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Speech Delivered By Deputy Minister For Fiscal Affairs of The Ministry Of Finance and Development Planning, Dr. Samora P. Z. Wolokolie; At The Special Edward Wilmot Blyden Forum Organized By The Press Union Of Liberia.

SPZW-Edward-Wilmot-Blyden-Forum

My fellow Liberians, officials of Government present, invited guests, the members of the Fourth Estate, distinguished ladies and gentlemen:

I am profoundly pleased to be here today and exceedingly grateful to the Leadership of the Press Union of Liberia for inviting me to speak at this historic forum.

The man in whose honor this gathering is organized, the prolific E. Wilmont Blyden was a force for redemption and social justice. I could not be humbler to stand here today as one of the speakers here at this auspicious occasion especially having the distinguished honor of sharing this platform with an erudite statesman in Hon. Simeon Freeman. Thank you Mr. President for the invite.

Before delving into the details of my deliberation here today, let me hasten to highlight the significance of the Press Union of Liberia under the aegis of its venerated President, Mr. Charles Cuffy. In a democratic dispensation such as ours, the role of the press, as an unbiased watchdog of the society cannot be overemphasized. As a key member of the George Manneh Weah CDC led Government, I am elated by the monumental steps that have been taken to preserve press freedom. His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia, has taken deliberate steps through legislative enactments to ensure that press freedom is unhindered and unfettered. The Kamara Abdulai Kamara law is a living example of this government’s commitment and dedication to upholding the tenants of responsible journalism.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, with freedom, come responsibility, and it is our fervent hope that the Press Union of Liberia and every practicing journalist will uphold their side of the social contract: That is, to report the facts void of biases and favoritism. Together, we all can make this great land a place of peace and tranquility. The government ensures that the welfare of its citizens are met - and the press union serving as a watchdog, reporting against the ills and shortcomings of society and doing so without intimidation and harassment from anyone or group.

At this juncture ladies and gentlemen, I would now pivot to deliberate on the subject matter for which I was invited. Mr. President, ladies, and gentlemen, as the Deputy Minister of Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, I would like to convey to you the warm sentiments and felicitation of Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. officials and staff of MFDP.

Mr. President, at your behest, I have been asked to deliberate on the topic: The Economic Impact of COVID-19 on Liberia. To this request, I have obliged and will do so to the best of my ability - you can rest assured.

The coronavirus is a worldwide health emergency that has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Dubbed COVID-19, this virus has affected more than 100 countries worldwide, sickened millions, and killed hundreds of thousands. The effect and impact of this menacing pandemic are ubiquitous. From Asia to the Americas, from Africa to the Middle East, and from Europe to Australia.

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), which first appeared in China at the end of last year, now exceed 115,000 as of March 10 and are likely to climb significantly higher. Ladies and gentlemen what was initially seen as a largely China-centric shock is now a global crisis with devastating effects.

COVID-19 has proven to be a killer with no scientifically known antidote. We are quite aware of the discoveries in Madagascar and other countries, but at the level of the WHO, there is no known vaccine or antidote to obliterate this epidemic. The race for a vaccine is on, and we can all hope that sooner than later this pandemic will be a thing of the past.

The effect of COVID-19 has been devastating and far-reaching. Every fabric of our livelihood has been impacted by this deadly virus. The various has had a catastrophic impact on world economies. From developed countries such as the United States and England to developing nations including Liberia, lives have been turned upside down, revenues have plummeted, expenditures have been streamlined and growth rates have fallen flat. According to the most recent IMF assessment on the world economic outlook, the global growth rate is projected at -4.9 percent in 2020, a 1.9 percentage points below the April 2020 forecast. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a more negative impact than anticipated.

In the context of Liberia, the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 cannot be overemphasized. Liberia as part of the global village is not immune to the effects and shocks of this pandemic. As was the case in 2014 during the Ebola Outbreak, our economy is under enormous stress. As an economy that is mostly import driven, events around the world can alter the course of activities here in Liberia. The latest IMF growth projection for 2020 is -2.5 largely due to lockdown at home and abroad and stagnation in economic activities. While lockdown is an effective mitigating measure to curtail the spread of the virus, it is negatively impacting economic activities and placing substantial burden and challenges on the vulnerable population. In addition to the vulnerable population, COVID-19 has placed enormous strains on the operations of the government. The government’s budget execution, revenue collection, and expenditure decisions have all been impacted by the events emanating from COVID-19.

