Liberian Economist and fellow at the Center for Global Development, Dr. Antoinette M. Sayeh, joined by several speakers, has emphasized that policy implementation is a hallmark to fostering Liberia’s development agenda.
Dr. Sayeh, former Finance Minister of Liberia, who also served as director of the African Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) made the assertion on Wednesday, February 1, at the opening of a two-day development conference for Liberia sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Embassy of Sweden, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the World Bank Group. It was organized and hosted by the state-run University of Liberia.
Held under the theme, “Engendering collective action for advancing Liberia’s development,” Dr. Sayeh who served as the keynote speaker noted, “Fine laws are on the books (such as) Anti-corruption law, Freedom of Information law, and Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, but what remains is implementation of these laws to get public corporations and others to adhere to them.”
She maintained that proper management of natural resources with a strong legal framework in place to encourage diversification is essential to the growth and development of the country.
She identified some issues to address in pursuit of Liberia’s development as corruption, human capital, health and inequality.
Dr. Sayeh said “Fighting Liberia’s deep seated cancer of corruption should be a priority,” adding that corruption is a cancer and is in the mind of a small enterprise entrepreneur because of the bribes they pay before getting things done.
She indicated that working to reduce inequality is important for the sustainable development of a country, quoting an IMF report that if inequality is not addressed, Sub-Saharan African countries will possibly lose in their efforts for economic growth.
Regarding human capital, Dr. Sayeh said it is important to Liberia’s economy not only to create an environment for employment, but to provide the technical means to get people to perform better on the job.
She also stressed the need to invest in the health sector recalling how its vulnerability was manifested during the Ebola crisis that claimed over 4,000 lives between 2014 and 2015.
US Ambassador, Christine Elder, in her statement, said the conference was meant to discuss Liberia’s challenges and opportu
nities and bring together people of various sectors and occupations to think critically about ways to address the nation’s development challenges.
She said economic and financial growth come from job creation, while investment growth comes with the right environmental conditions.
She said such an environment is characterized by responsible and accountable government, a better judicial system, level playing field and payment of lawful and rightful taxes
She noted that such a system can be maintained only by Liberians who should be thinking about where the country was yesterday, where it is now, whether or not to change tactics and how can the country shift from attracting assistance to attracting investment.
The Chargè d’Affaires of the Embassy of Sweden, Elisabeth Härleman, in her presentation, said Liberians need to join together to foster economic growth and development of the country regardless of political affiliations.
She said there is also a need to address gender inequality to allow participation of men and women, boys and girls in all areas of national life.
Finance and Development Planning Minister, Boima Kamara noted that the currency issue remains a contentious subject that the Central Bank of Liberia needs to consider in its area of monitoring.
He indicated that access to finance is hindered by people who do not pay their loans and therefore Liberians must learn to pay back loans to build the trust of commercial banks.
Minister Kamara noted that Liberia has more commercial banks as opposed to other commercial institutions including agriculture and construction banks to provide access to loans for people in the agriculture and construction sectors.
He told participants that as they discuss the way forward to Liberia’s development, the talk should be translated into action and not the “usual talks,” and Liberians should be gearing toward taking the initiative for their own development instead of relying on donor funding all of the time.
He challenged Liberians to be innovative and make use of their knowledge to manufacture goods from the resources available to them, emphasizing that until Liberians manufacture and export, the challenge of dual currency will not be addressed.
The development meeting brought together government officials, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups and international partners.
Panelists presented papers on reconciliation and politics, social discrimination and marginalization, cost of transportation, health education among other issues.