When President George Manneh Weah on Tuesday dedicated ‘first ever’ steel rod plant owned and operated by Indian firm Sethi Ferro Fabrik, Inc., outside Monrovia, he made reference to a letter written to him by Liberian economist Samuel Jackson on the current state of the nation’s economy.
The Liberia News Agency hereby publishes verbatim Jackson’s letter
“Good morning Mr. President. I am leaving Liberia tomorrow after spending more than ten weeks in the country. I have observed that your government and the people of Liberia are faced with immense economic challenges, most of them inherited and many as a result of the faulty concession model adopted by President E J Roye in 1870 and continued by successive presidents, especially William V. S Tubman and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I explained the origins of our bastardized development model that has produced the poorest country on planet earth in terms of Annual Gross National Income per capita.
Mr. President, your country is a basket case. It is crawling on its needs and will do so for decades due to the systemic and structural problems such as huge infrastructure deficit, low educational attainment, low absorptive capacity, over reliance on the extractive industry, and limited productive capacity, resulting into dependence on two primary commodity exports.
Add these structural deficits to a massive hole in macroeconomic stability. Exchange rate instability resulting into the largest reduction in purchasing power of Liberians over the past 50 years. Excess liquidity in the LRD money supply, as a result of CBL damage done in the printing and infusion of 18.151 billion dollars into the country’s money supply without respect to the time tested quantity theory of money that calls for a close correlation between economic growth rates and expansion in the money supply. Your monetary aggregates are way out of sync with our neighbors in West Africa and especially in WAMU.
Your economy is a trading post, with an undeveloped financial architecture. It has three parallel economies, the Fulas, Lebanese and Indians with their own financial structures, with the capacity to fund imports, construct real estate and control the USD and LRD in your money supply. They hardly use your banking system. Most people do not trust our banks. Only 7 percent of Liberians have bank accounts, with 41 percent in Ghana. This is a serious problem of financial inclusion and deepening. Over 49 percent of GDP is conducted over a digital platform such as MPESA in Kenya. 93 percent of Kenyans utilize mobile money. Your banking system lacks a robust payment system including ACH.
Mr. President, our economic problems are not insurmountable but overcoming them will require your political will, those of your cabinet and the cooperation of the Liberian people.
Therefore we must keep politics out of the efforts to solve our developmental challenges.
All hands must be on deck. You cannot solve Liberia’s development problems with just officials of your government and technicians you now have.
The problems are deeper and require more capacity, resources and technical depth. For example, your current governance structure cannot begin to solve many of the problems.
They lack capacity. LISGIS is poorly structured and lacks the depth to provide the statistics and studies that can produce actionable policy recommendations. We are far behind in many major reports: CWIQ. LDHS. NPHC. CEDAW. Etc.
We cannot fix our economy without data. We cannot begin to solve our developmental challenges without the cooperation of all Liberians. There is no lack of capacity among Liberians today, globally. We just need to create a data base to attract our best and brightest and to develop a system to retain the services of our professionals.
We must expand the capacity of major government agencies and ministries. Many are overworked and underpaid. There are many highly educated young men and women toiling deep within the government who do not receive their just appreciation and compensation.
You cannot get people to perform at their optimum without appreciation and just compensation. In some cases, we do not lack capacity but simple coordination of skills.
Thank you Mr. President for proposing to hold a National Economic Dialogue in mid-August. This should help build consensus for your national development agenda. Hopefully, the monitoring and evaluation portion of this conference can lead to a robust national project delivery system.
I have only exerted minimal efforts to meet you for several reasons. I wanted my understanding of our current circumstances to go beyond presidential politics. I am speaking to you through this medium because I know for a fact that you and your officials discuss my writings on Facebook and react. I can prove it.
I will be back in about ten days. I continue to support my country and its people in their determination to build resilient systems that will produce a healthy and prosperous nation.
My politics is strong. I hold very strong opinions. Those opinions should not be used to obstruct my professional contributions. I will never change. I am a Liberian nationalist, a disciple of Didho Twe and Baccus Matthews, two great sons who supported the expansion of democracy that brought you to power. Respect my political views.
God bless you and I pray for your continual well-being.
In the cause of the people the struggle continues. Aluta continua.”