Country Office Contacts
Main Office Contact
+231-88-6-531-407

Michael Nyumah Sahr
Communications Associate
+231-88-6-606-967

The World Bank Liberia Country Office
German Embassy Compound
Tubman Boulevard, Oldest Congo Town
Monrovia, Liberia
msahr@worldbank.org

In Washington:
Sergiy Kulyk
Country Program Coordinator
+ 202-458-4068

1818 H Street NW
Washington DC 20433
USA
skulyk@worldbank.org

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Liberia Overview

After a little more than 10 years marking the end of a devastating war, the security situation in Liberia has stabilized but remains fragile. Last September, the UN Security Council (SC) extended the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) mandate until September of 2014 UNMIL continues its gradual withdrawal of armed forces but is maintaining current levels of support for police. The SC also continues to encourage the Liberian government to strengthen its efforts to accelerate national reconciliation as well as on governance, transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources, noting with concern the potential for conflict over those resources, especially related to land ownership. The SC noted that issues of corruption threaten to undermine the stability and effectiveness of government institutions.

Liberia continues to make notable progress on structural reforms to improve governance and the environment for private sector development. The government has established an Anti-Corruption Commission, passed an Access to Information law. It has also established a Code of Conduct for public officials and   a new Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Law. On the economic governance side, the government has also made progress in implementing systems to better manage and account for public resource including the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS). The government is also in the process of modernizing customs through the deployment of an Automated System (ASYCUDA) in the Port of Monrovia, the international airport, and a number of other border points. The authorities are also implementing an integrated tax administration system to modernize and strengthen tax administration. While commendable progress has been made in articulating important structural policies and building new systems and institutions, pursuant to enhancing good governance and the environment for private sector development, key challenges remain. Not the least of these challenges is the lack of adequate capacity within the civil service to effectively use these systems and institutions to ensure effective service delivery.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf acknowledged that much has been achieved in the last 10 years but that much more remains to be done. Her government is committed to increasing and ensuring transparency and accountability in government and has asked all Liberians to join her in the continued fight against corruption. This action came in the face of mounting criticisms against the President and her government on the mounting wave of corruption affecting the public service.

In a related development, the government has created a new Revenue Authority resulting from the merger of the ministries of Finance and Planning and Economic Affairs into the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). The President has just appointed officials to run the Revenue Authority.   The establishment of the LRA and the MFDP is part of government’s efforts to bring cohesion to the operations of government by eliminating current duplications and gaps in the functions of the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs (MPEA).

The government is also striving to ensure more efficient and effective employment of human and financial resources for better service delivery in order to achieved the objectives of the country’s ambitious Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Agenda for Transformation (AfT). The AfT, which was launched in December of 2012, is underpinned by the National Vision, Liberia Rising, which was developed following extensive consultations with the Liberian people and articulates the government’s aspiration for Liberia to achieve middle income status by 2030. The AfT is structured around the following five strategic pillars:

  • Pillar I - Peace, Justice, Security and Rule of Law
  • Pillar II - Economic Transformation
  • Pillar III - Human Development
  • Pillar IV - Governance and Public Institutions
  • Pillar V covers cross cutting issues, including gender equality, child protection, disability, youth empowerment, environment, HIV/AIDS, human rights and labor and employment.

A full progress report on the first year of implementation of the AfT will be available mid-2014.

 

Economic Overview

Overview

Liberia has made remarkable economic and social progress since its return to democratic governance in 2006. Sustained growth and stability have allowed the country to make notable progress on key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets. The proportion of the population living below the poverty line is estimated to have fallen from 645 in 2007 to 56% in 2010. The country has also achieved the target for reducing under-nutrition and surpassed the target for reducing child mortality (MDG-4) and notable progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality. Over the next year, Liberia will likely meet the MDG targets for eradicating hunger (MDG-1); promoting gender equality and empowering women (MDG-3) and establishing a global partnership for development (MDG-8).  However, despite best efforts, the remaining five MDG targets related to human development are unlikely to be met with the MDG timeframe.

Liberia’s early economic recovery has been largely driven by foreign direct investment in commercial agriculture and the extractive sectors. Such investments whilst spurring rapid growth have not generated sufficient employment opportunities to absorb the vast cadre of largely uneducated and unskilled youth. The high levels of youth unemployment therefore remain a major challenge for the Government. Furthermore, the dependence on primary commodity exports and imports of food (imported rice is a staple) and fuel makes the country extremely vulnerable to external shocks. Moreover, the limited fiscal space and low levels of foreign exchange reserves limit the Government’s ability to respond to such shocks.

