Minister Tweah pleads as GOL and the EU secure US$59 Million Agreement
COVID-19 is present in the world including Liberia and has stalled every economic activity. What remains to introspect are recovery and the strategies that will lead to them.
In this connection, Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah is calling on partners bringing projects to Liberia to ensure that there is a strong monitoring policy that will allow those projects to reflect the impacts contained in their goals.
As Liberia now has a ray of hope beyond the COVID-19 period, having secured about two agreements including the US$59 million with the European Union seeking to address rural electrification under the Rural Electrification Project (REP) in the south-eastern counties, and Technical Vocational Education (TVET) for Liberian youthful population, Minister Tweah urged that there should be a strong monitoring and evaluation system by the Ministry of Education of this project, stressing that the definitive of projects in the country and quality of delivery is not "Fresh rate" and therefore need some level of improvement.
The Minister then indicated that the government has treaded with caution about borrowing money for various projects because of the mountain of debt that the country has accumulated over the last ten years. He said if partners including the World Bank, the EU and others can undertake projects here, they must ensure that they are "Transformative," whether they are in Agriculture or other areas.
He said because there is no monitoring and timely implementation, there is flexibility in the implementations of most of the projects, and the government and partners should redesign other projects in place of those weak ones that will yield benefits.
In his plea, Minister Tweah said with the signing of the agreement he expects mutual collaboration between the government and the EU as the Liberian people and their government wait with eagle eyes to see the outcome in the next six years. He also pleaded for the gender component of the project which he said he would want to see a micro-credit program for vulnerable women in the south-east.
According to the Head of the EU Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Hélèn Cavé, during a teleconference with Minister Tweah on May 22, 2020 during the signing, the projects are meant to help improve the living conditions of Liberian rural communities.
"The projects are intended to improve the living conditions of rural communities and to ensure that Liberians are trained with the right skills to meet the real needs of the economy. It's important that Liberia gets human skills for the future," Amb. Cavé said via WebEx, adding, "Water and electricity are of paramount importance to the socio-economic development of Liberia."
By that, the MFDP Minister emphasized that making the projects impactful by having a strong monitoring system and redesign of weak projects will be essential in the post-COVID-19 period.
The EU is one of Liberia's main international partners investing in many areas, but primarily in the forest sector. Acknowledging the role of the EU, Minister Tweah, seeing the current breakthrough that sets the pace for development after the COVID-19, noted: "Madam Ambassador, since I became Minister and the President took office, you have provided enormous leadership. You have always reached across Liberia especially under difficult circumstances and even in this COVID environment you are not failing to do that."
Minister Tweah further noted: "This financing agreement for rural electrification for south-eastern counties and the TVET are just some of the supports you continue to provide for Liberia."
Stressing the significance of each of the projects the $59 million will address, the Minister recalled that in time past there was a comment that without electricity and road infrastructures the country should forget about economic transformation. He, therefore, emphasized that the rural electrification project is very cardinal to the development and economic boost for Liberia that the government is looking up to seeing it addressed especially in the south-eastern counties that have infrastructure deficit.
"We know that the level of electricity in Liberia is still too low, the level of road infrastructures still too low, and the combination of those two is having a serious impact on our grants and our industrialization ambitions," Minister Tweah said.
According to Minister Tweah, the coming of the upgrading and infrastructures under the Rural Electrification Project will help to address some of the constraints.
He also noted with emphasis that prioritizing the private sector under the forthcoming project is very essential because relaxing constraints in the private sector growth is a pathway to enhancing development. He said the government should not be the largest employer or even an employer, but the Government of Liberia is the largest employer today because the private sector continues to struggle.
He added that the plan for electrification will also augment the government's Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), especially as it prioritizes increasing electricity grid, agriculture, road infrastructures, and technology.
On the TVET Project, Minister Tweah recalled that Africa faces problems with the Labor market because it cannot absorb all the young people entering therein daily.
"That is what happening in Liberia now. The number of young people entering the Labor market now, I don't have the number, is at the rate that the economy cannot withstand," said Minister Tweah.
He noted that a lot of those entering the Labor market in Liberia are deficiencies in terms of skills; something he said makes TVET essential in the plan of the PAPD to allow the youth have technical-vocational skills in useful occupations that will provide jobs for them, acknowledging, "And the fact that this project is delivering that is very welcoming."
With some plans in place for the improvement of TVET in the country, Minister Tweah said there is strategic puzzling in the circle of the government on how to make TVET viable to train young people with a focus on Agriculture, Road Infrastructure, Energy and Information Technology.
According to him, TVET institutions themselves need to be capacitated because if they are not, the students from those institutions will be weakly prepared.
"We have the LOIC, the MVTC, and there are even community colleges that are brewing, and so we have to build the capacity of those institutions to teach our young people to have the kind of skills that employers are looking for, and we really like the fact that the demand-driven module in exercising this project is consistent with the vision of the PAPD," Minister Tweah added.
He lauded the GIZ that is investing in the TVET project and said it will address the issue of rejecting job seekers in the name of "Lacking skills" that they want.