After the 2023 presidential and legislative elections, Liberia observed a peaceful transition of power from one democratically elected government to another.
On the eve of the inauguration, Weah informed the public that his government is leaving behind a better and stronger economy than it inherited in 2018.
He added, “ “There is a bigger net international reserve position than was handed to me in 2018. I inherited US$94,999,000 in net international reserves, and I am handing over to the next administration a net international reserve position of US$222,700.00. This is a 136 percent increase in the net international reserve position.”
He said the total cash balance in the government’s consolidated accounts is forty million, forty-four thousand, three hundred sixty-five dollars and ninety cents USD.”
According to him, his government inherited a consolidated cash position of about US$7 million in 2018, and the incoming administration has more resources to deal with emergency macroeconomic challenges than his administration had at its disposal in 2018.
However, Weah’s account of the consolidated account was refuted by the current president, Joseph Boakai, during his annual message to the legislature.
Boakai said the net international reserves position reported at the end of December 2023 was US$220 million, adding that the report of US $40 million as the Weah in the consolidated account balance as of January 19, 2024, is not supported by the facts.
He added, “The balance reported by the CBL as of the same date was US$20.5 million, highly encumbered, not US$40 million. To this end, we reemphasize our earlier commitment to audits and ensure that regular audits will be a culture across all branches of government, not only the executive.”
Boakai said the stock of public debt at the end of December 2023 stood at US$2.21 billion, an increase of 8.67 percent compared to the end of December 2022 stock of US$2.08 billion, noting, “This represents a sharp increase of US$1.33 billion compared to the end of December 2017 stock of US$878.17 million (representing a 601.8 percent rise).
He added that the country’s debt burden has grown astronomically.
Boakai’s response to Weah during his address to the legislature has sparked huge concern among the public across various social media platforms as to who is telling the truth among both the former president and the current president.
Alloysius Tarlue, Governor of the Central Bank, disclosed during his appearance before the House of Representatives on Thursday, February 1, 2024, that there was L$2,434,886,996,83 and US$27,665,071.82 in both consolidated accounts.
These monies, when converted into US dollars using the CBL rate of 188.36, will amount to 40,480,266.5
Also, Boima S. Kamara, Finance and Development Planning Minister, told Spoon Talk (1:45:57) in a live call interview that the 40 million is the combination of FY 2023 and FY 2024, while the context of reporting on the state of the nation for the period in review is 2023.
He stated that the record received from the CBL during the transition period showed US$16.9 million and L$ 1,55,348,790.52, adding, “You will think that is all revenue collected in the consolidated balance; what we discovered during this period was that in December, the CBL reserve was drawn down by the government borrowing 80 million for November and December.”
Kamara stated that it was discovered that 12 million of the US$ 16 million came from the 80 million borrowed; therefore, it is not revenue that was collected and placed in the consolidated account.
“So for 2024, if you look at the number for January 19, you see that 16 million is not actual revenue that was collected through taxes. 7.7 million in there is also borrowed among them,” Kamara added.
After listening to the actors, they may be just saying the same thing with a different explanation or presentation.
It is fair to conclude that Weah should have made it clear that the figure he mentioned in his turnover address was both USD and LRD equivalent. At the same time, Boakai, in his annual message, should have also told the Liberians that the figure he was referring to was the USD and LD component of the consolidated account.
However, the current administration’s independent audit of the CBL, led by George M. Weah, would better explain to Liberians the state of the nation’s consolidated account in terms of balance.