An established track record of prudent macroeconomic management coupled with increasing social stability has created the opportunity for the Government to launch an Agenda for Transformation (AfT). The AfT is an ambitious strategy to initiate the economic and social make-over to get Liberia to middle income country status by 2030. The AfT focuses on: Governance, including tackling the vexing issues of corruption; Economic transformation, removing constraints to create broad-based growth for jobs; and human capital development to ensure that all Liberians can take advantage of the economic opportunities. In addition the AfT covers a number of cross-cutting issues which addresses gender, the vulnerable groups as well as capacity building.

Liberia’s near term prospects are good but there are important downside risks. Growth is expected to remain robust with the mining, construction and commercial agriculture sectors as the primary drivers although post 2015, the manufacturing and financial sectors could post higher levels of growth. Macroeconomic risks primarily relate to the management of the fiscal budget in the context of lower revenue inflows in the face of increasing demands for increasing expenditures for infrastructure and security.  There are also additional risks to Liberia external position that may be posed by lower international commodities prices for Liberia key exports including rubber, iron ore, oil palm and logs.

Economic growth and employment

Liberia’s economic expansion remains robust but unemployment is a key challenge. The economic expansion continued into 2013, despite on-going weaknesses in the global economy, fuelling lower commodity prices.  GDP grew by 8.1% in 2013, only marginally lower than the 8.3% recorded for 2012. The primary drivers of growth have been the mining, construction and services sectors, which together contributed more than 60% of the growth in 2013.  The strong growth in the construction sector is also having some positive effects on the manufacturing sector through the increased demand for cement. Consequently, in 2013, growth in the manufacturing sector was estimated at nearly 9% up from 3% in 2012.  However, in spite of the robust growth, unemployment, particularly among the youth, remains a major challenge as the domestic private sector remains weak, constrained by inadequate infrastructure (particularly electricity) and credit.

Inflation has remained moderate despite the up-tick in 2013. Year-on-Year inflation in Liberia was 8.5% in 2013, up from 7.7% in 2012, reflecting higher domestic prices driven in large part by the depreciation of the exchange. Food price inflation which was particularly high in the first half of 2013, averaging about 12.1% moderated to about 6% in the second half of the year. With greater stability in the exchange rate and moderation of the prices of key imports (fuel and rice), inflation is expected to be lower in 2014. Lower inflation has been an important factor in the reduction of poverty between 2007 and 2010.

Fiscal Developments

The Government has established a track record of prudent fiscal stance but may face considerable fiscal challenges in the near term.  The growth in total tax revenues slowed considerably from 32.6% in 2012 to just 3.5% in 2013 reflecting a contraction in real terms. The ability of the government to absorb such shocks is limited, due to the low revenue base and high proportion of recurrent expenditure. Moreover, the slow-down in revenue flows in the face of increased expenditure demands for investments in infrastructure including roads and electricity as well as to expand the security apparatus in the wake of UNMIL’s draw-down increase the risks of sharply widening the fiscal deficit which was 1.6% of GDP in 2013.

Monetary

The monetary policy has focused on maintaining broad exchange rate and price stability. The Central Bank of Liberia introduced Liberian dollar-denominated treasury bills in early 2013. This has been effective in mopping up some of the excess liquidity of local Liberian dollars in the banking sector. However, the effectiveness of Liberia dollar instruments as a monetary policy tool remains limited, given the high level of dollarization of the economy. The continued high levels of non-performing loans adversely affect the expansion of credit, particularly to the agricultural and small and medium enterprise sector which could be key sources of growth and employment. It is expected that the establishment of the Collateral Registry in 2014 will help to address this issue.

External Sector

The trade deficit widened further in 2013 as a result of terms of trade deterioration. The substantial fall-off in the supply of rubber in response to lower international prices resulted in a sharp reduction in rubber exports, from $177 million in 2012 to $121 million in 2013. Despite the almost doubling of earnings from iron ore exports, from $117 million in 2012 to $220 million in 2013, the overall trade deficit widened from $588 million to nearly $900 million in 2013. The adverse developments on the trade account combined with lower official transfers resulted in a deterioration of the external balance. The larger trade deficit and the fall-off in net transfers (in part reflecting UNMIL’s draw-down) resulted in a substantial widening of the current account deficit of the balance of payments from 33.6% of GDP in 2012 to 48% of GDP in 2013. Inflows on the capital account (including foreign direct investments) were not enough to off-set the current account deficit. Consequently, there a loss in gross reserves of about $7 million in 2013, which resulted in some pressure on the exchange rate.

