“We are very discouraged to see the lack of progress,” says US Amb. Michael McCarthy
The government of the United States of America is apparently frustrated with Liberia’s never-ending corruption and, as a result, they are tired of funding development in Liberia.
The message from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, which was conveyed through Ambassador Michael McCarthy, warned that the U.S. government is tired of Liberia’s corruption and instead wants to see results, and improvements in education, health, and better quality of life for citizens.
Amb. McCarthy noted that the U.S. is very discouraged to see that Liberia is not making any serious progress as a result of corruption, which has seriously impeded the country's social-economic growth.
“I think when you look at the country with democratic improvement and a free press, you realize corruption is holding this country back. [We] want to see some result, want to see change, improvement [in] education, health, and a better quality of life. [But now] we are very discouraged to see the lack of progress.”
Ambassador McCarthy added that the U.S. is very concerned about Liberia’s failure to get another Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) deal while, at the same time, members of both parties in the United States Congress are tired of funding development in Liberia and seeing no result.
Amb. McCarthy complained that the U.S. is exhausted and not interested in funding projects or efforts without results looking at the number of U.S. taxpayers’ dollars spent in Liberia for development.
“Liberia’s failure on the MCC is a concern and I have said this since I got here to Liberia. When I went through my confirmation hearing, I spoke to the minority party and majority party -- although not at the same places. Both parties were saying that they all are tired of funding development in Liberia and seeing no result,” he said.
“Many of these people have worked in Liberia for years. It is not just 1960 when USAID was created, but the organization has been here since the very beginning. These people are very exhausted and not interested in funding projects or efforts that are not going to get results.
Amb. McCarthy’s message comes at a time when the Government of Liberia had just missed out on another chance to be considered for an MCC compact after falling short of the required 50% of the benchmark indicators needed.
He added that countries seeking a second compact are held to the highest standards, which include a long-term commitment to good governance and not just passing the scorecards once, but consistently.
“We urge Liberia to redouble its efforts to strengthen areas of governance identified in the scorecard particularly focusing on taking concrete steps to combat corruption and sustainably increasing the over several indicators passed. At the Weah administration’s urging, the legislature has passed some excellent legislation devolving power out to the counties and down to the municipal level,” the ambassador added.
The MCC compact, which President Weah is seeking to the tune of US$500 million, would have shored up the government’s ambitious road infrastructure program.
But over the last three years, the government has failed to reach the 50% score needed to have the country even considered for another compact by the MCC. The compact under the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration, a grant amount of US$257 million for rebuilding the country’s war-ravaged electricity utility, came into force on January 20, 2016, and ended at midnight on January 20, 2021.
However, the MCC scorecard for 2022, which was released on Tuesday, November 9, 2021, paints a bleak picture. The Weah administration made a pass in nine indicators out of twenty, just one pass short of the benchmark.
Eligibility for the MCC funding is predicated upon a country passing at least 10 of the 20 indicators, as well as both categories “hard hurdles” categories – the political rights or civil liberties indicator, and the control of corruption indicator.
The pass of 9 out of 20 indicators is a repeat of the country’s FY2021 score, in which the government also narrowly missed out on eligibility for another MCC compact. The MCC compact provides beneficiary countries time-bound grants -- targeted at ensuring economic growth, reducing poverty, and strengthening governmental institutions.
As for FY2022, the Weah administration scored 50% on rule of law, 94% on gender in the economy, 77% on land rights and access; but failed in primary education (27%), and protection of natural resources (19%). The government also failed about girls' education (23%), child health (33%), fiscal policy (38%), Inflation (17.0%), regulatory quality (38%), trade policy (37%), and government’s effectiveness (31%).
However, the government did better in health expenditure (66%), while access to credit score was at 59%, immunization rates at 17%, and an impressive 83% on business start-up.
In the FY2021 scorecard year, the Weah administration failed to reach the 50% threshold, passing only nine out of 20 indicators. The highest marks this time were earned in the Ruling Justly category (5 out of 6 indicators passed), followed by Economic freedom (3 out of 8 indicators passed). Liberia performed poorly in the category of investing in People, passing in only 1 out of 6 indicators.
During FY2018, FY2017, and FY2016, Liberia did achieve the threshold of 10 out of 20 indicators passed.
Meanwhile, Amb. McCarthy has opined that Liberia passed the corruption indicator by a narrow margin, which the country has consistently fallen over the years is due to the comparative nature of corruption.
“I am one person who believes strongly in the MCC methodology and I believe MCC understands something about development,” the U.S. Ambassador said. “So, when a country passes more and more indicators, that just means in itself that the country is on the road to development and independence.
“Just bypassing those scores, I think everyone wants Liberia to get on the road to development, independence, and self-sufficiency which is the greatest everybody talks about. Liberia has resources so much more than other countries would love to have—you have a huge coastline, minerals, urban land, and dependent rainforest and you have so much working in your favor.”
Ambassador McCarthy further advised that, with over 50% of Liberia’s population under the age of 20, they can be trained to meet the country's productivity needs.