28 February 2013

Liberia: Zero Achievement - U.S.$15 Million Wasted On Youth Programs

Nothing has been achieved in government's youth empowerment program despite the allotment of US$15 million in the national budget in the last few years aimed at empowering thousands of youths in postwar Liberia, Finance Minister Amara Konneh alarmed here Wednesday.

He blamed lack of due process in the PPCC procurement procedures as a major contributing factor for the non-implementation of several youth programs and projects planned by the government.

"Last year, there was a steep learning curve and a lot of stress because it was new, and a lot of constraints also mired the PPCC's procurement process, which became very relevant in that. If you do not work with the PPCC and try to build the procurement capacity within your institution, it will be very difficult for you to access money from the Ministry of Finance," Mr. Konneh told ministers and heads of government agencies at the 2013-2014 budget retreat Wednesday at the SKD Sports Complex.

"We should have done this last year, but the transition was just quick. We didn't have the luxury of meeting like this. And this is why I am emphasizing that there was a lot of stress and, a good part of our budget is tied to contingent revenue some of which are beyond our control," he indicated.

He cited: "Look at the youth program! We put in US$15 million dollars; but zero has been known about it. Absolutely zero and it pains me to see all these young people without jobs because we haven't moved the issue of procurement right."

Despite strong signal about the country's recent steady economic growth, he reiterated the persistent of disconnect between government programs and job creation, and suggested the need to remedy the situation, which he described as "national crisis".

Nevertheless, Minister Konneh said government was doing all it can to address youth employment and job creation in the country.

"I always like to emphasize that the recovery is disconnected with respect to job creation. And so, we need to find a way as a government to address that crisis because that is the crisis of our time. It makes no sense to register average 7% growth, year-on-year, and you have majority of the population unemployed. So, we have to find a way out. And that is why we're emphasizing priorities," he said.

In order to move the country on a positive trajectory that will see it being on pal with other rapidly growing economies in the sub-region, Mr. Konneh named energy, the construction of roads, and ports, as government's major priorities in the coming few years.

"Up to now, we still haven't realized a good portion of our contingent revenue. We're trying, and we're making sure that we do that before the fiscal year ends," he noted.

He added: "So, infrastructure, particularly energy, roads, ports and ITP, are our priorities on the hard side. We want everybody to realize this because the valuing constraints for economic growth in Liberia are infrastructure. On average, we need to spend about US$250 million each year, especially over the next ten years, in order for infrastructure to catch-up with the rest of West Africa."

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