20 August 2008

Liberia: Town Hall Meetings Continue in Bentol City

- President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called on Liberians to serve as monitors of the country's Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS), now known as Lift Liberia. Such monitoring mechanism, the President noted, is necessary for Government to achieve its objectives.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the President spoke Tuesday in Bentol City, Montserrado County, when she addressed the third in a series of Town Hall meetings for Montserrado County on Lift Liberia. The meeting was organized to enable the President to share ideas with county residents on the PRS through an interactive forum. The Liberian leader traced the genesis of the PRS which, she said, was preceded by the 150-day deliverables and the subsequent Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy (iPRS).

The President briefed the residents on the four pillars of the Government's development agenda. On peace and security (Pillar I), President Johnson Sirleaf said the Government is in the process of training 3,000 police personnel, but noted that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) remains a major part of Liberia's security sector reform. On economic revitalization (Pillar II), she emphasized that the Government's main objective is in revamping Liberia's traditional economic strongholds, specifically in mining and forestry. She further added that Government aims to reach 'the completion point' under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC).

Speaking on governance and the rule of law (Pillar III), the President conceded that the process of accountability, transparency and the fight against corruption remains a challenge. She renewed her call on Liberians to be courageous enough to expose corrupt officials, noting that 'the giver of the bribe is as guilty as the receiver.' On infrastructure and basic services (Pillar IV), the President spoke of the modest progress made on the building of roads as well as the rehabilitation of various ports across the country. She also talked about education and health care as key priorities in the 2008-2009 National Budget.

Present at the nearly three-hour long interactive meeting were Montserrado County District 14 Representative Richard Holder, Internal Affairs Minister Ambulai Johnson and Montserrado County Superintendent Beauty Barcon.

During the second Town Hall Meeting held in the township of Barnersville last Friday, the President informed residents that by the end of September, electricity services will be expanded in other parts of Monrovia and its environs. She also noted that the first community college will be created in Grand Bassa county, as a part of Government's decentralization scheme. Speaking about her interest in growth with development, the Chief Executive said that although "the people want to talk politics, I want to talk development." She urged the packed crowd at the Barnersville Town Hall that it will take the collective effort of all citizens to "Lift Liberia": "You do your part. Government does its part. Then we will see how the country will move forward."

A number of issues were raised by participants of the interactive Town Hall Meeting, including, but not limited to: vocational education allocation in the national budget; destroyed sewer and drainage lines; financial empowerment for township residents; land tenure and the signing of deeds; building a Barnersville health center; developing an organized housing development structure and strengthening zoning laws; downsizing and rightsizing in the various Government ministries; corruption in the Freeport of Monrovia; and ritualistic killings.

Residents also highlighted how they are contributing to the implementation of the PRS, in an attempt to "Lift Liberia." Among those stories was a young New Kru Town resident who disclosed that youth leaders in her community are dissuading criminals from wreaking havoc. She added that youth leadership should be recognized and compensated. A Paynesville resident noted that he and his community intend to open up the alleyways in order to prevent zoning violations, and appealed to the President for assistance. In response, President Johnson Sirleaf noted that community efforts in the country's development agenda should certainly be lauded and will be supported by Government.

The next Town Hall Meeting will be held in Careysburg, Montserrado County.

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