The Economy, peace & security,social infrastructure,good governance under the spotlight
In 2005, liberians elected the "Iron Lady" madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for a 6 year presidential term to provide leadership, vision, and help restore hope to a people devastated by nearly 2 decades of destruction of lives and property. The task was an enormous one; stabilizing the fragile security in the country, uniting a nation polarized by ethnic divisions, reconciling and healing deep wounds after the war, reducing high unemployment, restoring the economy, solving the massive infrastructural deficit, dealing with rampant corruption and rebranding the nation from the status of a failed state to a decent and respectable nation.
6 years down the line in 2011, liberians once again renewed her mandate to continue for another 6 years through a presidential election. What accounts for the confidence the majority of liberians have in their leader? Has she been a good administrator with the high sense of intergrity the people had been wishing for? Her educational and international credentials are highly impressive, but can she translate her knowledge, experiences as a technocrat and a fantastic relationship with the international community to come to bear in her broken down nation? This write up throws some light on what madam sirleaf has been up to for the past 6 years and the direction and hope her administration is giving to the future of Liberia's 3.7 million people (2011 estimate) and counting.
The Liberian Economy under Ellen Sirleaf
Prior to 2006, liberia's external debt stood at $4.9 billion dollars. In 2012, it is virtually non existent. This huge financial debt had not been serviced for over 20 years. In 2010 the Government was able to cancel $4.9 bllion of debt by reaching the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, with financial reforms approved by the World Bank and IMF, leaving greater resources available for investment in public services and poverty reduction.
Liberia's national budget in 2006 stood at $80million, in 2012/2013 fiscal year,it increased to $649.7 million. In the next five years, the budget is expected to jump to one billion USD.
The country’s GDP grew by 6.9% in 2011, up from 5.6% in 2010 and 4.6% in 2009 respectively.The government projects a 9 % GDP growth rate for 2012. In 2008, annual rate of inflation averaged 17.5%,in 2009 it dropped to 7.4%, in 2010 and 2011 inflation averaged 7.3% and 7.5% respectively. In 2006, income per capita rose by approximately one third. The Johnson Sirleaf administration is anticipating a double-digit growth over the next five years, due to its sound fiscal policy.
Liberia's Gross Demestic Product (GDP official exchange rate) in 2011 reads $1.2 billion, while GDP per capital in the same year was $400.00. In 2009, GDP per capital was $260.
In 2006, the reserves of the Central Bank were a mere US$5 million but today(2012) they stand at about US$300 million.
The major achievements in Liberia in 2010, says madam Sirleaf was the conclusion of major investment agreements totaling over US$16 billion in foreign investment and the successful completion of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. She then noted that with Arcelor Mittal beginning ore exportation late last year and with other mining companies in the process of starting operations, there were brighter prospects for job creation in coming months.
The government negotiated a US$1.5 billion iron ore concession agreement with Arcelor Mittal Steel(the world’s largest steel maker); re-negotiating its agreement with Firestone Rubber Company; negotiated a US$2.6 billion iron ore concession with China Union; concluded a US$112 million energy contract with Buchanan Renewable Energy; and is initiating negotiations on a variety of other concession agreements. Over the medium term, by opening the economy to trade and reducing barriers to investment, the government hopes to attract new investments in manufacturing and services so that Liberia can export labor-intensive products to regions of the world.
In July 2010, a multinational corporation called SIFCA International Firm and the Liberian government signed an agreement worth 142 million USD for the operation of the Cavalla Rubber Corporation and the Maryland Oil Palm plantation in southeastern Liberia. The operation is expected to create 4,000 jobs. The company is committed to spending $ 4.5 million on scholarships for the Liberian youth.
Sirleaf’s clean image has attracted all kinds of international aid. In 2008, the International Monetary Fund, under the Extended Credit Facility scheme, approved an amount for Liberia. Because of Liberia’s dexterous handling of finances, the arrangement has now been raised to US $ 379 million.
Peace and Security in Liberia
On the security front, Liberia has been at peace for six consecutive years- for the first time in more than two decades; but that should mean that Liberians must redouble their efforts to maintain peace. The UN mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has been instrumental in providing adequate security and protecting the countries boarders. Madam Sirleaf explained that “Our security services still do not have that capacity to take over the security of the state one hundred percent,” she said, pointing to ongoing security sector reforms and officers’ training as major reasons.
