President Sirleaf at Education roundtable
President Sirleaf at Education roundtable

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Thursday called on her nation to be ready to face what she called the “stark reality that confronts us as a nation and people."

Her address to the nation came on the same day that one of Liberia’s leading employers, ArcelorMittal - the world’s largest steel maker - announced it will cut 450 jobs in Liberia to offset losses caused by the global decline in the price of iron ore.

President Sirleaf told Liberians her government will do all it can to ensure that the country remains afloat and urged them not to lose the momentum the country has built coming out of the Ebola crisis.  

Protecting workers

Information Minister Lewis Brown said the government had been in negotiations with ArcelorMittal about what could be done to protect Liberian jobs.  

"As you may be aware, there is a sharp decline in the prices of Liberia’s major export commodities of iron ore and rubber. And we have been in negotiations with ArcelorMittal and other concessionaires to institute mitigating measures by which we can continue to protect Liberian jobs, whether it be through subsidies and other concessions that we may need to meet,” he said.

Brown said Liberia’s Ministry of Finance and Development and Labor is continuing negotiations with ArcelorMittal to ensure that Liberians do not lose jobs.

In her speech, Sirleaf reminded Liberians of the difficulties the country faced when she was first elected; which included political instability and economic problems. She said, “I have no doubt that we can continue to prevail in the years ahead."

'Sustainable growth'

Brown said, “[She] basically said this is the collective effort of Liberians holding together, working together on the things that are right for the country. And so today on a path to sustainable growth development.

"But the truth of our circumstances also is that we confront the slow pace in the project economic growth of our country as a result of exogenous and endogenous factors, one being the drop in prices of our main exports. But the other being the fallout of the deadly Ebola virus disease which we are beginning to experience right now."

Brown said the president’s speech Thursday was not intended to alarm Liberians that the country was in trouble.

“Certainly the sky is not falling, but that as the chief communicator of the country she needed to say to the country where we were and that the government will look at taking extraordinary measures to be able to contain the situation and to put us back on track” Brown said.

Sirleaf warned her critics, especially aspiring politicians in Liberia’s impending 2017 elections who, she said, might have the tendency to put everything in political context and begin the process of assigning blame and scoring political points at the expense of moving the country in the right direction.