Monrovia: Following months of wait over the much-anticipated report in the alleged missing billion sagas, President George Weah has disclosed that the international investigators’ report is expected at the end of February this year.
Pres. Weah made the disclosure during the State of the Nation address before members of the 54th National Legislature in the Joint Chambers of the Capitol Building.
Tension grew across the country as several key government officials including Lawmakers were allegedly accused of handling the missing money while Liberians in their view mentioned the economic impact of the money and its trigger effect on the lives of ordinary Liberians.
Among them was the September 24th, 2018 March in demand of the missing billions which pressured the Liberian Legislature and international bodies to conduct an investigation into the matter in which the Legislature advanced several recommendations to the Executive branch of government for further actions. The Legislature furthered that the Executive maintained its ongoing investigation of the missing money to ensure transparency throughout the process.
During the period, all international partners were written to aid Liberian local investigative team in pursuant of the missing money. The United States government agreed to hire a legitimate international firm to conduct a forensic investigation and report to the US embassy near Monrovia.
Pres. Weah stated that his government remains committed to ensuring transparency at all levels which he mentioned that those linked in the missing billions investigation report will be dealt with according to the laws of Liberia.
“The Report from the Kroll Audit Team is expected at the end of February 2019, and will be released to the public by USAID. If it is established that there has been any willful act of criminality, negligence, or malfeasance by anyone implicated in the reports, the full weight of the law will be brought to bear”.
The current state of the Country’s economy seemed uneasy as prices of basic commodities have sharply increased and the depreciation of Liberian dollars to the United States in foreign exchange while poverty is seen on the faces of ordinary Liberians.
The Liberian Leader mentioned that despite efforts to revamp an ‘inherited broken economy’ caused by the collapse of the country’s major export commodities prices on the global market, the UNMIL withdrawal, and the effect of the Ebola Virus Disease in 2014, the country’s economy is still in a struggling state.
“Despite these peculiar adverse economic circumstances, growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) recovered at 2.5 percent in 2017 and were projected to rise to 3 percent at the end of 2018. By 2023, we expect the economy to grow by a further 4.7 percent, on account of further expansion in commercial gold production, growth in the agricultural and forestry sectors, the formation of Special Economic Zones, and other economic reforms envisage under the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development”.
Recounting his one year period of leadership, the president acknowledged the poor performance of the Liberian dollars against United State Dollars in which he mentioned the infusion of 25 million into the economy to help the process.
“As of December 2018, a total of $17 million United States dollars was used for the intervention, which significantly contributed to the general stability in the exchange rate for the past six months (July to December 2018). The balance $8 million United States dollars is reserved by the CBL as a precautionary intervention fund’, Pres. Weah noted.
He maintained that despite challenges of improving the economy the country’s revenue generation has grossly helped his administration in pushing the pro-poor agenda for development.
“Revenue collection for 2018, including grants, was $480.6 million united states dollars, as compared to $454 million united states dollars in 2017, which represents growth of 5.7 percent. This strong performance was driven by higher receipts of tax and non-tax revenues. Tax revenue increased from $384.9 million United States dollars in 2017 to $387.6 million United States dollars in 2018. Non-tax revenue increased from $55 million United States dollars in 2017, to $64.7 million in 2018, mainly on account of active collection of the Road Fund Levy”, Pres. Weah pointed out.
“Correspondingly, expenditure for 2018 amounted to $502 million United States dollars, compared to $434.3 million United States dollars at the end of November 2017. The increase in government expenditures consistently reminds us about the desire of the Liberian people for meaningful developments, which are in line with our Change for Hope mandate”, Pres. Weah said.
Pres. Weah expressed gratitude to Liberia’s development partners whom he said contributed approximately ten times more in budget support grants in 2018 than in 2017 in the tone of $38M in 2018, compared to $4.8 million in 2017.
“To our partners, we say thank you, merci and obligado! Of this amount, approximately $279.2 million United States dollars, represents seventy percent (70%) in grants; while the remaining $120 million United States dollars represents thirty percent (30%) received as concessional loans.
This reflects the commitment of our partners and the international community to support the dream and aspiration of the Liberian people, and their confidence in our fiscal discipline”, The Liberian Leader noted.