Here we go with some fiscal highlights:

Revenue:

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, domestic revenue was projected at 444 million dollars out of a total of 505 million dollars of which 61 million was attributed to external resources This projection was consistent with the recast budget that was passed into law in January 2020. Major lines informing the domestic resource envelope included taxes on income and profit, international trade, goods and services tax, administrative fees, etc.

While the Liberia Revenue Authority was taking proactive measures to ensure that lawful revenues were collected to support the national developmental agenda of the government, the tentacles of the deadly coronavirus arrived on the shores of Liberia. With the outbreak of COVID-19 came the declaration of a State of Emergency by H.E. the President. As a mitigating factor, the SOE sanctioned social distancing, reduced workforce, reduced hours for economic activities, and a limited curfew. All these measures combined resulted in a precipitous drop in viable economic activities. Considering the fact that the COVID-19 preventive measures inclusive of social distancing will slow down economic activities and lead to low revenue generation, the Government of Liberia, supported by the IMF initiated another recast, known as the COVID Recast. This recast was necessary to adjust prior projections taking into account the prevailing situation. Toward that end, the COVID recast was submitted and enacted into law with a decrease to domestic revenue (from 444 million to 395 million).

The spread of COVID-19 in the global economy affected domestic resources mobilization at the end of February 2020, with US$294.2 million of revenue collected. Despite this collection representing an increase of US$97.9 million (49.9 percent) over the collection at the end of December 2019, it fell short of the revenue projection (US$317.4 million) at the end of February 2020 by US$23.2 million thus representing an under-collection of 7.3 percent.

This was mainly attributable to US$18.8 million under collection in grants and US$12.6 million under collection in tax revenue despite over collection of US$8.2 million in nontax revenue. Under collections in taxes on international trade (US$14.3 million) and in taxes on goods and services (US$4.1 million) were responsible for the massive under collection in tax revenue.

Thus, given the declaration of the outbreak as a pandemic and the unprecedented measures being put in place to contain the virus both at home and abroad, we anticipate significant underperformance in revenue over the course of the fiscal year. The global lockdown will affect revenues from taxes on international trade. The domestic lockdown will affect demand for goods and services thereby adversely affecting payroll tax receipts, receipts from taxes on goods and services, receipts from surface rentals, and corporate income tax receipts amongst others.

To mitigate the impact of the fall in revenue collection, the government is in consultations with development partners, specifically the World Bank, the IMF, the African Development Bank, and the European Development Bank, to access grant facilities to aid the country in combating the outbreak and in stimulating the economy.

Expenditure:

On the expenditure front, it was projected that US$525.9 million would have been spent on the administration of the affairs of the state for FY2019/2020. Of the projected expenditures, recurrent spending was projected to amount to US$492.4 million (93.6 percent) while capital spending would amount to US$33.5 million (6.4 percent). Of the projected recurrent spending, compensation of employees was projected at US$296.9 million (60.3 percent); Use of goods & services, US$77.0 million (15.6 percent); interest, US$62.9 million (12.8 percent); grants, US$54.1 million (11.0 percent); and social benefits, US$1.5 million (0.3 percent).

As of the end of December 2019 when the COVID-19 outbreak was restricted to China, the Government expended US$195.0 million representing 37.1 percent of the proposed expenditures for FY2019/20. The amount spent was entirely on recurrent activities with compensation of employees accounting for the highest expenditure item. However, as at the end of February 2020, government expenditures increased by 50 percent on account of a 61.8 percent increase in compensation of employees relative to the end of December 2019.

With the increase in the number of cases in the country and the imposition movement restrictions in the country, we anticipate an increase in health-related expenditures to enable the country to identify those infected, isolate them, contact traced those they might come in contact with and then treat the infected for the symptoms; an increase in security-related spending to enforce adherence to the safety measures being put in place to limit the spread of the virus, and increase in social benefits to affected communities.