Within two years, she said, the nation would be able to handle its own security requirements but that in the meantime, the government would ensure that all law-abiding citizens and residents were protected from undue insecurity.
In the security sector in Maryland County, officials said the government and its development partners have made tremendous achievements in the maintenance of the rule of law through the construction of police stations and barracks, as well as immigration border posts. Maryland County officials and residents are particularly grateful to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) for financing the construction of the facilities through its Quick Impact Project.
Fight against corruption, Free Speech & Press Freedom in Liberia
One major step taken by the Sirleaf administration to fight corruption in government is the increment in the salaries of civil servants and public officials across board to reduce the vulnerability of civil servants engaging in bribery & corruption.
The government has put in place procurement processes and financial management laws that promote transparency and accountability thereby discouraging corruption. The Public Procurement and Concessions Commission Act which was enacted into law is intended to control government’s procurement and awarding of concessions.
It is unique to know that Liberia is the first country to become fully compliant with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI), which ensures that every payment made by natural resource firms to the Government gets published publicly.
This fight also led to the established of the Anti-Corruption Commission, which has to date investigated several cases while complicated cases have been forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
In its bid to genuinely reward productive labour and clean up the civil service payment system, government quickly dropped 17,000 ghost workers from the payroll, and is in the process of rebuilding a smaller, more professional, and better compensated civil service.
During the first term of President Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia became the first country in West Africa to pass a Freedom of Information Act. This instrument is an essential aspect of the fight against corruption.
Today, Liberia can boast of the establishment of over thirty newspapers on the news stand and about forty-five mainstream and community radio stations across the country.
Electricity supply in Liberia
The Ellen Sirleaf administration has restored electricity supply to several parts of the capital, Monrovia and surrounding communities. This has been made possible through the Emergency Power Program(EPP) phase 1 and phase 2. There are indications that there are at least eight projects underway to restore or expand electricity capacity throughout the country. Currently, work is now taking place on the Cross Border West African Power Pool (WAPP) Project. When completed, the project will supply power to the 18 Liberian towns in Maryland, Grand Gedeh, and Nimba Counties. The WAPP project is been supported by the world bank with $200 million for the transmission lines across 4 west African countries. (Liberia,Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote D'ivoire).
The World Bank has approved $176 million for two new projects under the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) programme to increase electricity supply in the region.
Government is embarking on short and medium to long term measures in meeting the energy demands of the Liberian economy. Before the civil wars of the 90's, liberia's energy consumption was 64(MW) megawtts. In 2012 the nation's energy demands are approximtely 5 times more than pre-war levels; due among other things to increase in businesses coming to liberia.
The liberian Electricity corporation(LEC) in 2010 generated 10 megawtts of electricity and were working hard to increase producton to 23 megawtts by 2011.
On rural electrifiction, the Rural and Renewable Energy Agency (RREA) has plans to electrify the rural areas, starting with the pilot project at Yandohun, Lofa County, using micro-hydro electric plants. Executive Director of RREA, Mr. Augustus Goanue, informed the Cabinet that a rural energy fund is being set up under the theme, "Lighting One Million Lives in Liberia," by having rural dwellers swap their kerosene lanterns for solar lanterns power and rechargeable by sunlight.
Rehabilitating the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant is part of a bigger plan in Liberia to regain power stability and financial benefits.The plan to develop the entire St. Paul River Basin is part of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) CLSG Redevelopment sub programme. The aim is to reach the pre-war level of the power plant: 64 MW. St. Paul is capable -of generating up to 1000 megawatts of electricity to supply Liberia and neighbouring Serria Leone. Monrovia alone needs 100-200 megawatts of power, while the entire nation will need around 300-400 MW to be fully connected.
