Top: A pile of logs in Zorzor, Lofa County. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue
By Varney Kamara
MONROVIA – President George Weah sidestepped the extractive sector in the State of the Nation Address last week, the biggest contributor to the government’s revenue envelope.
The extractive sector is expected to be the chief contributor to Liberia’s projected economic growth rate of 3.6 percent, according to the World Bank.
But in his speech to the Legislature, lasting for more than two hours and thirty minutes and dominated by infrastructural projects, Weah spent barely five minutes talking about agriculture and energy. There were no mentions of mining, forestry, or oil/gas.
The extractive sector accounts for the largest share of Liberia’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually. It accounted for US$79.6 million in 2018/2019, according to Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) in its latest report. Mining contributed US$42,596,473 or 53.49% to the economy, followed by the agriculture US$26,009,261 or 32.66%, forestry US$8,148,559 (10%) and oil/gas US$2,878,411 (3%).
Weah spent most of the time of the speech on the economy. “Although the state of our economy is challenged, the fundamentals remain sound and strong,” he told lawmakers, to huge applause. “The state of our economy is stable, and the nation is peaceful.”
The President inaccurately cited the World Bank’s report on the country’s economic growth projection. The Bank made a projection of 3.6% growth but not an actual growth as he told the nation. He apparently deliberately left out the grim portion of the World Bank’s estimate.
“Liberia’s economy is rebounding after contracting for two consecutive years. Real GDP growth is projected at 3.6% in 2021, allowing per capita GDP to increase for the first time since 2016,” the bank had estimated at the close of 2020. “Nevertheless, poverty is expected to slightly increase as per capita consumption continues to contract, with the growth being driven by export of commodities.”