All of these are coming against the backdrop of regular payments of salaries to workers and to suppliers of goods and services and debt servicing. This puts a strain on the budget which was crafted on the basis of fiscal austerity. Moreover, re-allocation of spending threatens to make the Government to default on some of its commitments.

Thus, to mitigate the impact of these increased expenditures on the budget, and to prevent the widening of the fiscal deficit and the buildup of debts, the Government has re-allocated budgetary appropriations thereby deferring discretions spending that are critical to the fight against the virus but protecting the payment of salaries in the process. Thus, this re-allocation process succeeded in freeing up US$25.0 million to be used to provide food aid to affected communities and a further US$4.0 million to support the provision of electricity and water to homes.

Deficit

During the crafting of the FY2019/20 national budget, we committed ourselves to implement a credible budget by aligning spending to identifiable available revenue thereby reducing the temptation of deficit financing thus curtailing the increase in debts and the depletion of reserves. During budget execution over the past eight months, in an attempt not to resort to deficit financing and in response to revenue shortfalls, we adjusted expenditures to match available revenue.

However, given the huge increase in expenditure coupled with a projected sharp decline in revenues on account of a slowdown in economic activities, we anticipate a widening of the budget deficit. Given the low level of foreign reserves and the weak balance sheet of the Central Bank of Liberia, financing the deficit would prove to be a herculean task.

Moreover, to narrow the budget deficit, the government has been engaged in discussions with its international development partners in sourcing financing. These discussions have yielded fruits as the World Bank has committed to providing US$17.0 million to partly support the National Response Plan. The European Union has also pledged a re-allocate US$15.0 million of its pre-COVID 19 assistance to the country. The Government is also working with the African Development Bank to determine the Bank’s support to Liberia as regards the AfDB’s recently announced US$10.0 billion COVID 19 support to African countries.

Public Debts

The country’s total debt stock as at the end of February 2020 stands at US$1.47 billion of which domestic debts account for US$604.4 million (41 percent) while the external debt stock accounts for US$861.8 million (59 percent). Of the domestic debts, debt owed to the CBL amounts to US$487.5 million (80.7 percent); commercial banks, US$65.2 million (10.8 percent); other institutions, US$51.5 million (8.5 percent); and claims, US$0.2 million. On the other hand, of the total external debt, multilateral institutions account for US$748.3 million (86.8 percent) while bilateral sources account for US$113.5 million (13.2 percent).

Rising debt levels coupled with falling growth rates have resulted into the country being classified into the category of a moderate rate of debt distress and as such, it inhibits our ability to borrow to finance infrastructure projects needed to narrow our infrastructure gap and to also fund a meaningful stimulus package for the country.

Hence, to curb the increase in public debt, the government is committed to attracting donor grants and low-cost financing to support the fight against the virus and to stimulate the economy.

Total debt service as at the end of February 2020 amounted to US$21.4 million of which principal repayment amounted to US$7.6 million (35.5 percent), interest payment amounted to US$12.8 million (59.8 percent), while subscription amounted to US$1.0 million (4.7 percent). Of the principal repayment, domestic debt accounted for US$2.2 million (28.9 percent) with payments made entirely to debts owed to other institutions while external debt accounted for US$5.4 million (71.1 percent) of which multilateral sources account for US$4.1 million (75.9 percent) while bilateral sources account for US$1.3 million (24.1 percent). With regards to interest payment, interest paid on domestic debt amounted to about US$8.0 million of which US$5.9 million was paid to commercial banks while US$0.2 million was paid to other institutions. This made interest paid on external debt amounted to US$4.8 million with interest paid on multilateral debt amounting to US$3.8 million while bilateral debt amounted to US$1.0 million.

A major challenge to the country at this crucial time is that those debts previously contracted on concessional terms are coming due now. Thus, with falling growth rate and revenue, rising expenditures, and widening current account and fiscal deficits, the country risks defaulting on its debt service obligations.

To prevent this from occurring, the Government is seeking debt waiver on its external debts and a restructuring of its domestic debts. The IMF under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) has approved debt service relief for the country. This provides a grant to cover the IMF debt obligation for an initial phase over the next six months. This frees up scarce financial resources to be channeled towards the health sector to combat the viral outbreak and also towards domestic debt services to stimulate the domestic economy.