Liberia’s near term prospects are good but there are important downside risks. Growth is expected to remain robust with the mining, construction and commercial agriculture sectors as the primary drivers. After 2015, with the gradual relaxing of the energy and telecommunications constraints the manufacturing and financial sectors are expected to post higher levels of growth. Access to credit and land tenure issues are also being addressed and this should help spur agricultural growth which could make substantial contributions to increasing employment. Macroeconomic risks primarily relate to the management of the fiscal budget in the context of lower revenue inflows in the face of increasing demands for increasing expenditures, particularly for energy and road infrastructure as well as for resources to improve the capacity of the security forces in light of the UNMIL planned and ongoing drawdown of its security personnel in Liberia.  There are also additional risks to Liberia external position that may be posed by lower international commodities prices for Liberia key exports including rubber, iron ore, oil palm and logs.

Last Updated: Apr 09, 2014

Bank Engagement

The Liberia Country Partnership Strategy FY13-FY17 (CPS), was prepared jointly with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and was discussed by the Bank’s Board of Director’s on July 30, 2013. The IDA allocation for the lending program for the CPS period is expected to be about $ 308 million.

The CPS reflects the World Bank Group's commitment to exploit synergies internally, to generate the maximum development impact through innovative solutions, and externally to leverage World Bank Group knowledge and technical expertise through other partners' resources. The CPS  was developed and  is being implemented in close coordination with development partners such as the African Development Bank (ADB), the European Union (EU), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).  The World Bank also strategically partnered with the United Nations (UN) in the preparation of United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) that is a more focused UN collective response to national priorities and is being implemented based on the "Delivering as One" concept. All development partner strategies are fully aligned with the Agenda for Transformation.

The Bank programming in the FY 13-17 CPS focuses on financing infrastructure investments, especially energy and transport. More emphasis is placed on building the human and institutional capacity necessary to deliver results in these sectors. World Bank studies confirm that the lack of basic infrastructure, especially energy and roads, is the binding constraint to accelerating growth; the infrastructure gap also impedes effective delivery of key social services. Energy, transport and telecommunications infrastructure are key to broadening the base of the economy and making Liberia’s growth more inclusive. New operations in human development and public sector governance operations will focus on improving access to basic services and strengthening public sector capacity in other areas critical to achieving long term peace, security and stability for Liberia.

In addition, a series of Development Policy Loans, of approximately $10 million a year will be programmed to support Economic Transformation, Human Development and Governance and Public Institutions Pillars of the AfT. The remainder of IDA's financing will support building institutional and human capacity essential for the successful implementation of the country's long-term vision. The CPS Progress Report will revisit the sector allocations at midterm.

Tight cooperation among development partners to enhance the effectiveness and transformational impact of national efforts is also a major theme of the CPS. Liberia will continue to depend heavily on development partners', therefore increased support and coordination will be crucial to ensure that all development priorities of the AfT are addressed in the next five years and beyond. IDA resources will be leveraged with multi-donor trust funds and the strategic use of Bank knowledge products.

The World Bank Group Portfolio in Liberia

IDA – The International Development Association

As of March 19, 2014, the IDA portfolio includes 19 projects, of which four are regional, for a total commitment of $618 million.  Approximately $412 million remain to be disbursed.  Infrastructure (roads, energy, ICT) accounts for approximately 77% of the total commitments.  At present, there are no problem projects, but the disbursement ratio is only 10.3 as of end of February, contrary to Liberia’s high disbursement rates over the past 4-5 years. Implementation and disbursements continue to affect by long effectiveness delays, incomplete disbursement conditions and the current uncertainties regarding tax exemption and recovery mechanisms and RAP payment delays in the key infrastructure projects.  

Last Updated: Apr 09, 2014

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Liberia

IFC’s current and future portfolio of investments and advisory services will be essential in delivering the agreed Country Partnership Strategy (CPS).  The current IFC portfolio comprises $7m in equity, $13m credit and trade lines in four Liberian banks; $13m seed investment in the West Africa Venture Fund for direct on-lending to, or equity in small-medium enterprises (SMEs) and $10m debt financing to a rubber producer. A robust pipeline of potential new IFC investments signals an average of $40 million per year over the next few years.

