I am grateful to our LORD and SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST for sparing our lives to see this day. Let me first extend heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Her Excellency President Ellen-Johnson Sirleaf for the trust and confidence reposed in me to manage our nation’s finances. I would like to assure the President that when confirmed, I will serve my country to the best of my ability. I also extend profound thanks to this honorable Committee, and the entire Senate, for the opportunity to appear before this distinguished body for my confirmation hearing.
Distinguished Senators, our years of service to our nation has been and will continue to be characterized by the fear of GOD, the love of our common patrimony, respect for all people, and by tolerance and humility.
Please allow me to pay special tribute to the Central Bank of Liberia for the rewarding and fruitful 14 years of service to the Bank. During this time I had the privilege of working with two of Liberia’s finest Central Bankers: Governor Elie E. Saleeby under whose stewardship I joined the Bank after being meritoriously recruited in 2002 from the University of Liberia by the CBL; and most recently, Governor Dr. Mills Jones under whose management I rose to the rank of Deputy Governor for Economic Policy.
Distinguished Senators, I came to these achievements from humble beginnings. I am blessed to have as my wife Mrs. Nadia S. Kamara, without whose support I would not have reached thus far. Our union is blessed with five children.
I hail from Bomi County, born to Ma Yatta Moore, a market woman and John Kamara David (a driver) now deceased. I began my primary and secondary schooling at the Lorma Community School in Buzzi Quarters, few blocks away from these august premises. I later enrolled at the Seven Day Adventist High School on Camp Johnson Road, subsequently joining the St. Patrick’s High School where I completed as salutatorian in 1994. One year later, I enrolled at the University of Liberia majoring Economics with Mathematics as a minor. In 2001, I obtained a Bachelors of Science Degree in Economics, Summa Cum Laude.
Upon graduation, I was employed as a Junior Analyst within the Research Department at the CBL and after three years in 2005, I enrolled at the University of Ghana, Legon, graduating in 2007 with a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Degree in Economics.
Upon completing my graduate studies, I resumed work at the Central Bank, serving in various positions as Junior Analyst, Economist, Assistant Director and Director of Research. In these positions the focus was on maintaining macroeconomic stability, such as achieving low inflation and a stable exchange rate. Our efforts at maintaining low inflation and stabilizing the exchange rate were crucial to Liberia’s sustained GDP growth rate achieved over the period 2008-2013.
Distinguished Senators, as Deputy Governor for Economic Policy, I have had the privilege and opportunity to work with counterparts and colleagues of the Ministry of Finance, now Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, on issues of macroeconomic governance, specifically, Debt and Economic Management. Having been involved with the Economic Management Team, presided over by the President, I have gained valuable experience on various fiscal issues and challenges affecting our country.
Throughout my service at the Central Bank, I have had numerous engagements with our development partners, especially the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the ECOWAS Commission.
Distinguished Senators, with my 14 years of experience dealing with both monetary and fiscal issues affecting our country and strongly backed by my academic training in economics, I do not believe stewarding the nation’s finances is beyond my competence.
When confirmed as Minister, I will build on the strong foundation laid by my predecessors, especially Hon. Amara M. Konneh, whose launch of the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan (ESRP) has been critical to sustaining Liberia in the wake of the Ebola epidemic. My focus will be on sustaining the momentum generated by the ESRP with an eye to enabling the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) meet some of the critical benchmarks before end 2017. As you are aware Senators, the Agenda for Transformation or AfT, captures the first five years of the Government’s National Vision 2030 which aims to give Liberia middle income country status by 2030. The AfT has critical investments in infrastructure, health, education, governance and other cross-cutting areas that need to be sustained.
The Mount Coffee Hydro Electric Plant is expected to be fully rehabilitated by July of 2017, with the first turbine coming online in December of 2016. Heavy Fuel Oil Plants providing a total capacity of 48 megawatts are being phased online, while developments on the West African Power Pool front are gaining pace. These investments in the energy sector will bring significant benefits to Liberian citizens and to the business community. To leverage the benefits of these power sector investments, we have to continue to work in the area of economic diversification with focused attention on key value chains (rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice, cassava and aquaculture); to build self-sustaining market system and an export driven industrial policy focused on value addition; and to attract private investments into the tourism industry which has great untapped potential.
Achieving all of these over the next critical 17 months will require extraordinarily robust collaboration from all stakeholders, including both Houses of the National Legislature, our Development Partners and Government Ministries and Agencies.
When confirmed as Minister, I will work hard, with your collaboration and support, to secure and sustain financing for these critical investments, assuring that public resources are effectively and efficiently expended in the interest of all our people.
Distinguished Senators, having said all of these, it is important to note that we will be taking over the nation’s finances at a particularly challenging time. The global economy appears to be receding after rebounding from the global financial crisis and economic meltdown of 2008. Here in Liberia, we are feeling the pinch from this Global economic meltdown, especially regarding our two leading export commodities: Iron Ore and Rubber. The price per metric ton of Iron Ore has declined by almost 80 percent over its price in 2011, dropping from US$190 per Dry Metric Ton to US$39 per Dry Metric Ton as of my appearance before the Honorable Committee. For Rubber, the price per pound declined by about 69 percent between April 2011 and April 2016, moving from 265 US Cents per pound to 82 US Cents per pound. These price declines have placed serious pressure on the country’s finances, and in 2014 we all know that our economy was further challenged by the Ebola epidemic. The next 17 months promises to be quite challenging but there are clearly ways to cushion the difficult times ahead.
On the revenue side, we will work with the Liberian Revenue Authority (LRA) to improve revenue collection through more effective tax administration, by closing loopholes and by minimizing other influences affecting revenue collection. Key emphasis will be on a comprehensive tax payer registration to widen the tax base; more aggressive reforms and enforcement of the tax code to support revenue generation; migration to a modern tax administration system; improving tax payments controls, and accelerating GoL efforts in meeting disbursement triggers for the full realization of external budget support.
On the expenditure front, in the face of declines in commodity receipts as stated earlier as well as likely slowdown in external support, the Government will need to take prudent austerity measures to shift resources toward priority sectors such as health, education, security and the upcoming 2017 elections. Distinguished Senators, the levels of current spending will have to be adjusted to ensure sustainability being cognizant of the slowdown on the revenue side. This is one of the areas I believe we can work together in solving.
To conclude, let me again thank the President for my preferment and assure the Senate Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee that I will work with the National Legislature and our development partners in placing the nation’s finances on a sustainable path to assure the delivery of key investments on a path of long term economic growth.
Let me also assure our investors and potential investors that our economy will remain sound and that we will work hard to keep it growing, when confirmed. The same assurance goes to our development partners, especially the IMF and the World Bank, that ongoing programs will continue unimpeded and achieving key benchmarks and targets over the short-term will be a major priority of mine.
Let me now submit my presentation for your records and take any questions you may have.