For the purposes of today’s event, I have also come to inform the Liberian people and the world at large about recent transformative developments that have been achieved at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. These developments include, but are not limited to regularization of the payroll process, prudent cash management, tax policy reform, and financial reporting.

Payroll:

Under the direction of our Minister, the erudite, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., we have successfully cleared the backlog of unpaid salaries, regularized salary payment, and taken proactive steps to clean the payroll of any defects. In this role, the collaborative efforts of the Civil Service Agency cannot be overemphasized, and we must commend its Director-General for his leadership in collaborating with the MFDP and the IAA.

Prudent Cash Management System:

In addition to the launch of the new Fiscal Data Transparency Measure, the Ministry has begun implementing a newly designed Cash Management System that has effectively addressed the issue of the unavailability of cash when allotment is being made. Under the new system, allotments are now being approved based on the availability of cash.

Government Intervention and Economic Outlook from the perspective of fiscal positioning:

Like the United Nations Development Program assessment on the impact of COVID 19, the Government of Liberia believes that this pandemic is more than a health crisis - it is affecting economics to the core, and the consequences will be far-reaching and debilitating, especially for third world countries. While the brunt and effect of this pandemic have been born by countries in the developed world, it is important to point out those countries like the United States and China have economies that are bigger and more resilient. They do have the capacity to absorb the shocks and impact. Unlike those economies, ours does not have the shock absorbers to avoid disruptions. On average, our resource envelope as a country is about 80 to 85% domestic revenue, and it suffices to say, as COVID 19 rages on, we will continue to see a decline in our domestic resource capacity. We do not have large reserves to give out large stimulus packages…what we do have is a group of men and women led by a dedicated leader who is ready to do whatever is necessary to alleviate the challenges faced by our people. Let there be no doubt that President Weah has what it takes to ensure that the economy of Liberia does not crumble under the weight of COVID-19 and its devastating impact(s).

On the fiscal front, and under the leadership of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning and in concert with the Liberia Revenue Authority, a series of fiscal measures have been instituted to ease some of the challenges confronting the business community. These measures were a direct result of the President’s State of Emergency Declaration.

  1. Suspension of surcharge Regime: This intervention was made to reduce the cost of importation of certain goods to include, flour, biscuits, soap, detergents, and other COVID related imports. This intervention is intended to ensure that these commodities are readily available on the market during this time of crisis.
  2. Suspension of the penalty imposed for failure to complete pre-shipment inspection: As a matter of policy, the Liberia Revenue Authority requires pre-shipment of shipments bound for Liberia. Failure to do so would attract a penalty. With the restrictions on movement imposed by COVID 19, the Government of Liberia thought it prudent to relieve importers of this requirement. It is hoped that this intervention would facilitate trade and commerce.

Strategy for Economic Recovery:

In the wake of the many challenges posed by the devastating effects of COVID-19, the Government of Liberia under the leadership of Dr. George Manneh Weah is committed to ensuring the success of the PAPD. The Government of Liberia has drafted an economic recovery plan with the objective of ensuring that the fundamentals of the economy are strengthened. This recovery plan will touch every sector or the economy with the expectation that business will rebound from the effects of the pandemic.

While there is no consensus among economists and policymakers about how long it would take for economies around the world to recover, we in Liberia are proceeding with the understanding that with a proper mix of fiscal and monetary policies, Liberia’s economy can be returned to pre-COVID levels in a relatively short period. The core pillars of the recovery plan include the following:

  1. Protect embryonic economic recovery after almost two years of macroeconomic volatility;
  1. Provide critical support to health and related sectors directly dealing with the pandemic;
  2. Protect the soundness of the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) and the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) which were placing the country on a path to recovery and growth;
  3. Cushion inevitable revenue collapse arising from the economic disruptions wreaked by the pandemic;
  4. Secure national budget credibility and shelter national budget execution from COVID-19 expenditure derailment, and Provide stimulus relief for key sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

COVID-19’s economic impact in Liberia

In Liberia, there are currently 684 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the first confirmed case. While the country is not a COVID-19 hotbed yet, its economy is among one of the hardest hit. Liberia has a fragile healthcare system and high economic dependence on the rest of the world.

