President George M. Weah delivers his second Annual Address to the Joint session of the Legislature on January 28, 2019. (Photo: Leroy M. Sonpon, III)In fulfillment of his constitutional mandate to deliver the State of the Nation Address to Members of the National Legislature, President George M. Weah on Monday, January 28, said Liberia’s trade deficit stands at US$561.8 million for the period of January to November 2018.Although this represents a 17.1 percent improvement, as compared to US$677.3 million for the same period in 2017, it is important to note that the weak performance of the real economy has for so long been characterized by low export earnings as compared to payments for imports, he said.President Weah said though there has been improvement in the trade balance in 2018, the Liberian dollar still remains under pressure. He explained that performance of two of “our key commodities (iron ore and rubber) showed some level of improvements during the period under review.”According to him, receipts from iron ore exports almost doubled, from $57.8 million United States dollars, to US$$106.5 million, while rubber exports grew slightly from US$67 million to $68.9, compared to the same period in 2017.Weah added, “In order to improve the external sector of the economy, there is an urgent need to support domestic production, which requires a major structural transformation of our economy. In this regard, under the Pro-Poor Agenda, agriculture has been considered a matter of priority to achieve this structural reform.”He told members of the 54th National Legislature that the gross foreign reserves at the end of November 2018 was US$410.2 million, reflecting a slight decline of 1.7 percent compared to the end of December 2017. This slight, according to him, decline in gross foreign reserves can be largely attributed to low export earnings.Despite the challenges faced in the economy, the banking system remained resilient during the year under review; President Weah said in his annual message that the banking system further experienced improvement in aggregate assets, deposits, loans and capitalization.However, the stock of non-performing loans remains a major challenge for the banking system. The Central Bank is taking steps, including establishing a robust credit reference system, to address the issue of non-performing loans.At the same time, Weah noted that his Government is working to improve the legal and policy environment to improve access to credit and to resolve other challenges in the private sector.Nevertheless, the banking sector continues to play a significant role in providing credit to the economy. Credit to the private sector, which serves as the main engine of growth, rose by over 36.8 percent at the end of October 2018.In addition, total credit as a percentage of GDP increased from 13.1 percent (2017) to 13.4 percent (2018), largely as a result of growth in loans to all major sectors, especially, the extractive sector, oil & gas sector, and the manufacturing sector.“We like to assure members of the banking sector that the Government of Liberia is committed to settling Government debt owed to banks from the previous administration,” he added.Regarding the insurance sector, Weah said the Central Bank of Liberia and the Government remains focused on implementing reform of the sector. The measures taken to bring stability to the sector have led to some improvement in the regulatory landscape and the sector.He said Liberia has made progress in deepening the financial system through the national payments system and digital financial space. There has been an uptake in the use of mobile money services across the country as well as the automatic tellers’ machines (ATMs), which have helped to increase access to payment.The Government continues to pay civil servants through this mechanism, and there are efforts underway to use such digital platforms for Government revenue collection. These efforts are part of the Government’s vision to digitize the Liberian economy and transition to cash-less society.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Natural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman and Chile’s Mining Minister Baldo Prokurica after the signing of the MoUNatural Resources Minister Raphael Trotman on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Chile’s Minister of Mining, Baldo Prokurica and the National Service of Geology and Mining of the Government of the Republic of Chile (SERNAGEOMIN).The Memorandum provides a framework for the exchange of scientific and technical knowledge and the augmentation of scientific and technical capabilities of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and SERNAGEOMIN with respect to Earth Sciences and Mining.“The signing of this MoU brings to fruition areas discussed when His Excellency, President David Granger visited Chile two years ago. We look to Chile as a good example for productive and safe mining practices and how the proceeds of mining can be utilised for the benefit of the citizens. This relationship between Guyana and Chile will benefit our people immensely and we can look to no better example than Chile of how to do it properly”, Trotman stated.Chile’s Mining Minister Prokurica said his country was pleased to be able to share its knowledge and expertise with Guyana.He noted that Chile was known throughout the world as an important mining country. “We are very interested in signing this agreement and further collaboration especially in geological services … 20 per cent of mining services provided in Peru are Chileans,” he added.Forms of cooperation under the Memorandum may consist of exchanges of technical information; visits; participation in training courses, conferences, and symposia; exchange of professional geoscientists in areas of mutual interest; and any other cooperative research consistent with programmes of the parties.Specific areas of cooperation include, but are not limited to geochemical and geological mapping and data analysis, economic geology and metallogenesis.GGMC Geological Services Division Manager Gordon Nestor noted that the MoU cleared the way for greater capacity building in the Commission.“It will help boost capacity for geological and land management platforms and the development of professionals in geosciences, geophysics and structural management and data management,” he noted.Collaboration between SERNAGEOMIN and GGMC has started with two outward visits of GGMC staff to Chile and one inward from SERNAGEOMIN to the GGMC. There are three Chileans working at the GGMC.
“There was no way I could support the package without making sure my constituents were protected,” said Calderon, regarding AB 900, the prison reform bill. “For so many years, Nelles was home to some of the most dangerous juvenile offenders in the state, so nobody can say this is a NIMBY issue,” said Calderon. “It is time we let Whittier convert this property into businesses, homes, parks and places where families can live, shop and play.” Calderon also said that he plans to discuss Nelles in a meeting next week with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The state closed Nelles in 2004 after operating it as a prison for 113 years. It was scheduled to be sold in July 2006. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation stopped the sale, saying the state might need the property. The administration has considered converting Nelles into a re-entry facility where parole violators would receive intensive rehabilitation services in communities where they would likely be released. Whittier City Manager Steve Helvey praised Calderon’s efforts to keep Nelles from being reopened or converted into an adult prison. “Sen. Calderon has taken this on,” Helvey said. “He doesn’t need to be urged. He just truly thinks this is the right thing to do.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3022160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “I find that highly encouraging,” Newcomer said. “It’s wonderful news.” Still, the battle won’t be over until the 73-acre Nelles property on Whittier Boulevard at Sorensen Avenue is transferred to private ownership and developed, Newcomer said. “We need to stay vigilant to make sure it happens,” he said. Unger made his comments after state Sen. Ron Calderon had announced – also on Thursday – that he had met with representatives of the Corrections Department and was told a Nelles re-opening would not be “shoved down the throat” of Whittier. The announcement came after the Senate and Assembly approved a $7.3 billion prison reform plan to add beds and beef up rehabilitation programs. WHITTIER – Announcements by state officials Thursday appeared to indicate the shuttered Fred C. Nelles Youth Correctional Facility will not be reopened. Seth Unger, press secretary for the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said that his department will seek agreements with local governments before placement of any re-entry facilities – those places that would be used to house parole violators and inmates nearing their release dates. “There will be a dialogue between city officials, local law enforcement and legislators in determining where these re-entry facilities will be located,” Unger said. “If they don’t want it in a certain spot, it won’t go there.” This is good news for Whittier, which has opposed the reopening of Nelles as part of the state prison system, said Whittier Mayor Owen Newcomer.