Finance Minister, Samuel D. Tweah has expressed the country’s gratitude to the out-going World Bank Country Manager to Liberia, Dr. Khwima Nthara thus describing him as a ‘worthy partner’ of Liberia and its citizenry.
Minister Tweah stated, “No country manager of the World Bank has left an imprint as outsized, as large and as indelible as those of Dr. Nthara, as we affectionately call him. A Cambridge trained economist, he supplants his neoclassical theoretical economic grounding for a more practical and pragmatic development approach, using this approach to embed flexibility and adaptability in his overarching governing philosophy of raising country context as a priority.”
Minister Tweah was speaking over the weekend, when Dr. Khwima Nthara was honored by the government of Liberia for his immense contribution towards the country through the World Bank.
Minister Tweah recounted that upon his arrival in 2019, Dr. Nthara understood the fragility of Liberia’s transition from an UNMIL supported economy, dependent on inflows unlike to domestic possibilities, toward the foundations of what President George Weah described in his 2023 state of the nation address as ‘macroeconomic fundamentalism’.
“So, it was this particular understanding that endeared him to the policies and programs of the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development and to availing the full panoply of World Bank expertise, resources and capabilities to enable Liberia navigate this difficult transition, especially amid the onset of COVID-19. So today we honor more than a country manager of the World Bank.
“As a result, between 2019 and 2023, the Bank’s net commitment to Liberia almost doubled and now stands at $1.4 billion.Second, during his tenure; we have seen a significant shift in the World Bank’s portfolio towards addressing Liberia’s critical needs.
“For example, when other development partners stopped providing direct budgetary support, the Bank doubled its annual direct budgetary support from $20 million to $40 million. Last year, we actually received $55 million in direct budgetary support from the Bank, with an additional $15 million coming from a window that no other country in the world has so far utilized for budgetary support. Similarly, we have seen the Bank’s support to key sectors increase significantly under his tenure.”
“For example, when he arrived, the Bank had a $25 million IDA funded project in agriculture, the STAR-P. However, after President Weah indicated that agriculture was now a priority sector for Liberia, the Bank’s total commitment to the sector was tripled and now stands at $80 million through the provision of additional financing under the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP). The Bank has also helped us mobilize a total of $52 million from the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD),” he Minister Tweah narrated.
In respond, Dr. Nthara said all the achievements highlighted during my time in Liberia have been due to collaboration and teamwork involving World Bank colleagues, Government officials, and other development partners.
“Mr President, after three years and seven months, it has been such a rewarding experience, and it was a great pleasure and honor to have been of service to this very special country. I fell in love with this country before I even set foot on it.
“It is a very unique country because it is endowed with abundant natural resources and has been blessed with many firsts, including being the first republic on the African continent, the only country in Africa to have produced a winner of the FIFA World Player of the Year and winner of the Ballon d’Or, who later became President of this special country, and Liberia was also the first African country to elect a female President.
“Indeed, the results of that partnership are there for all to see. Your Government turned the macro-situation around that saw inflation decline from around 37% in 2019 to single digit. I recall when I arrived, the exchange rate was around 200 Liberian Dollars to 1 US dollar, but the Liberian dollar has gained strength and is now at around 154 Liberian Dollars to 1 US dollar.
“Liberia stands out in the region as a beacon of sound macroeconomic management. It is for this reason, that in 2020, Liberia also reached the threshold for graduation from the World Bank’s list of Fragile and Conflict-affected states. All these achievements were possible because your Government followed through your commitment to do the right things and turn the situation around.
“Some of the steps you took, such as wage harmonization, were not popular, but you did not waiver. Indeed, it was because of your Government’s determination to do the right thing that we were also able to make a case with our Senior Management and our Board to double budgetary support to Liberia from $20 million per year to $40 million,” he said.
Dr. Nthara added that last year, the amount was even increased to $55 million. “This is because your Government implemented some key reforms that attracted additional resources from one of the special windows. Liberia was the first country in the whole World Bank to receive budgetary resources under that window.”
“Mr President, beyond stabilizing the macroeconomic situation, we have over the past four years broken many new records in our partnership. The Bank’s net commitments to national projects doubled from around $500 million to $1 billion.
Today, the World Bank’s portfolio in Liberia stands at $1.4 billion. Within this portfolio, we have seen World Bank financing to agriculture triple from $25 million in 2018 to $80 million today,” he asserted.