Monrovia — Liberia's international partners have written to President George Manneh Weah on holding the 2022 National Housing and Population Census planned by the Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
They believe Liberia's fifth census since 1964 and the first digital census must be held in October to provide important information for development planning.
On behalf of the partners, which include ECOWAS and the United Nations, UN Resident Coordinator Niels Scott outlined gains made by the steering committee despite significant delays caused by Covid-19 and other unforeseen reasons.
The partners have presented a vote of confidence on LISGIS' ability and technical knowhow to conduct the census.
"Logistical equipment and supplies have been procured and enumeration staff are in place. Substantial financial resources to conduct the census are available," said Scott in a 25 July letter co-signed by Finance & Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., who chairs LISGIS board.
"LISGIS have completed the geographical mapping and a pilot census (pre-test census), which has informed the preparation for the actual census. 21,000 tablets and 21,000 power banks have been secured from Ghana through a south-south cooperation with Liberia."
Financial implication of postponement
The Senate, after a lengthy plenary discussion on 16 June, moved the census to March 18-30, 2023 pending a concurrence by the House of Representatives although LISGIS had proposed 16-28 October.
The partners have advised President Weah about the financial implications and ramifications of that decision based on a steering committee meeting held on 4 July.
If the census is postponed to March, they argued, the obligatory payments to census staff will be US$695,500, which will significantly reduce to US$139,100 if the census is conducted in November and US$278,200 if it is conducted in December.
The postponement will also affect the loan agreement between Liberia and
Ghana regarding the provision of 21,000 tablets and power banks respectively.
It means the government and its partners will have to allocate US$5,355,000 to purchase its own electronic gadgets, which will be associated with a long procurement.
The partners also warned about donor fatigue regarding the payment of nearly US$800,000 if the census isn't held in October due to an agreement on the census project, which ends in December.
A postponement to December means the government and its partners must raise US$2 million amid global economic challenges.
In total, more than US$8.8 million would have been lost if the census wasn't held in October.
"Your Excellency, the census is a legacy project for the government and its conduct will be a significant achievement for the citizens.
"If conducted in October, the census will be a milestone for Liberia to celebrate as it would: (a) provide the much-needed reliable data for development planning, (b) enable measurement of progress on national development and (c) inform the world in November of Liberia's contribution to the global population of eight billion," Niels wrote.
They have assured Weah of the necessary financial, technical, logistical and administrative arrangements that have been put in place to ensure that the census is held unhindered.
LISGIS has been working with the speed of light to meet these timelines.
A second application for field staff ended on 14 August with recruitment scheduled for August 29 to September 2 and training expected to kick-off mid-September to early October ahead of deployment on 15 October.
A national stakeholder engagement conference, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), was held at the Monrovia City Hall on 26 August.
A meeting with House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Deputy Speaker Fonati Koffa and the leadership; UNFPA Resident Representative Bidisha Pillai, LISGIS acting Director-General Wilmot F. Smith, Jr. and Deputy Director-General for administration Lawrence George took place on 23 August.
A national establishment census stakeholders' workshop to ease data collection on the field was held with the business community on 16 August.
A capacity building strategy and action plan workshop to enhance statistical work in Liberia was held at LISGIS for national statistical systems on 12 August.
A 10-day training for the provisioning and to insert geographic and cartographic mappings on the tablets ended on 15 August while the coding on the tablets per county has started.
LISGIS and partners have been regularly meeting to ensure that census are held in October with preliminary results available on 11 November and final results on 25 November due to the digital nature which will enable the immediate transmission of field data to the data center once collected.
President Weah, based on the exigency of the issues raised, recalled the legislature from its constituency break on 9 August for a month (15 August to 13 September) to discuss and act upon matters of national emergency, including setting-up of a new census date.
LISGIS management and board chair Tweah are expected to appear before the plenary at the legislature on August 30 to explain why the census must be held in October. Liberia's last census was held in March 2008