In her first State of the Nation Address (SONA) in January 2006, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced that she had inherited an empty coffer and a broken system from the outgoing two-year interim government of the late Charles Gyude Bryant.
The Liberian economy was in shambles, she said, adding, that there were institutional breakdowns, and nothing seemed to have been working. Arguably, Mrs. Sirleaf had a genuine point after taking over from a transitional regime comprising of several warring factions, with each having an oversight responsibility of key institutions and being more accountable to their faction leaders rather than the interim President.
However, since the end of Sirleaf’s regime, the pattern has continued. In his first SONA, outgoing President George Weah said at the time that his administration inherited a near-empty coffer.
He argued that he met around US7million in GoL’s consolidated account as balance left behind by the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Government and around US150M in the country’s international reserves.
The outgoing Sirleaf administration debated Mr. Weah’s claim at the time but did not engage in further argument to disprove such claim.
This idea of trying to blow the whistle on how a former regime had managed the country’s economy over time seems to have continued under the new Boakai regime, but this time it has hit a snag.
In his last address to the Nation, former President Weah claimed to have left USD40 million in the state’s Consolidated Account as balance.
But like his predecessors, President Joseph N. Boakai disputed Weah’s claim announcing to the nation on January 29, 2024, that only a little over half that amount was left in the Government of Liberia (GoL) Consolidated Account as a balance-US$20.5 million.
“The net international reserves position reported at the end of December 2023 was US$220 million. The report of US $40 million as the GoL’s consolidated account balance as of January 19, 2024, is not supported by the fact. The balance reported by the CBL as of the same date was US$20.5 million, highly encumbered, NOT US$40 million,” President Boakai said.
The issue of balance being left in both the country’s international reserves and consolidated accounts has been a bone of contention between succeeding governments in the country’s most recent history.
However, appearing before the House of Representatives on Thursday, February 1, authorities at the Central Bank of Liberia informed members of the House of Representatives that the Bank did not give any figure to any of the two Presidents both past and present.
The Bank asserted that as of 19 January 2024, total balance in the GoL consolidated account was 2 billion Liberian Dollars and 27 million United States Dollars at the exchange rate of 88.36 Liberian dollars for US$1.00.
This means, what happened was that at the time former President Weah announced the balance, he had converted Liberia’s Dollar to US Dollar to announce the US40 million as a bulk figure.
So, in presenting his SONA, President Boaskai chose to have announced the US Dollar component of the GoL consolidated balance, while completely ignoring the Liberian Dollar portion of the account.
What’s the Motive?
Liberia is a country divided straight in the middle on political lines. Such announcements are only intended to inform the public of how badly the previous regime has performed and to indirectly prove a point of how ineptly corrupt that regime had been.
More so, it is intended to score political points and subject the outgoing administration to public scorn or unfair criticisms to gain public favor. But this time it backfires on the Unity Party Government as the data show that someone somewhere disingenuously misled the president.