Five Development Ministers Attend Extraordinary Meeting on Liberia’s Reconstruction

Scence from the Development Ministers Meeting held on Liberia, Firday,September 5th, 2008 in Monrovia
Scence from the Development Ministers Meeting held on Liberia, Firday,September 5th, 2008 in Monrovia
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The team of development ministers last Friday arrived in the country from the Kingdom of Norway, The Netherlands, Japan, Sweden and the United States. They were in the country to participate in the two-day Extraordinary Meeting of Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC).

  Addressing the session of the Extraordinary Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC forum, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has expressed dissatisfaction with the timeline between the process of commitments and implementation of the commitments.

President Sirleaf, however, welcomed discussions by some partners on the need for budgetary support to government, but stressed that if government must build the confidence that leads the roadmap to budget support, corruption must be controlled in a more effective manner, which she admitted continues to pose a problem.

   The Extraordinary Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC) forum took place Friday, September 5, 2008 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with five development ministers of partner countries.

      The Friday forum discussed Aid Effectiveness in post-conflict and fragile state context. It was part of an extraordinary session organized by the Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee, LRDC.

      It coincided with a visit to Liberia by Development ministers from Norway , Japan , Sweden , Netherlands , as well as representatives of international financial and donor institutions as well as ambassadors of several countries accredited near Monrovia .

        The President informed the gathering that the process between commitment and implementation is too long. She made particular reference to a number of programs, including rehabilitation of roads, the country’s ports, and the Mt. Coffee hydro project, for which she expressed impatience at the slow pace of implementation.

   Already, statistical reports have indicated that the restoration of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plan would cost about US$500,000. The Mt. Coffee Hydro which was the main source of electricity supply suffered massive destructions during the Liberian bloody and devastating war.

    According to the report recently submitted to Madam Johnson-Sirleaf by an American-based consultancy firm, the Stanley Consultants, it would require more than $500 million to fund the total cost of the Project.

    On the country’s energy sector, President Johnson Sirleaf told the Friday forum that electricity is vital to the economic recovery of the country. She welcomed a decision by the American government to finance the feasibility study of the Mount Coffee Hydro facility.

      Part of the problem, the President said has to do with compensation levels in places for conditions of work, which government is trying to address.  “Some of it has to do with the lack of trained personnel; while another has to do with mere greed and dishonesty.”

     The President also stressed the need for vocational training institutions that will enroll Liberians into training programs, to prepare them for service to the country.  “It is important”, the President said, “that government begins training its people to occupy positions that will be opening in the agricultural and mining sectors. “If they can’t find the skills they need, they will have to start importing skills from other countries, unless we can address this problem,” the President cautioned.

       Participants agreed at the forum, among other measures, agreed on the need to provide budgetary support to strengthen the capacity of government and to develop a framework to harmonize and align partner’s support with government’s development objectives.

     President Johnson-Sirleaf co-convened a special session on Aid Effectiveness in Post-Conflict and Fragile State Contexts, while SRSG Ellen Margrethe Loj spoke on Peace, Security and Poverty Reduction followed by Deputy SRSG and UN Resident Coordinator, Jordan Ryan, who also spoke on the Framework for Harmonization, Alignment and Ownership.

     IMF Representative Michael Tharkur spoke on Debt and Aid Effectiveness: Challenges for Post-Conflict Recovery while USAID Administrator, Henrietta Fore, addressed the forum on Engaging the Private Sector to Improve aid Effectiveness. National Investment Commission Chairman, Richard Tolbert, addressed the development minister on the Liberian Experience, among others.

The meeting took place in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. While in the country, the delegation attended series of working sessions beginning with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf; the Head of UNMIL, Madam Ellen Margrethe Loj; National Investment Commission Chairman, Dr. Richard Tolbert; IMF Representative to Liberia, Michael Tharkur; USAID Administrator, Madam Henrietta Fore, among others.

      The head of the delegation from The Netherlands is Mr. A.G. (Bert) Koenders. He is the Minister for Development Cooperation of that country. The team from Norway is being headed by Mr. Hakon Gulbrandsen, State Secretary for International Development. The American delegation is led by Henrietta H. Fore, Administrator of USAID and Under Secretary; the Japanese delegation is headed by Ms. Yukiko Okano, Principal Deputy Director for Aid Policy Planning Department, and Sweden is being represented by Mr. Hakan Akesson, Development Cooperation Minister. 

      On Saturday, the Ministers toured several development project sites in Monrovia including thee Capitol Building, temple of Justice, Freeport of Monrovia, University of Liberia Fendell Campus and Bensonville.

    Meanwhile, a Rwandan delegation which departed the country Saturday also paid a courtesy call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf while they were in the country.  Welcoming the delegation Saturday at the Foreign Ministry, President Johnson Sirleaf said Liberia was pleased to have the delegation visiting Liberia the country to share with their Liberian counterparts Rwanda’s experiences which have seen remarkable progress toward development.

     The visit by the Rwandan delegation is a result of a recent meeting held between Presidents Johnson Sirleaf and Rwandan President Paul Kigame on the need for collaboration between the two post conflict countries.

     The head of the Rwandan delegation, Mr. Rugira Amandin, expressed delight for the visit and assured the Liberian President that his country remains prepared to share with Liberia its experiences in national development. The 7-man delegation has left for home.

    Similarly, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Ghanaian counterpart, John Kuffour, were among participants discussing Aid and its effectiveness toward development assistance.

      During round table discussions Wednesday in the Ghanaian capital Accra , President Sirleaf again spoke of the need to reduce the bureaucracies among lending institutions to speed up the development agenda of developing countries, particularly those emerging out of conflict.

      Too often, the Liberian leader observed, donor and development partners fail to take into consideration the exceptional circumstances of post conflict countries like Liberia .

       The President highlighted infrastructure, unemployment, education, and health as key priorities which must be addressed. Unless donor countries and partners attach the urgency to the challenges and reduce the bureaucratic bottlenecks, the dividends of peace, she warned, could be threatened.

      The President who returned home Wednesday following a one-day visit, again expressed her government’s concern at the slow pace of development projects being supported by some of the country’s leading lending institutions.

      Liberia, the President admitted, does not have the needed capital to fund the projects, but maintained that given its crucial role to the economic recovery program of Liberia, urgency is needed to have it rehabilitated.

     “If you say, put it through our bidding process, I will say no.  I’ll give it to who will build it; we are going to give it to somebody. If it’s got to be a private sector thing, we’ve got to get it done,” the Liberian leader asserted.

       The President said government remains supportive of the bidding process, but observed that given the country’s exceptional circumstances where its entire infrastructure remains in ruins, certain key government assets which are tied to the economic recovery of the country must be tackled with all the urgency without undermining the process of bidding and competition.