Norway has pledged to help refurbish the country’s hydro-electric plant in Mount Coffee outside Monrovia which was destroyed during the civil war
One of goverments interim measures for solving the electricity issue was awarding US$112 million energy contract to Buchanan Renewable Energy(an independent power producer) to burn old rubber woods and transform them into electrical energy.Work began in 2009 on a new, environmentally-friendly power plant in Liberia that will use old rubber trees to generate electricity. It is part of a plan to make Liberia the world's first sustainable biomass-driven economy.They will use old rubber trees and then replant them. Their power plant is going to be installed in Kakata - 35 megawatts. The first phase will be 17.5 megawatts of energy and the second phase will be 17.5 megawatts. The transmission lines are going to run to Monrovia and feed power along the corridor(from Kakata), and especially to major industries. The firm- Buchanan Renewable Energies is building a carbon-neutral power plant using woodchips from older rubber trees to generate 35 megawatts of electricity. The company says it will have the capacity to double the initial 35 megawatts of electricity, once the nation's power grid is improved.
The president is has indicated her commitment to ensure that more Liberians have access to cheap, reliable electricity.
Access to Water Supply in Liberia
An exciting development in water access is a new water plant under the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), which claims it will be able to supply “pipe borne water to nearly 1.5 million inhabitants” both in the capital of Monrovia and its suburbs. This is an impressive development to help improve infrastructure and clean water access in Liberia after the devastation of the civil war. As a result of this water plant, the amount of safe drinking water will increase from 5.5 million gallons daily to 10 million. LWSC, in tandem with the World Bank, will work to further increase the supply of pipe borne water into Monrovia, and the government will receive a significant boost to enhance safe drinking water in Liberia.
The government of Liberia asserts that currently, about 750,000 residents of Monrovia are receiving 24-hour pipe-borne water while the government completed 92% of the distribution network in the capital.
To mitigate the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) crisis in Liberia, the government of Liberia signed up a Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) partnership, an international platform aimed at achieving universal and sustainable access to sanitation and drinking water. Liberia hosted a multi donor joint mission that resulted in the development on Water and Sanitation which was adopted and mainstreamed into Liberia's Poverty Reduction Strategy document. The compact according to Public works minister-Mr. Kofi Woods underscores government's commitments and lays out a roadmap for improvement over the next two years.
Minister Woods also informed the gathering that Liberia plans to establish a Water Supply Board to ensure that the sector is given an institutional home and top priority on liberia's development agenda. Other important supporting strategies, including the sector according to Minister Woods have been developed and will ensure that planning systems at the highest level are able to guide and capture progress. “This is especially important because we want to ensure that the service reaches the poorest and most vulnerable group”, Minister Woods maintained.
Alarming statistics in 2010 indicted that Three out of four Liberians have no access to safe drinking water and six out of seven cannot access sanitation facilities, such as toilets, according to an Oxfam report, Life and Dignity at risk: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Liberia.
Global report on Water accesibility by wateraid.....Highlights(2011)
Off-track, off-target, the new global report from WaterAid, highlights how:
almost 900 million people worldwide are without access to clean water
the 2015 Millennium Goal Target for sanitation, on current trends, will be missed by a billion people.
This alarming report on water and sanitation by water aid( 2011) titled "off- track, off- target" is worth considering seriously by the Liberian government, policy makers and development partners. The new report released by WaterAid maintains that 1.2 million Liberians (32% of the population) lack access to safe drinking water. The report also maintains that 3.2 million (83% of the population) do not have access to sanitation. The report reveals that Liberia’s MDG target is to supply 79% of the population with safe drinking water by 2015 and 58% of the population with adequate sanitation facilities. “Yet only 68% have water and 17% have sanitation. At current rates of progress, the water target will be missed by 13 years (2028) and sanitation target by 109 years (2124),” the report said.
WaterAid Country Representative, Apollos Nwafor, said to get the MDGs sanitation and water goal back on track, countries in the region need to spend at least 3.5% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on those services. “The report also calls on donor countries to double global aid flows to water, sanitation and hygiene by prioritizing an additional US$10 billion per year.”
A further US$93.5 million is needed to boost clean water access to 50 percent of all Liberians; and to improve access to toilets to 33 percent – goals set out in the government’s 2008-2011 poverty reduction strategy.
Internet Connectivity/Housing for Liberia
Within the next 18 months, an undersea Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) internet cable will land in Liberia, making Internet access easier, faster and cheaper.
Under this exercise, the Housing Authority, in collaboration with the National Social Security & Welfare Corporation (NASSCORP), has already commenced construction, on a pilot basis, of a 58-unit low-income housing estate project in Brewerville. Similar project is nearing completion in Buchanan for low income earners.
