Liberia seeks $1.3bn to revive economy after Ebola

Liberia will need $1.3 billion to revive an economy that was ravaged by a slump in its key export commodities and the worst-ever Ebola epidemic, Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara said.

The West African nation will invest in energy projects to spur its manufacturing sector while prioritizing agriculture after economic expansion almost came to a standstill over the past three years, Kamara said in an interview in the capital, Monrovia.

The country is targeting average annual economic growth of about 6 percent for the seven years starting 2018, after averaging about 8 percent between 2006 and 2013, he said.

The government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is trying to transform Liberia’s economic fortunes after the more-than-yearlong Ebola outbreak.

At its peak, the virus infected as many as 400 people a week and resulted in the deaths of more than 11,200 in the country and neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. At the same time, iron ore exports, the largest earner of foreign currency, fell by more than 60 percent while an oversupply of rubber weighed on another major revenue earner.

Liberia “cannot continue to remain reliant on primary commodities,” Kamara, who was appointed as finance minister in April after serving as a deputy governor at the central bank, said. “If we do not diversify, the economy is going to remain vulnerable.”

Budget Cuts

Spending cuts will assist the government to fund planned investments, even after it reduced the budget by 3.5 percent to $600 million for the 2016-17 financial year, compared with the previous 12 months. The country will also arrange funding from The World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, Kamara said. The Liberian dollar has gained 0.6 percent this year.

Liberia targets an increase in installed power capacity to 200 megawatts by the end of 2017, he said. The sole licensed utility, the Liberia Electric Corporation, only had capacity to generate 22 megawatts, the U.S. Agency for International Development said in a May 2015 document.

 Better power supplies will “back all the value addition” that the government seeks to generate through its investments, Kamara said.