Monrovia, Liberia - Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and a delegation of government officials, on Sunday, April 15, held a town hall consultation on the government's pro-poor agenda with Liberians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States of America.
The meeting was held ahead of the ongoing IMF/WB Springs Meeting which is being attended by a government delegation headed by the Country’s Chief Economic Manager, Hon. Samuel D. Tweah.
Minister Tweah told the Liberians that the formulation of a new people-focused national development plan sought to embrace the inputs of all sectors of Liberian society including the diaspora and their vision for the country in order to properly inform the Development Agenda’s design and direction.
He said, President Weah was interested in this broad based consultation in order to craft the new vision that would be a replacement for the Agenda for Transformation. He therefore told the gathering that the town hall meeting was necessary to enable the government hear from them.
During his presentation, Minister Tweah disclosed that the Government's plan is to use developing countries like Rwanda, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire as models and apply lessons learned to put Liberia on the trajectory of development. The Minister said currently, a comparison of the education, health, commerce and other sectors show that Liberia is lacking far behind these countries, a situation that has to be changed.
Minister Tweah explained that critical investments would be made to improve access and quality of education and health as well as to build human capacity in these sectors.
Minister Tweah identified weak macroeconomic performance, poor infrastructure, deplorable education and health systems, agricultural unproductivity, and extremely weak private sector as problems that need to be urgently addressed.
The Finance and Development Minister said the Pro-Poor Agenda will aim to change the situation through a more effective and efficient national budget execution, massive investment in road infrastructure, support to the private sector, empowerment of young people and ensuring an end to gender and social vulnerabilities, among other, all geared towards narrowing the inequality gap.
He informed the gathering that initial efforts have been made through the recasting of the budget that reduced budget deficit by 31 percent and generated US$ 9.6 million in savings that are paying for 13 pro-poor budget items.
On the signing of a US$536 million MOU for a loan to fund the construction of a coastal highway, the Minister said, "The Government of Liberia has entered an MOU with Eton Finance Private Limited for funding the Buchanan – Cestos City – Greenville Barclayville Road Project, the Barclayville – Sasstown Road Project, the Barclayville – Pleebo Road Project, in the Southeast, as well as the Medina - Robertsport Road Project, the Tubmanburg – Bopolu Road Project in Western Liberia and other associated projects.” He added that the loan is highly concessional with seven years grace period, no accrued interest and no interest payment during the grace period."
During an interactive session that followed the presentation, several Liberians raised concerns about the high taxes and the general challenges associated with bringing goods into the country and doing business in Liberia in general. They urged the government to make the necessary reforms that will make doing business easier in the country.
Other Liberians at the town hall meeting proposed that the Pro-Poor agenda should prioritize and invest in fighting corruption, provision of electricity and water across the country, increasing salaries for teachers, etc.
Minister Tweah assured the gathering of Liberians that their concerns were genuine and would be given appropriate considerations in the formulation of the government’s development agenda.
Also forming part of the panel of government’s officials at the Town Hall Meeting were: the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Morgana Flomo, Minister of State without Portfolio Hon. Trokon Kpui, Minister of Information Culture Affairs and Tourism Hon. Lenn Eugene Nagbe and Deputy Minister for Economic Management Hon. Augustus J. Flomo.
Story by: Vivian Gartayn Lombeh, Minister Counselor/Press and Public Affairs
Liberia Permanent Mission to the United Nations
Edited by: Communications and External Affairs Unit, MFDP