Liberia’s economic growth will stall this year as high inflation overwhelms gains made in revenue collection in the West African nation, the International Monetary Fund staff said in a report on its website.
The economy will expand 0.2 percent in 2019 under current policies, down from an earlier estimate of 4.7 percent, the IMF said Friday. The agency said 2018 growth was 1.2 percent, lower than 2.5 percent in 2017. Inflation jumped to 28 percent in December, the Washington-based IMF said.
“Liberia’s economic situation is challenging, and strong policy actions will be required to maintain as favorable outlook as anticipated at this time last year,” IMF team leader Mika Saito said in the statement. “Stability has proved elusive despite improved revenue collection in the first half” of the 2019 fiscal year.
The IMF staff in Liberia recommended fiscal policies and improving the efficiency of government spending.
“Policies should aim at improve the monitoring, accountability, and transparency of spending,” Saito said. “Intensifying actions to improve governance and fight corruption, including through rigorous adherence to existing procurement rules, would also be effective.”
Sub-Saharan Africa is among regions in the world projected to record accelerated economic growth in 2019, amid a slowdown in global growth precipitated by heightened trade tensions and rising interest rates in the US.
The International Monetary Fund says that GDP growth in sub-Saharan Africa will rise from 2.9 per cent posted last year to 3.5 per cent this year, and 3.6 per cent in 2020.
The projection is however a 0.3 percentage point lower, blamed partly on the declining crude oil prices, which have plummeted from a high of $85 a barrel and are expected to average $60 this year.
These have significantly impacted growth for oil-producers Angola and Nigeria.
One-third of sub-Saharan economies are expected to post growth above five per cent, raising optimism of impressive performance in a year when external shocks, including trade tensions, rising US interest rates, dollar appreciation, capital outflows and volatile oil prices are expected to continue.
More critically, the nagging challenges of ballooning debt, expanding recurrent expenditures and slowdown in revenue mobilisation will continue to curtail growth.
"Across all economies, measures to boost potential output growth, enhance inclusiveness and strengthen fiscal and financial buffers in an environment of high debt burdens and tighter financial conditions are imperatives," says the IMF in its World Economic Outlook 2019 report.
The Fund forecasts that 2019 will not be a good year for the global economy, whose growth is projected to decline to 3.5 per cent from 3.7 per cent last year, largely due to an escalation in trade wars between the US and China.
The US has imposed import taxes on steel, aluminium and hundreds of Chinese products, drawing retaliation from China and other US trading partners like Mexico and Canada.
Other factors include the messy Brexit process, Italy's financial struggles, volatile commodity prices and rising interest rates in the US, which are projected to impact heavily on the global economy
Growth in advanced economies will slow from an estimated 2.3 per cent in 2018 to 2.0 per cent in 2019 and 1.7 per cent in 2020.
Growth in the Euro region is set to moderate from 1.8 per cent in 2018 to 1.6 per cent in 2019, while in the US, it is forecast to remain flat at 2.5 per cent, and decline to 1.8 per cent in 2020.
Growth in Asia is expected to dip from 6.5 per cent in 2018 to 6.3 per cent this year, and 6.4 per cent in 2020, with China's declining from 6.6 per cent to 6.2 per cent due to the combined influence of financial regulatory tightening and trade tensions with the US.
India's growth on the other hand, is poised to pick up to 7.5 per cent from 7.3 per cent last year, benefiting from lower oil prices and a slower pace of monetary tightening, plus easing in inflationary pressures.
In Latin America, growth is projected to recover from 1.1 per cent in 2018 to 2.0 per cent this year, and 2.5 per cent in 2020.
Credit: East African
Affectionately known as big brother to various countries of the world (especially the third world), the voice of the International Monetary Fund speaks loudest in times of dire distress.
Their mission of offering help to countries in an economic crisis (protracted talks are still on-going with Zambia) has given rise to this name. But is the IMF really the good big brother?
Well, this is a question that invokes so much debate. To many politicians and other mainstream thinkers especially in the Washington corridors of power, its formation together with its twin brother institution the World Bank down Bretton Woods was a stroke of genius and its work is highly noble. According to the protagonists, the IMF clean up the mess of a little child who cannot think for himself and to dare question the nobility of the IMF is sheer foolishness on the part of the critics. When a child messes up, he shouldn’t dare say anything; he should just let the elders do the necessary clean-up, they have argued.
As a result of such perspective, the IMF always see themselves as the clean-up guys, coming with as much force and authority to the negotiating table. Sit back and let us handle your mess is the unspoken rule of the game for the men in black suits from Washington DC.
Critics on the other hand are highly vocal of their detest for the IMF. The sound of the name IMF itself is like a sharp knife slowly being driven down through their bowels. It’s painful to say the least. To them, the IMF is an angel of death bent on bringing nothing but suffering to the common man and creating an illusion of nobility that only benefits their paymasters and a few elites in host countries. The voting structure has especially been one grey area that has been subject to much ridicule by the critics.
Under the IMF, voting structure is based on a quota system assigned to each country based on its relative position in the world economy. Under this system, it is basic votes (same for all countries) plus one vote for every SDR100, 000 held. In layman language, the more financial contribution a country makes, the greater the voting power. The USA alone has an 18 percent voting rights and the only nation with power of veto, this further grows to 38 percent when you add Germany, Japan, France and Britain as of 2016 data.
This quota based voting system has in a way divided countries into two broad groups, that is, creditors and debtors and has effectively put them on a collision course with differing interests. This according to the critics has been the root of all the “silent evil” associated with the institution as it endeavors to pursue the interests of its largest shareholders in most of its dealings, after all, “he who pays the piper calls the tune”. The verdict for this group is very clear, anything but the IMF. Former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere had some misgivings about the IMF as he was fearful that debt-ridden African states were ceding sovereignty to the institution and once famously asked “who elected the IMF to be the ministry of finance for every country in the world?
As a result, there have been calls for an “alternative” financier of the last resort that would work within the dynamic and context of emerging markets economies proposed by this group. An idea that has given birth to regional or block financial institutions like the New Development Bank by the BRICS nations. However, this initiative has not yet gained traction to challenge the mighty IMF, needless to say, it’s a step in the right direction.
The author’s perspective? Well, it’s not so much of a perspective as it is a riddle wrapped in a mystery. A riddle that I haven’t yet solved. On the one hand, a good grounding in Economics gives me some insight into their way of thinking. A country in dire economic stress needs committed and disciplined fiscal and monetary reforms coupled with other structural reforms to put it on the road to recovery.
However, what puzzles me the most is how the IMF since time immemorial has relied on what I call the “Red pill” to cure “all” its patients. The proverbial red pill is simply the neoclassical reforms that the IMF imposes on every other country that comes knocking on its doors. To treat countries as diverse as Ghana, Greece, Bolivia, Zambia and Argentina just to mention a few as the same simply puzzles me. I believe Economics and economies in general are dynamic, always to be interpreted within a certain context. Any chance of successful reform in my view should take into consideration the unique context of a particular economy. The red pill in my view is not some magic wand that will observe the law of gravity in any part of the world it is used. This is misguided thinking. In some cases, it has to be taken whole, in others, half a tablet and in still other cases with a pinch of salt.
For now, however, the IMF puzzle is one am yet to solve. However the case, it’s a puzzle in which something somewhere is amiss. What is your verdict on big brother?
The author of this article is an Economist, Writer and Business Executive. The views expressed herein are solely my views and do not in any way represent the views of my employer, church and any other organization I am affiliated to.