In a direct response to the call of Her Excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, for Liberians in the Diaspora to return home and help in the rebuilding of Liberia, Global Building Solutions (Liberia) Limited(GBS) is addressing one of the many challenges faced by those who seek to return home -- the need for quality and modern living facilities since much of Liberia's housing was destroyed or is dilapidated.
Global Building Solutions (Liberia) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Global Building Solutions (GBS) of Charleston, South Carolina, is embarking on a major housing development project in post-conflict Liberia.
By designing, developing and constructing planned housing communities, with modern facilities and amenities, GBS intends to help Liberia re-attract much of Liberia's middle-class and intellectual capital that fled Liberia during its decade and a half of intermittent civil wars.
For the first planned housing community, GBS is partnering with highly esteemed real estate developer, Ben M. Gramling, III to build Harmony View, a large tract property nestled in an area with a beautiful view of the water, in a suburb right outside of Monrovia. The gated community when completed will have magnificent water views, with modern single family homes, shared recreational amenities, onsite property management company, and as the community grows a small convenient shop, paved access roads, running water and electricity, and 24-hour security.
GBS launched a website (www.liberianhomes.com) to provide information including designs and floor plans, and available financing options. The company is in active discussions with selected local banks in Liberia to act as lender-partners for homebuyers and is working out all the modalities.
In addition, other external sources of capital for short to medium term financing are being explored. "We are extremely excited about this venture, and truly believe that we are doing the right thing for Liberia and for our business success. We believe that the market for quality and high standard housing in Liberia is real and we expect a great response to our product offering, especially from those Liberians living in the United States. As investors, we have a very positive outlook for the future of Liberia and intend to see it through," said Michael P. Murphy, Executive Vice President of GBS.
GBS completed the construction of The RLJ Kendeja Resort Hotel, a four star resort and first of its kind for Liberia. GBS was asked by Mr. Robert L. Johnson, Founder of The RLJ Group of Companies to build the villa type style resort hotel in Liberia. The hotel officially opened in June 2009, but also hosted guests of the International Women's Colloquium held in Liberia in March.
Healthcare in Liberia
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's administration has ensured a substantial increments in the take home salaries of doctors and medical personnels nationwide. Liberia has witnessed the construction and rehabilitation of health centers around the country. Since she took office, health facilities in the country have been doubled with improved access to health care.
Some of the visible achievements in the area of health include the Telewoyan Hospital in Voinjama, the Jackson Fiah Doe Referral Hospital in Tappita, and the Japanese-Liberia Friendship Maternity Ward boast of some of the most advanced medical equipment, the rehabilitation of the J.J. Dossen referral hospital in Harper,while the JFK Medical Center is fast approaching pre-war status in terms of quality service and referral facilities.
The A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine in Congo Town has been renovated and facilities expanded while construction has begun on the 50-bed room Fish Town Hospital in River Gee County.
The Johnson Sirleaf’s government has included mental health in its basic package of health services and developed a mental health policy and plan. When the Sirleaf Administration took state power, the health infrastructure of Liberia like other vital sectors had completely collapsed and only International Non-governmental Organizations were providing the simplest forms of health services, most especially in emergency health care.
Education in Liberia
The government has allotted a significant portion of the national budget to education. Since the ascendancy of the government to present, over 250 schools have been constructed across the country with 1.3 million students in pre-primary and primary schools.
Expansion of secondary school system to accommodate such a large student population as they move through elementary to high school and then to college, with a free and compulsory primary education policy.
There is an exodus of teachers from private to public school due to attractive salary packages from government. Presently, the least paid classroom teacher earns a monthly salary of L$18,000 (US$ 240.00) while a Master degree holder earns L$46,000(US$600.00) monthly, excluding other benefits.
There has also been reform in the educational system to ensure its relevance to the needs of the nation as well as ensuring a healthy and safe working environment including adequate furnishing and instructional materials for all schools. The girl child education also remains a special priority for the President who is working tirelessly to ensure that all Liberians receive the benefit of a good eduatonal system.
The government also opened several vocational and technical colleges in several regions of the country while more universities have been opened in the country.