COVID-19 affects Liberia in four major ways:

  1. Trade and investment disruptions

Liberia’s investment and trade are mostly with China, Europe, and the US, which have all been hit hard by COVID-19. The slowdown of economic activities in these locations means that trade and investment globally will decline sharply, raising the risk of an economic recession. Manufacturers relying on imported inputs in Liberia face Production challenges, while reduced importation of food and pharmaceutical products to the country has put a heavy burden on households and the healthcare system.

  1. Lower social spending

Typically, Liberia underfunds social sectors, such as health, education, and social safety nets. Lower revenue means less money available to spend on health, education, and critical infrastructure, as overhead and debt payments are usually prioritized during crises. The decrease in spending could be very bad for a country that already has one of the worst health outcomes worldwide

  1. Elevated poverty

Liberia currently has a large number of extremely poor people in the world today Unemployment and poverty will worsen as workers in trade-sensitive businesses — particularly tourism, transport, hospitality, and non-essential manufactured goods — are disengaged due to restricted movement of goods, services, and people. Remittances from abroad, which support many households, have also fall and worsened economic hardship.

How Dr. George Manneh Weah CDC led Government is responding?

The government comes in two approaches: focusing on immediate priorities and implementing reforms to boost resilience beyond the crisis. Beyond international travel restrictions and stimulus for businesses, more is being done to protect vulnerable households.

Here’s how the government is responding to minimize the economic impact of COVID-19:

  • • Adequately supporting the healthcare system

Prior to COVID-19, healthcare institutions were already overburdened and struggled to cope with poor medical supplies, shortage of medical workers, and poor infrastructure. To have a fighting chance against COVID-19 and in treating those requiring intensive care, Liberia’s healthcare sector is being supported through adequate funding, incentives for health workers, and healthcare subsidies for the most vulnerable people.

  • • Provide incentives and safety nets to the most affected

Through targeted tax incentives, social transfers, and regulatory support, the Liberian government helps minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable businesses and citizens. The adoption of social distancing measures and lockdowns in the most affected cities are crucial to limit the spread of the virus. In addition, the government partners with informal groups such as trade associations, which have a wider reach, to deliver monetary support to people in vulnerable employment.

  • • Reduce cost and improve transparency

The government has reduced the cost of governance by reducing administrative costs and prioritizing the most effective development programs. This will free up more money for health and education spending, as well as infrastructural spending and the build-up of fiscal buffers, to improve the country’s resilience. Similarly, reducing the misuse of public finances through a commitment to transparency, opening up budgets, and strengthening anti-corruption institutions has been a priority during and post COVID-19.

Now more than ever, policymakers have been responsive to lessen the effects of the impending social and economic crises and better preparing Liberia for the future. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa is currently coordinating African finance ministers to mobilize US$100 billion in financial support across Africa.

This is a step in the right direction and we hope to see more efforts to tackle the pandemic proactively

As we journey together this afternoon, I promise to be true to myself foremost and truthful to you in particular. As a young man who has not only experienced struggles growing up, but was also a victim along with others to extreme disparities and divisions. This cause us to nurtured our visions and join a people-centered revolution that is on the verge of bringing about genuine change to not just a particular group of people but to the citizens in its entirety.

After 14 years of our regrettable bloody civil conflict, we (Liberians) had to recalibrate our national priorities in order to bring about the necessary change that would be devoid of the carnage and wanton disregard for the rule of law that characterized our ugly past. This action by us as a country shows signs of reconciliation. The election of former Peace Ambassador and Montserrado Senator, Dr. George Manneh Weah as President of the Republic of Liberia in 2017 provided the necessary platform for all well-meaning Liberians to join the peace caravan that had been set into motion by a young Liberian in 2005, who, despite his lack of political savvy at the time, decided to enter the political race for our nation’s highest office. This again is being Patriotic.

We all know our bittersweet story- A story of false starts, letdowns, recalibration, rebirth – and like the proverbial Phoenix, Liberians, coming out of the ashes of war, brought forth a leader who many had dismissed as a neophyte. My fellow citizens, this is where we find ourselves today, proud to have answered the national duty call to bring about that change that would positively affect the lives of our people living in appallingly, impoverished conditions including Soniewehn, Gibraltar, WestPoint, Clara town, Slipway, Chugbor; as well as all parts of our country where our citizens have been deprived of development and basic social amenities for centuries. This is a symbol of the national unity we longed for.

