Liberia’s Economic Gains Not Reaching the Poor

Liberia oil rig
Liberian recently became an oil producing country

Despite Liberia’s significant gains over the last decade, the benefits of the growth have not reached the country’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens, says World Bank Country Manager, Madam Inguna Dobraja.

Even with robust economic growth, Liberia cannot fully address the needs of vulnerable people without a clear, comprehensive social protection intervention, she said. The fact is, approximately 50,000 households in Liberia live in extreme poverty fuelled by lack of jobs, she said.

Her comments opened a three-day forum in Sinkor, Monrovia, to discuss the draft of a new social protection strategy and policy for Liberia. The Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs organized the event – with the theme “Restoring human dignity and fostering cohesion” — at the Belle Casa Hotel.

“Inclusive growth is fundamental in addressing poverty in any post-conflict society,” Madam Dobraja said. “Liberia is no exception. An essential part of any social protection system is risk prevention. “Having a job that pays and provides an income source to a family is a risk prevention measure — it prevents the family from falling into poverty and making sure those children in that family will go to school and receive good health care. Jobs are also important for the entire region as they contribute to stability,” Madam Dobraja noted.

The World Bank Country Manager further noted that tackling the issue of jobs and employment is one of the major priorities of the government. According to her, “working together with the private sector and designing innovative ways to create jobs, especially for youth, will have to be an integral part of the social protection agenda in Liberia.”

She said the Social Safety Nets in Liberia represent just 1.5% of GDP. She stated that is not good enough. As a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), expenses on Liberian SSN are higher than the regional West African average, the World bank official further stated.

Madam Dobraja disclosed that in Liberia, Social Protection interventions are heavily funded by international donors. “Strengthening institutional capacity of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs (MOPEA) is necessary to undertake the development of a national Social Protection Policy and Strategy; and designing a Strategy is just the beginning – Strategies are only as good as their implementation. Therefore, we will continue to work together with the Ministry in building national Monitoring & Evaluation System that will help to oversee and coordinate social protection interventions in the country,” Madam Dobraja said.

In a related development, the World Bank Country Manager has pledged the bank’s commitment to the public financial management system of Liberia. She said preventing and reducing corruption in Liberia is critical at this stage of the country’s development process.

“The front pages of the Liberian press remind us every day that preventing and reducing corruption in Liberia is critical at this stage of Liberia’s development process,” she said. “The World Bank recognizes Asset Disclosure Systems as an important tool for countries in preventing and detecting corruption and conflicts of interest, and will continue to support this program.

This is important in Liberia now in view of the country’s potential extractives sector boom. Experience has shown that development of the extractive sector tends to result in an increase in corruption in countries where safeguards and preventive measures against corruption are weak.”