Road/Bridges Construction and Rehabilitation in Liberia
The Ellen Sirleaf administration is making tremendous inroads in the road network of Liberia. The government and its development partners see a direct relationship between road construction and massive economic and social prosperity of Liberia. Food production and distribution is expected to increase drastically in the coming years with the improvement in farm to market roads as well as connecting the capital to all major towns, districts and cities across the nation.
A classical example is the pavement of the main streets in all parts of Monrovia and the famous Robertsfield – Monrovia Highway. Several other new roads have been constructed and paved. The Belle Yallah Road, the ongoing Cotton Tree to Buchanan road, the newly constructed Vai Town Bridge, George Walker Bush Bridge in Barclayville and the rehabilitation of the Barclayville-Pleebo Highway in Maryland and Grand Kru Counties, are some of the major achievements.
Major Roads and Bridges under construction or rehabilatation around the country
249 km Monrovia (Red Light) Gbarnga-Ganta-Guinea border road rehabitation with a 10 Year maintenance program costing $250m; financed by International Dev.Association(IDA)LRTF/IWBNK. Contractors - SSF Entrepreneurs(Liberia)
95 km Monrovia--Buchanan road construction; Financed by the World Bank; Contractors- China Henan International Cooperation Group (CHICO)
86km Robertsfield--Monrovia highway pavement; Contractors (CHICO)
76 km Fishtown--Harper road;(Maryland county) currently 65% complete; Funded by the African Development Bank(ADB). Contractors - SSF Entrepreneurs(Liberia) & CHICO
300km of road rehabilitation in 7 districts in Nimba county ongoing; financed by the government of Liberia & the Swedish International Development Agency(SIDA)
269.80km of feeder roads construction in Bong & Lofa county; financed by the government of Liberia & the Swedish International Development Agency(SIDA).
The feeder road projects by SIDA and the government are expected to run between 2009 - 2014.
Newly Constructed George W. Bush bridge in Barclayville
The New Zolu DUMA Bridge(formerly Vai town bridge),(Monrovia) Financed by the World bank. costing US$16 million.
Rehabilatation of Barclayville - Pleebo highway in Maryland and Grand Kru Counties.. Funded by the World Bank. Contractors - SSF
Rehab/Gobachop market road (Monrovia)
LOGAN TOWN ROAD; Monrovia
CALDWELL ROAD; Monrovia
Completion of 2.8 km GSA Road--Rehab road junction (Monrovia), costing US$3,053, 217.86; fully financed by government of Liberia; Contractors - SSF Entrepreneurs(Liberia).
Completion of 5.36km Neezoe Parker paint asphalt road (Monrovia), costing US$5,488,974.42; fully financed by government of Liberia; Contractors -SSF Entrepreneurs(Liberia)
93.1 miles of feeder roads earmarked for rehabitation in Bong County. Financed by the Liberian/Swedish Feeder road Project(LSFRP). costing $2.8million from gov. of Sweden.
8.2KM Paita road, including its 30 meters bridge as well as the Totota-Piata road, Gboyear-Kankanolata and Gwainyear-Cow Farm areas. Bong County
15.5KM Makpoh Hill-Gbansue Suloma road, Bong county
31KM Phebe-Gbonota stretch, Bong County
Salayea-Zolowo/Markesu roads, Bong County
87 KM Kolahun-Vahun road rehabilitation and expansion, Lofa County; Contractors- SSF Entrepreneurs
63 km Vahun road project, Lofa county. costing $5million
29.45 KM voinjama-Kerbemai,Tanu Monia Dorbor-Bajagizia highways; Lofa County
60.5 KM Voinjama-Jallamai road; Lofa County
28.7KM Makesu-Fassawalazu/Salayea-Tinsue road LOFA County
18 km Borkeza-Kpassagizia road Lofa county
Voinjama-Barkedu road Lofa County
The Belle Yallah road Lofa county
Voinjama-Bolongolidu road Lofa County
Lawalazu-Vezela road Lofa County
It is very encouraging and refreshing that Liberia is rewriting the script in terms of building a safe and peaceful nation after nearly two decades of instability. More ought to be done in every sector to ensure peace and socio-economic prosperity. We say great job and Kudos to the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration for the last 6 years of hard work, leadership and commitment to the progress of Liberia.
The writer can be reached by email: email@example.com or through the Africanreality blog.
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