IMANI Africa: Five Sectors Liberia’s President-Elect Must Turn Around to Succeed
Liberia’s election authorities have declared main opposition candidate, George Weah winner of the election run-off held on Boxing Day 2017.
As the country prepares for George Weah to sustain the peace and crucially build an economy capable of undoing the many stories of hardships, IMANI Africa recommends the newly elected President pays attention to five sectors of Liberia’s economy in pragmatic ways that couldenable Liberia leapfrog into the league of highly effective countries.
Liberia’s education system was described by outgoing President Johnson Sirleaf, “as a mess” and opted to outsource public school education under the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL), a pilot public-private programme being run by the education ministry and non-state actors in education, aimed at providing every child, regardless of family background or income, access to high-quality education.
In the midst of the promises made by President-elect George Weah, the private sector is absent from the education conversation especially as 54.8% of the 12,168 K12 (kindergarten to grade 12) schools in the country are non-state owned (Private, mission, and community), suggesting the important role the private sector can play in fixing the broken education system, as promised by the political parties.
IMANI recommends that it will be prudent for President-elect George Weah to engage various stakeholders on the capacity building, finance, technology, programmes and policies in education to help provide innovative ways of addressing the educational challenges.
Liberia’s health sector has mixed but troubling statistics; the number of physicians per 1,000 people in the country has dwindled from 0.107 in 1983 to 0.023 in 1997 to 0.014 in 2010. Some health indicators, however, are slowly improving.
The neonatal mortality rate in Liberia, which was 39.7 per 1,000 live births in 2002, has steadily decreased to 25.3 in 2013 to 24.1 per 1,000 live births in 2015.
Among the problems that Liberia’s health sector continues to face are a lack of data to adequately shape policymaking, as the World Health Organization has highlighted, a lack of psychological services especially after the trauma of prolonged war, malnutrition, and poor access to clean drinking water.
IMANI recommends that what is needed foremost before implementing any policy changes, such as the suggested by George Weah’s political party, is adequate data on the state of healthcare in Liberia.
As at 2011, access to publicly provided electricity in the whole of Liberia was close to 0%, Monrovia, Liberia’s capital city had an urban access rate of 0.58% of its population. In 2016, access rate had improved to 2% in the country and 6.7% in Monrovia.
Surprisingly, allocation rules for revenue from extractives are derived from the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Act which states that revenue collected by the LRA should be paid directly into the consolidated fund (Section 26).
All extractive industry revenues therefore go into and are distributed from the consolidated fund. In this case, revenue from extractives is not earmarked for specific developmental projects. Also, it becomes difficult to track the use of revenues from extractives.
IMANI recommends, that, keeping in mind the potential of the extractives and power sectors of Liberia, President-elect Weah should demonstrate capability in leveraging these two sectors for growth and development to achieve the following:
- A commitment to prudent revenue management in the extractives sector: This will involve formulation of requisite policy that will determine the direction of allocations or earmarking of resource revenue preferably towards development in pro-poor sectors such as education, health, agriculture and infrastructure development. This will also foster transparency and accountability as it will allow the tracking of the use of resource revenues. Ghana has been able to define the allocation of its petroleum revenues through its Petroleum Revenue Management Act, an example that Liberia could follow.
- A commitment to formulate targeted policy towards long term industrial growth that would facilitate value addition to natural resources
- A commitment towards securing fuel supply for thermal power generation in the short to medium term from neighbouring countries such as Ivory Coast and leveraging the country’s potential petroleum resources towards power generation in the long term. There should also be a critical look at diversifying sources of fuel for thermal generation.
- A structured investment plan that would ensure growth and expansion of the electricity network (generation, transmission and distribution) in the long term and in the short term, intensifying the proliferation of mini/micro grids and stand-alone renewable energy systems in urban as well as rural areas.
- Provision of and following clear timelines for the implementation of the policy recommendations in the National Energy Policy and a commitment to implementation
IMANI finally recommends that given the importance of a vibrant private sector to the growth of the Liberian economy, President-elect George Weah should also carefully consider the following in their quest to promote a conducive business environment.
- Regulations that protect investors must be strengthened. Liberia ranked 179 out of 189 countries in terms of protecting minority investors in the 2017 Ease of Doing Business Index. A World Bank survey on investors identified insufficient legal protection of investors as the primary concern to Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
- The number of days required to access electricity for business needs to be reduced. Currently it takes an average of 465 days and cost 4066.6 percent of income per capita to get electricity due to factors such long bureaucratic processes. This can greatly hinder investor interest.
- A robust credit information system is needed to facilitate wider dissemination of credit information aimed at reducing credit risk and to encourage lending. Liberia has zero percent credit bureau coverage and very limited distribution of credit information on both firms and individuals.
NB: The above ideas were part of a major pre-election analysis IMANI conducted.
About IMANI Center for Policy & Education
IMANI Center for Policy and Education is one of Africa’s leading think tanks, recently ranked second most influential think tank in sub-Saharan Africa. IMANI Center focuses on working with governments, businesses and civil society to share the national, regional and global agenda. For more, visit imaniafrica.org. For interviews, 233 554 309 966