdued at 3.3 percent, way below the robust 6.8 percent growth in GDP that the region sustained in the 2003-2008 periods.  The report further said that overall growth is projected to pick up in 2017-2018 to 4.5 percent. It pointed out that the plunge in commodity prices, particularly oil, which fell 67 percent from June 2014 to December 2015 and weak global growth, especially in emerging market economies, are behind the region’s lackluster performance.
Additionally, the World Bank report said in several instances, the adverse impact of lower commodity prices was compounded by domestic conditions such as electricity shortages, policy uncertainty, drought, and security threats, which stymied growth. However, it noted that there were some bright spots where growth continued to be robust such as in Cote D’lvoire, which saw a favorable policy environment and rising investment, as well as oil importers such as Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
It said, “The external environment confronting the region is expected to remain difficult. In a number of countries, policy buffers are weaker, constraining these countries’ policy response. Delays in implementing adjustments to the drop in revenues from commodity exports and worsening drought conditions present risks to Africa’s growth prospects.”
“As countries adjust to a more challenging global environment, stronger efforts to increase domestic resource mobilization will be needed. With the trend of falling commodity prices, particularly oil and gas, it is time to accelerate all reforms that will unleash the growth potential of Africa and provide affordable electricity for the African people,” says Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa.
It indicated that several countries are expected to see moderate growth and that among frontier markets growth is expected to edge up in Ghana, driven by improving investor sentiment, the launch of new oilfields, and the easing of the electricity crisis. In Kenya, growth is expected to remain robust, supported by private consumption and public infrastructure investment.
Notwithstanding, the report stated that as Africa undergoes rapid urban growth, there is a window of opportunity to harness the potential of cities as engines of economic growth. “The rapid decline in oil and commodity prices has adversely affected resource-rich countries and signaled an urgent need for economic diversification in Africa. Urbanization and well managed cities provide a major opportunity to offer a springboard for diversification,” the World Bank stated.
To remedy the situation,the team leader of the authors Punam Chuhan-Pole     said the situation countries must strengthen domestic resources mobilization and add salary structure reform and stream line taxes. She further noted that policy specialists should spread more emphasis on agriculture and address the deficit in electricity generation, transmission and distribution to move affordable energy and improve trade.
Frankly, this latest report by the World Bank is not strange to Liberians because in recent times Liberians continue to experience situation of the effects of decline in world prices that continue to affect major institutions in the country that have begun taking measures and action, such as the reduction in their workforce. One of such companies is the world giant steel company, Archelor Mittal, which has redundant some of its workforce. Other companies in the country have taken similar action because of this decline on world prices of those resources they are involved with.
While it is true that this country is also feeling the pinch of this decline in world prices about some of our natural resources, there is light at the end of the tunnel, as countries, including Liberia, have been urged to now focus on the agricultural sector to mitigate or minimize the economic consequences.
If there is anything this country can brag about is its vast virgin forests and the fertile soil. But much has not been done to till the soil to help boost local production. For too long, there have been policies, including that of ‘Going Back to the Soil,” and “The Green Revolution,” launched during the regime of the late Samuel K. Doe.’ But not much has been done to improve this sector, despite the available fertile soil and the abundant lands.
Because of the fertility of the soil, it is often said that if one drops a seed anywhere in Liberia, it would germinate. Just recently while listening to the Ministry of Agriculture program conducted by Mrs. Gertrude Francis Deshield, a lady who operates a “back-yard garden” explained how the project has been a source of income for her family. She said the income has helped to support the education of her children and take care of her family.
This early warning by the World Bank should rekindle in us the desire to do something about agriculture. For too long we have been playing lip service on this matter. It is time to rethink about agriculture.  When people say that this country ‘is blessed,” they are also referring to its abundant land and fertile soil.
We cannot afford to be the “fools” that the late Bob Marley spoke about that in the abundance of water, they thirst. Let’s make use of the water to survive and sustain our nation, so that we will not be considered as “fools.”  We should be ashamed of ourselves that we have to travel to neighboring countries to get some commodities that can be produced here. We have spoken about ‘feeding ourselves’ for too long. Now is the time to feed ourselves.
In all fairness, the message of the early warning of the World Bank in the face of low prices is for us to prioritize agriculture.
Until as a people and nation realize that agriculture is key to national survival and self-reliance, I Rest My Case.

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