31 December 2012

Liberia: Ellen Reveals 2013 Agenda - As 2012 Goes Into History Today

Photo: Liberia Govt
President Sirleaf addresses students at Columbia University

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has delivered her New Year's message, saying 2012 marked the ninth consecutive year of peace in a country that had experienced over a decade of war and destruction, and releasing her government's development agenda for the next 12 months.

"For 2013," the Liberian leader noted, "we are placing great emphasis on infrastructure, with power, ports and roads as our three areas of concentration."

These, in turn, will facilitate the education, health and agriculture sectors, the President noted, adding, "We expect 2013 to be a good year of demonstrable progress, so that our people will see what this government is doing, what we've accomplished not just in Monrovia, but elsewhere in Liberia."

President Sirleaf stated that her government will work to implement the Agenda for Transformation--a five-year slice of the Liberia Rising (Vision 2030) which as recently concluded in central Liberia, Gbarnga. Vision 2030 seeks to make Liberia a middle income country by the year 2030.

"For 2013," she continued, "we want to see progress in the areas of reform included in the Agenda for Transformation, among them, land reform. This is vital to everything we do in our mining and agriculture sectors, as well as in maintaining peace and tranquility. We also hope to conclude reform of the concessions sector, to correct past mistakes."

President Sirleaf hoped that "2013 will be a year of true patriotism and reconciliation that will accentuate the positive things that unite us. We will push ahead with our reconciliation program by implementing the Roadmap, which aims at accounting for the past, managing the present, and planning for the future."

Looking back at the past year, President Sirleaf reported that "...with the support we received from regional institutions and global partners, 2012 marked the ninth consecutive year of peace in a country that had experienced over a decade of war and destruction."

She however admitted that despite this feat, Liberia is still fragile and stressed the need for unity, collaboration and reconciliation among citizens in moving the country forward.

"Our country is still fragile, yet the record of continuity in peace and democracy is clearly present. And as we begin to use our natural resources better, reduce poverty and bring forth a more educated population, any risk of a reversal will diminish," she said.

2012, the President furthered, saw the culmination of a long journey towards finding Liberians finding themselves as a people. "Liberians from all spheres of society and the Diaspora converged in the central city of Gbarnga, Bong County, at a three-day Vision 2030 National Conference and discussed the country's future. It provided the space for us to unite in a sense of common identity, ideals and purpose, and to take control of our destiny."

A segment of Liberians have criticized the government's investment into crafting a national vision agenda which they claim will not work as the Charles Taylor's Vision 2024. These Liberians said there were too many vital issues such as job creation, provision of basic social services including electricity, water road among others that the government should focus on.

But the President in her address said: "Yes, we acknowledge that all of the roads in Liberia are not yet paved; that every community does not yet have electricity and pipe-borne water; that some people don't see the country's economic growth reflected in their income; and that the 20,000 jobs that were promised per annum have not materialized, all at once, from the government."

"However," she went on, "if you compare what existed when we started in 2006 and what we have today, it is clear how far we've come."

The President argued that she inherited a country in shambles, with a collapsed economy, dysfunctional institutions, displaced people, destroyed infrastructure, and very few basic services. "Our people had lost all hope and had learned to live through mere survival. Compare that grim description to the Liberia to today, where people are getting on with their lives without fear, building homes, operating businesses, educating their children and able to provide for their families."

"Back in 2006," she recalled, "there were no lights in this Capital. We brought the first lights in July 2006.

Electricity is a high capital-cost item, and because our own resources are limited, we have had to depend on donor money, and abide by their rules, in order to finance most of the infrastructure in our post-conflict nation - be it energy, roads, ports, water and sanitation, and more."

She said "It is taking long to do all the things we want and need to do because a National Budget of $80 million to start, and even at $672 million today, can only stretch so far! I promise you that we will get there. However, remember that no country coming from where we came can get by with a quick fix; recovery and development is a gradual process, it is difficult work, and it takes time."

The Liberian leader boasted that in seven years of her administration, "we have put all of the fundamentals in place: we re-established institutions; put in new laws and strategies; adopted our development agenda; and started to reform the country under the four pillars of our Poverty Reduction Strategy. We've made progress, despite our limited resources and our low human capacity. Our biggest challenge is to change the minds and attitudes of the Liberian people through transformation."

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