Now we need to ask ourselves where we are today. Do our daily actions speak to our Patronage to our beloved Country?

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, fellow Liberians: we wouldn’t be standing before you today if this government did not respect the views and contributions of all Liberians in our development agenda.

As some of you may be aware, when President Weah took the oath of office on January 18, 2018, the singular priority of his administration became the crafting of a development agenda that would incorporate the views and contributions of all of our citizens, from within and outside our borders. Those consultative made us to crisscross Liberia as well as the Diaspora, soliciting the inputs of our brothers and sisters on what they felt could be necessary towards developing a people-centered developmental agenda that could serve as a vehicle to effect genuine change.

After months of consultations that included inputs of Liberians from all walks of life, probably including some of you in this very hall, your government launched the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development – the PAPD for short. With this, we didn’t just unite but also showed how we could have put aside all of our differences and set goals for Liberia. (Reconciliation and Patriotism).

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, within the PAPD framework we have been able to achieve a lot, though with meager resources. Undergirding Pillar Two of the PAPD which falls under Jobs and Economy, President Weah, immediately upon assuming office, mandated the slashing of his own salary and that of his senior-level officials within the Executive branch of government by twenty-five percent. This took effect under the 2018/2019 National Recast Budget. As things stand, no member of President Weah’s cabinet makes more than $7,200 monthly as opposed to the $15,000 to $20,000 United States dollars’ monthly earnings of cabinet members of the previous governments.

Fellow Liberians, it would interest you to note that out of the revenues accrued from those salaries cut savings, which amounts to roughly 9.6 million United States Dollars, our government has been able to implement, with the approval of the Legislature, thirteen Pro-Poor Projects, most of which have been successfully completed.

Some of those projects include the digitalization of the University of Liberia students registration system from the age-old manual system; the dispatch of medical doctors abroad to specialize in various medical fields; construction of the 14th Military Hospital to cater to the special needs of our men and women in arms including their families; upgrade of Liberia’s main referral hospital, the John F. Kennedy Medical Center, as well as the conduct of road maintenance and the payments of Resettlement Action Plan for those who built structures within and along road paths.

Also within the Jobs and Economy Pillar of the PAPD, this government has successfully implemented payroll harmonization of civil servants, appointed and other public officials. The process has now seen an increase in the pay grade of our health workers, teachers, as well as our men and women in arms. A core objective of the payroll harmonization process is to ensure equity across government ministries and agencies. Equal work for equal pay, and to eradicate the selective aged-old process of paying people not on the basis of the work they do, but on the basis of relationships, connections and other parochial interest. If this is not uniting us then I don’t know what it is.

It is equally interesting to note, Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, that this government also submitted to the National Legislature the national budget for Fiscal Year 2019/2020 in the tune of $532 million United States Dollars. This budget witnessed significant slashes in the salaries of members of the Legislature, not only for austerity but to generate much-needed revenue that would be targeted for development programs. Knowing the representatives are spokespersons of every district in Liberia, this means even the 1st branch of government is not only trying to unite us but being very Patriotic. We hail our Honorable men and women for their actions.

Ladies and gentlemen, the challenges posed by this pandemic are enormous. The good news is this Government is fully prepared and committed to ensuring that the effects of COVID-19 do not disproportionately affect our people especially the vulnerable population. This Government has taken steps to help small businesses and petty traders; this Government is now rolling out a series of interventions to help those who are at the lower end of the economic ladder. We will not falter in our responsibility of looking out for the general welfare of our citizenry. To succeed in this endeavor, it would require the collective efforts of all Liberians, regardless of status, political affiliation, and other persuasions. Together we can defeat this virus, and together we can build a strong economy and a prosperous and vibrant nation.

Finally, my fellow compatriots and distinguished members and officials of the PUL, we are fully committed to the tenants of good governance. We are fully aware of the aspiration of our people and our dedication to taking Liberia to higher heights cannot be overemphasized. We have a plan, we have a vision, we have the capacity, we have the technical know-how, and we have a leader that will ensure that our Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development is fully implemented.

Thank you and may God bless and reconcile our beloved country.

 

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