Two leading Liberian economic ministers say the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s signature three-year development plan, has been a success thus far.
Planning and Economic Affairs Minister Amara Konneh and Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan were in Washington to discuss the success of their government’s policies and the challenges the country still faces with members of the U.S. Congress and Liberian Diaspora.
“The Poverty Reduction Strategy, to a large extent, has been a success because it has helped us to move Liberia from where President Sirleaf met it about five years ago to where we are now, as reflected in some of the major economic and social indicators in the country,” Konneh says.
But, he told VOA Liberia still faces some serious challenges.
Liberia Planning Minister Amara Konneh (foreground) and Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan being interviewed by James Butty (center)
“Poverty is still high and unemployment is high, and what we have been able to do with the Poverty Reduction Strategy is to stabilize Liberia from where we met it,” Konneh says.
Ngafuan says, in addition to revitalizing the economy, the government also passed good laws under the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
“…one of which, the Public Financial Management laws, we’ve instituted; we’ve established an anti-corruption commission; we’ve revised the revenue code that have attracted to this country…credible investors, unlike 10 years ago, when the country was deemed as one of the 10 worst places to do business,” Ngafuan says.
Ngafuan admits there has been an expectation gap among some Liberians, who feel they have not shared in the country’s peace dividend
Konneh says their message to member of the U.S. Congress was about the future of Liberia.
“We are at a crossroads with the 2011 elections and so we were asking for continued U.S. assistance to the election process, continued U.S. assistance to our policies to expand the economy through mass electrification,” Konneh says.
Earlier this month, President Sirleaf, whose government has declared war on corruption, decided not to renew Auditor General John Morlu’s contract, who opposition politicians and civil society groups say was doing a good job in combating corruption.
Opposition leader Dew Tuan Wleh Mason, Liberia’s former ambassador to France under former President Samuel Doe, and now the presidential candidate for the New Deal Movement Party, told VOA earlier this month that President Sirleaf was not committed to the fight against corruption by her refusal to renew Morlu’s contract.
Ngafuan says it would be a mistake to view the fight against corruption as a one-man war.
“It will be a confession of failure if an impression is made that the anti-corruption war is a one-man’s war, and let me say that it is our duty as leaders to create systems and processes that can outlast us. If the impression is made that the absence of one man in the anti-corruption fight means that we don’t have an institution to fight corruption then, technically, those [who] are making that statement are saying that the person failed,” Ngafuan says.
He says the fight against corruption must be a mutl-directional fight, including building institutions of integrity and decreasing the vulnerability of Liberians by increasing the minimum wage.
Konneh denies he is being considered to lead the campaign for President Sirleaf’s re-election.
“I’ve never had such discussions with the president. All of us are contributing in our individual ways. We are working with young people. We are also working with everyone within the government to see how best we can craft a winning strategy to give the president not just a victory, but a resounding victory that will give her the mandate to lead the country,” Konneh says.