The priority sectors for new IFC investments during the CPS period will be Agribusiness, Energy & Infrastructure, Financial Services and Mining. The priority sectors present viable and sustainable investment opportunities that are consistent with Pillar II of the Liberian government’s AfT and development partners’ focus on sustainable employment creation. Extensive reform activities of the past six years have made the priority sectors more investment ready. IFC’s on-the-ground presence since June 2007 has enabled it to scale up activities with discussions ongoing on a number of potential investments in agribusiness, power and financial service.

During the next several years, IFC, through its investment and advisory services will also focus on:

  • Supporting private sector led investments that deliver transformational impact in power generation through partnership with an IPP under a joint WBG framework to power sector development in Liberia and IFC’s “Power in Fragile and Conflict-affected States” initiative.
  • Continuing support, together with the World Bank Institute,for women entrepreneurship through IFC supported first women entrepreneurs’ network. This network provides a peer to peer learning and mentorship platform for women business owners in Liberia. Since the creation of the network in March 2013, more than 50 women entrepreneurs have received business and financial management skills training. Through the network IFC has also organized a series of seminars on tax, access to credit as well as marketing and branding. The network is also an opportunity to segment the women SME market and showcase a pool of entrepreneurs that financial institutions and international companies can potentially work with.
  • Strengthening Financial Markets: IFC has approved a trade line with Guaranty Trust Bank (Liberia) Ltd. GTB Liberia may also benefit from a proposed IFC facility for the GTB Group (being led from Nigeria) which may include investment (tier 2) support for GTB Liberia. This GTFP trade transaction brings IFC total investment in the financial sector to over $12 million. Other investments include Access Bank (Liberia), Tier 2 capital with Ecobank and trade lines with LBDI, Ecobank and GT Bank.
  • Supporting the West Africa Venture Fund: In recognition of the capital constraints of SMEs, IFC set up the West Africa Venture Fund (“WAVF”), for Liberia and Sierra Leone, to provide risk capital and advisory services to SMEs. WAVF with an initial investment of $13.5 million and a TA fund of $2 million split evenly between both countries is managed by a Fund Manager, Unique Capital Ventures. The average investment size is between $100,000 - $500,000. To date, the fund has carefully reviewed up to 12 potential prospects, and has committed over $5 million in equity investments in 13 companies. This includes in heavy equipment rental, logistics, bakery and small processing operations.
  • Continued support for SMEs. IFC will work with local banks to provide much needed financing support for SMEs. On the AS side, IFC is already working with the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to develop a robust financial sector infrastructure such as a Secured Transactions Registry which will enhance access to affordable capital for SMEs by encouraging the use of movable assets as collateral. IFC is currently working with the CBL on establishing a modern Credit Reference system which will increase the pool of credit worthy SMEs and individual borrowers. These initiatives are at early stage of development. IFC advisory services will continue to focus its efforts in Liberia on supporting the growth of smaller businesses and on helping the country improve its investment climate.
Last Updated: Apr 09, 2014

Donor Coordination

During the previous Joint Country Assistance Strategy (JCAS) period, the Liberian Reconstruction Development Committee, chaired by the President, provided high-level strategic coordination and policy dialogue with the government and the donor community. The momentum for strategic coordination declined, but then emerged again under the leadership of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs (MOPEA) in their coordination of the National Vision and PRS2 process. Joint government and donor sector working groups collaborated on the first drafts of the PRS2.

The Government of Liberia continues to strengthen the Aid Management Unit (AMU) of the Ministry of Finance in addition to strengthening aid coordination mechanisms such as the Liberia Development Alliance which meets twice a year to review progress of the Agenda for Transformation.   Liberia is a pilot country for the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States, partnering with Sweden and the United States.

The Bank has been a major proponent of aid coordination through the multi-donor Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund (LRTF) as well as well the donor groups in public financial management, public sector reform, agriculture, social protection, energy and health. Active donors with presence in Liberia include the United Nations family, the African Development Bank, the European Union, USAID/MCC, China, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Last Updated: Apr 09, 2014

LENDING

Liberia: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments

Around The Bank Group

Find out what the Bank Group's branches are doing in Liberia.