The United States Ambassador to Liberia, Christine Elder, says the government needs the private sector as strong partners to create economic opportunity and sustain economic growth in the country.
Speaking at the Liberia Chamber of Commerce’s (LCC) annual installation dinner in Monrovia, Ambassador Elder noted that Liberia is moving in the right direction, but there is much more to be done to stay on the path and to secure the benefits of growth for a greater range of Liberians.
She said profitable endeavors are built on strong partnerships, just as the United States and Liberian governments enjoy a strong partnership.
“We want to foster a strong partnership between our respective private sectors, with our governments serving as facilitators,” the U.S. Ambassador indicated.
According to her, a mutually beneficial partnership depends on developing key relationships and contacts and this gathering is just another step towards that goal.
“Your experience in the private sector gives you a unique perspective on what works and what does not promote a conducive and enabling business environment.
“The success of your business depends on how efficient you are, how well you can control costs, theft, and inventory, and how you serve your customers. These are just some of the lessons that governments can learn from the private sector.
“It is important that you maintain a dialogue with the government and share your views about how best to allow the private sector to flourish in a responsible manner that benefits the country’s economic growth and development as well as its citizens,” she told the LCC members.
The U.S. Ambassador reminded Chamber members and government officials present that foreign investors look for solid infrastructure, a predictable investment climate, and simple and transparent business regulations.
She said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her government have done an admirable job getting Liberia’s macroeconomic house in order and laying the foundation for future growth.
“Many current business opportunities relate to the extractive industries, but the balance in this area needs to shift, and the onus should be first on the government in providing the incentives for sectors and active companies to take on such additional risk,” she said.
Ambassador Elder said to take Liberia’s economy to the next level, it will be important for businesses to consider investing in more “value-added” processing.
These types of investments, according to Ambassador Elder, could improve the quality of life for Liberians and reduce Liberia’s trade deficit – but if it does not improve the company’s bottom line, it will not happen.
She said Liberia is rich in several resources, but none of those resources are found only in the country, so Liberia must find a way to be competitive in how she proposes and packages in the negotiation process.
As members of the business community, “you know first-hand the challenges that exist in doing business in the country.”
Apart from access to credit, the regulatory environment, and infrastructure challenges; corruption and its impact on Liberia’s long-term development is perhaps the most persistent obstacle, said Ambassador Elder. Corruption at all stages—from ports and transportation to licensing—is corrosive, undermining public trust and deterring companies from investing, she said.