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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Liberia, IMF In Talks to Strike Deal on Economy

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By Festus Poquie

Senior officials from the International Monetary Fund are currently in Monrovia to negotiate fresh Country Program that could introduce reforms and mostly likely lead to cut in public spending and other monetary and fiscal adjustments based on the content of an agreed deal.

Led by Daehaeng Kim DK, the mission will be in Monrovia from June 24 to July 5, 2024, holding talks with authorities in the West African nation, on key fiscal, monetary and economic issues.

“The mission will involve a series of structured meetings with Liberia’s financial and government institutions, donor agencies and international partners. The goal is to set the policy agenda, review fiscal performance, and discussed structural reforms needed to support Liberia’s economic stability,” the Fund said in a statement published on its website.

Liberia Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara praised the IMF partnership with his country while indicating the authorities willing for the a new Extended Credit Facility.

“Reinstating the ECF program is crucial for Liberia’s economic health. It influences not only our engagements with the IMF but also impacts our interactions with other international partners, including the World Bank and the European Union, Kamara said.

“Ensuring prudent fiscal management is essential for maintaining and enhancing these vital relationships.”

The IMF’s Extended Credit Facility (ECF) is a lending arrangement that provides financial assistance to countries facing economic challenges. It is designed to support countries’ medium-term economic adjustment and reform programs. Since the end of the civil war, Liberia have had ECF armament since 2008

The key features of the IMF’s ECF program are:

  1. Medium-term financing: The ECF provides financing over 3-4 years to support a country’s economic reform program.
  2. Concessional lending: Loans under the ECF have a zero-interest rate, with a grace period of 5.5 years, and a final maturity of 10 years.
  3. Tailored to country needs: The ECF program is designed based on the specific economic challenges and reform priorities of the member country.
  4. Policy reforms: The ECF provides financing conditional on the implementation of the country’s economic reform program aimed at addressing the balance of payments difficulties and achieving sustainable economic growth.

The devil in the deal

Some of the key criticisms and concerns that have been raised about IMF country programs, including in the case of Liberia, include:

  1. Austerity measures: IMF programs often require countries to implement austerity measures, such as spending cuts, tax increases, and reductions in public sector employment, which can be politically unpopular and have negative impacts on social services and economic growth.
  2. Conditionality and loss of policy autonomy: The IMF’s lending is conditional on the implementation of specific policy reforms, which can be seen as an infringement on a country’s sovereignty and its ability to determine its own economic policies.
  3. Structural adjustment and inequality: Critics argue that IMF-supported policies, such as trade liberalization and the privatization of state-owned enterprises, can exacerbate inequality and disproportionately harm the poor and vulnerable populations.
  4. Inadequate consideration of social and political factors: There are concerns that IMF programs may not sufficiently account for the social and political realities of a country, which can undermine the effectiveness and sustainability of the reforms.
  5. Lack of long-term development focus: Some argue that IMF programs tend to prioritize short-term macroeconomic stabilization over longer-term sustainable development and diversification of the economy.

These criticisms highlight the ongoing debates and challenges surrounding the design and implementation of IMF country programs, particularly in developing economies like Liberia.

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