President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said conditions surrounding the country’s recovery process have caused Liberians to fall far behind.
Addressing the nation on the state of the economy on Wednesday May 28, President Sirleaf stated the difficulties in the recovery process have been a result of constraints on the part of government to prioritize everything at the same time.
“Our continued post-conflict recovery process is of such that we must continue to do everything at the same time,” she said.
The Liberian leader likened the post-conflict recovery process to driving an old bus while at the same time repairing its many deficient and dysfunctional parts.
“As we know, for the past years our bus has been parked, some of the parts have gotten rusty, some are unusable, and many of our people were left stranded and abandoned on the sides of the road. From opportunity to morality, our children, and in many respects ourselves, have fallen too far behind,” President Sirleaf stated.
This statement is, however, in sharp contrast with several comments made earlier that the country has now been placed on the right trajectory for economic growth and infrastructural development. Efforts have, however, been made to restore the country’s damage infrastructures, power, roads, ports and other facilities.
The Liberian economy is reported to have been experiencing robust growth of seven percent annually for the past six years. There have been indications that this is the highest on the African continent during this period.
But amidst the barrage of praises for the level at which the economy is reportedly growing, poverty continues to affect many citizens, as many producers are even unable to access the market with their products due to bad roads; the absence of affordable electricity has tightened profit margins for most businesses.
Complaints continue to mount that the economy is not adequately impacting the lives of ordinary Liberians.
Many have voiced their suspicions that these purported growth rates are unrealistic and only meant to boost the image of the country outside. At the same time, others argue that the attraction of about US$16 billion, which brings to the fore multinationals such as ArcelorMittal , China Union and others, are serving as backing to this “reality.”
President Sirleaf even said the Liberian economy remains "fundamentally strong", in the midst of hiking prices of commodities, a skyrocketing foreign exchange rate between the United States and Liberia dollars and a stressful banking sector. She blamed the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for lack of coordination, which she said is the cause of most of the economy's problems.
She was quick to promise robust pending actions, however, to ensure that the economy is restored to its core standard.
“This is why the engine is up and running, we must keep moving forward – determined to always give our collective best to close the gap between where we are and where we know we can be.”
“This also is why all Liberians are right to be concerned that the engine of our bus must keep beating. This engine is the economy. To keep us moving forward, the economy must keep working by our people and for all our people,” she stressed.
According to the President, the only way to open new doors of opportunity for Liberians is to expand the space for increased participation of Liberians, and to break down the walls of monopolies so that more people can continue to benefit from quality services at affordable prices.
She indicated that in terms of national economies, no country is an island. “On our own, we cannot build all of our roads, pave all of our streets, rebuild all of our schools and hospitals, secure our borders, and make ourselves feel entirely safe. On our own, we cannot meet all of our needs. Certainly so, the government – indeed no government on the face of this earth – can employ all of its citizens.”
President Sirleaf said this is why all Liberians have determined and agreed that by the year 2030, most of the population should have climbed up from poverty to prosperity.
“It therefore means that each of us -– government and private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations, legislators and judges, community leaders and the media, students and workers — each of us, without necessarily compromising the demands of our individual callings, continue to act in ways to ensure that more Liberians are able to work and earn a decent living,” she said.
The Liberian leader furthered: “It means that more Liberians must not just wait for a government job but be empowered to own their own businesses and employ others. It means more Liberians must be able to pay their bills, send their children to school, care for their families, and travel if they desire, retire with dignity, and treat themselves with some of the nicer things that life has to offer.”
“It means that our society must become one in which all Liberians – males and females, young and old, Christians and Muslims, abled and disabled – can all make it, if they are willing to try. Yes, this is possible.”