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Following a successful World Bank-IMF Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara M. Konneh convened a town hall meeting in Philadelphia, USA on April 26th 2015 to abreast Liberians in the diaspora of happenings in the country.
Held at the Faith-Immanuel Lutheran Church on Penn Blvd under the auspices of the Liberian Association of Pennsylvania (LAP), the meeting focused on Liberia's battle against Ebola and the Post Ebola socio-economic toll.
Speaking during the meeting, Minister Konneh said the Government of Liberia under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf prevented a near economic collapse due to the frightening pace of the exodus of investors, airlines and businesses.
He said, if the government had not taken the necessary steps to ensure the availability of major commodity with affordable prices on the Liberian market due the crisis, there might have potentially been another demonstration similar to the April 14, 1979 rice riots.
Minister Konneh told the audience that Liberia experienced its worst ever disease outbreak that claimed many lives and further exposed the larger population to imminent danger.
“The outbreak seriously affected economic activities throughout the country and negatively impacted domestic food production, mining activities, services such as hospitality and transport, leading to the scaling down of activities by concession companies with departure of expatriates”, Konneh told the meeting.
He said the combined consequences of the sudden economic shock was the rapid decline in projected Growth Domestic Product (GDP) from 5.9 to 1 percent resulting in lower than projected revenue and increased expenditure demand.
As a means of mitigating the crisis, he said the Economic Management Team chaired by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took extraordinary measures to prevent a shortage of essential commodities by keeping trade channels open and engaged key stakeholders to reduce import costs.
He said the three key factors that also contributed to the containment of Ebola in Liberia included the strong collaboration and coordination exhibited by “our national leaders who went beyond the boundaries of separation of power; the overwhelming resilience and collective efforts of the citizens; and the international response from Liberia's development partners”.
On the government's spending, Konneh said during the crisis the government instituted measures to control spending non-Ebola expenditures thereby saving resources for needed investment in health, particularly the containment of the Ebola crisis.
This was done by disbursing 100 percent of the health sector budget and freezing of disbursement on all non-essentials like vehicles, furniture, fixtures, office supplies.
Further to these measures, there was a 40% reduction in foreign travels across GoL a 25% decrease in fuel and lubricant costs for all spending entities not directly involved in the Ebola response.
He maintained that government will continue to focus on improving the health, educational and agriculture sectors, construction of roads and infrastructure development, the provision of water and electricity and other essential needs of the people.
He said the government was aggressively pursuing its post-Ebola Recovery strategy with the focus on “revitalizing and diversifying growth, and addressing vulnerable employment; strengthening resilience and reducing Vulnerability in health, education and other social services; and strengthening public finances and ensuring service delivery.”