MRU’s Plea for US$8 Billion Marshall Plan: Are We Ready to Emulate Europe?

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speaking to the World Bank last Friday on behalf of her Mano River Union colleagues, Presidents Alpha Conde of Guinea and Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, appealed for a US$8 billion “Marshall Plan” to help the three countries in their post-Ebola recovery.

Several questions immediately arise.  First, where is this large sum of money expected to come from?  The answer, most probably, is the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States, the People’s Republic of China, the European Union and other friendly and wealthy nations.

The Bank has already allocated US$1 billion in relief for the three countries, with Liberia alone receiving US$650 million.  That is in addition to the US$2.7 in debt relief promised the three countries, with Liberia set to receive US$464 million.

The first US$1 billion plus the debt relief’s US$2.7 billion total US$3.7 billion.  That leaves US$4.3 billion which, if found, must be divided between the three countries, each of which would most   likely receive over US$1 billion.

That, plus all the money from debt relief and the first US1 billion to be divided among the three, is still a lot of money.   But the second question is, what will they do with all this money?  Another question  follows: Do the three countries have the capacity to effectively and gainfully use that money, so that at the end of the day tangible results will be readily seen?

Before we attempt answers,  let us recall what the original Marshall Plan was.  

Officially known as the European Recovery Program  (ERP), the Plan was an American initiative to aid Europe.   The United States gave $13 billion (approximately $120 billion in current dollar value) in economic support to help rebuild European economies after World War II ended. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948. The goals of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernize industry, and make Europe prosperous again.    

The Marshall Plan aid was divided amongst the participant states roughly on a per capita basis. A larger amount was given to the major industrial powers, as the prevailing opinion was that their resuscitation was essential for general European revival.  The United Kingdom (Britain), America’s chief ally during the war, was the largest recipient of the money, about 26%, followed by France (18%) and West Germany (11%). Some 18 European countries received Plan benefits. Asia received similar aid programs.

Although offered participation, the Soviet Union refused Plan benefits, and blocked benefits to Eastern Bloc countries. 

This was because by that time, the Soviet Union (USSR) had created what Sir Winston Churchill called “the Iron Curtain,” the conscription of all Eastern European countries, including East Germany and Poland and all the Soviet Socialist Republics, including Estonia and Latvia, into Communist republics linked exclusively to the Soviet Union.        

The initiative was named after American Secretary of State George Marshall. In an address at Harvard University in June 1947, Secretary Marshall spoke of an urgent need to help the European recovery.

The phrase "equivalent of the Marshall Plan" is often used to describe a proposed large-scale economic rescue program.

That is what the three MRU nations put before the World Bank’s 2015 Spring Meeting last Friday.

But again, do these nations   have a concrete plan as to how every cent of that money, if granted, will be spent?  We see the clearly defined objectives laid down in the Marshall Plan.  These objectives were strictly followed and within a few years Germany and the other countries were back on their feet industrially.  Soon, Germany regained her position as the world’s third industrial power, after the USA and Britain.  Today, Germany is Europe’s economic and industrial powerhouse.

This question we raise about the MRU nations’ preparedness is critically relevant because African nations are known for mismanaging their own resources which, in the case of Liberia, are considerable. 

We suggest that within the next week, while the World Bank and its partners are considering the MRU request, each MRU government should  make a detailed economic recovery plan as well as the development of highly efficient healthcare delivery systems throughout each country to prevent another epidemic. 

 

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