Liberian President Points to Economic Gains Ahead of 2023 Vote but Ordinary Liberians Real Life Paints a Different Picture

Liberian economic growth is accelerating and authorities are making progress in stabilizing debt, President George Weah said as he announced plans to seek reelection in October 2023.

Despite President Weah’s “economic growth is accelerating and authorities are making progress in stabilizing debt” statement, data from around the world about Liberia’s economic growth and development paints a different picture. Data from the Our World In Data shows that Liberia’s GDP per capita remains far below analysts’ target in 2018, a fairway comparison to President Weah’s claims that Liberians are doing well in their own country under his administration.

According to the African Development Bank Economic Outlook and risk, the outlook is positive but with major risks tilted to the downside due to the Russia–Ukraine conflict, global inflation, US-China tension, and the global economic growth slowdown. According to the analysis, growth was projected at 3.5% in 2022 and 4.3% in 2023, to be possibly driven by expansion in mining, services, manufacturing, and agriculture.

Also, Inflation, the economic crippling side of the outlook was projected to surge to 9.8% in 2022 and 8.1% in 2023, driven by food and energy inflation and overshadowing real GDP per capita growth projections. The fiscal deficit is forecast to widen to 5.5% in 2022 and to 3.5% in 2023 due to lower grants and higher subsidies.

The gross domestic product by fiscal year of Liberia was forecast to remain on a similar level in 2027 as compared to 2022 with 0.03 billion U.S. dollars. According to this forecast, the gross domestic product will stay nearly the same over the forecast period.

Liberia’s current account deficit was forecasted to widen to 20.8% of GDP in 2022 and to 17.5% in 2023 due to a higher import bill, as fuel and food constitute about 50% of total imports. Liberia’s downside risks included a prolonged pandemic and slow vaccine rollout; a prolonged Russia– Ukraine conflict; deterioration of the terms of trade on the main exports, especially gold, and rubber; and non-adherence to prudent macroeconomic policies.

According to the President, “the past fiscal year recorded the highest level of domestic revenue performance since the end of the civil conflict,” Weah told lawmakers, referring to a war that ended in 2003. this claim of the president remains to be analytically challenged by the growing opposition to his administration’s economic policies. The president also stated that his government “continues to show strong improvements in mobilizing domestic revenue ” despite having a weak appearance and confidence rating in the international diplomatic, development, and financial space.

The West African nation’s economy was expected to expand by 4.2% in 2023 after growth of about 3.7% in 2022, while inflation slowed to 6.9% in December, he said.

“In 2023, our government will remain focused on improving the living standard of our people by promoting a low inflation and stable exchange-rate environment,” said Weah, 56, a former AC Milan football star who won a landslide victory in the 2017 presidential vote. That election marked the first peaceful transfer of power between democratically elected heads of state in Liberia in decades.

Support for President Weah, who governs over a corrupt government and disintegrating national security is declining in the country following allegation after allegation and scandal after scandal including the famous disappearance of about $100 million in cash that was printed abroad, eroding confidence in the central bank and the government monetary policy.

Last year, Weah suspended a close aide and two other officials after the US Treasury added them to a list of sanctioned people amid allegations of corruption.