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Liberia

Sekondi Accra

In November of 2010, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf dismissed all but one of her cabinet members in an effort to clear the political slate before the polls. As a result she was re-elected as president and even though Johnson Sirleaf enjoys widespread international support, especially from the United States, she faces mixed domestic popularity. Many Liberians express frustation at the pace of progress. For instance the final report (2009) of the country's Truth and Reconcilation Commission, addressing the consequences of Liberia's 14-year civil war, had been expected to dominate the political debate leading up to the 2011 vote, but none of its recommendations have been implemented. Her administration will probably take steps toward inplementing some of the reports suggestions.

National institutions are gaining strength. The National Elections Commission, the Land Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission all have more authority, but they lack capacity. The government has made a concerted effort to attract members of the diaspora to help fill the gap in skills and push government reforms. The export based economy suffered during the 2010 financil crisis, when prices fell for Liberia's primary exports: iron ore, palm oil, vulcanized rubber and specialty timber. However, economic activity has since strengthened thanks to a stable exchange rate and subdued inflation, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at 7.2% in 2010, down from 17.5% in 2008. The IMF forecasts that growth in real GDP, which was 4.6% in 2009, will be 6.3% in 2010 and 9.5% in 2011.

Export growth has been escalated by rising rubber production and prices. Foreign investment is rising, led by several iron ore and palm oil deals, with about 10 billion dollars committed to Libera for 2010-2011. Petroleum is the latest natural resource to emerge as a potentila source of revenue, following a discovery off Sierra Leone near the border with Liberia in 2009. In September 2010, Chevron signed a three-year agreement to explore for oil and gas.

Liberia is also opening its land for agricultural development, particularly palm-oil production. Sime Darby, the world's biggest publicly listed planter and one of Malysia's leading corporations, has acquired a sixty-three (63) year lease to 545,000 acres for this purpose and plans to spend some $3.1 billion developing the land. Even though the land in question has long been inhabited by the indigenous resident's tribal ancestors, the Liberian government strongly supports the venture despite protests.

The fiscal situation has also been improved by debt-relief commitments. Relief amounting to $4.6 billion dollars was facilitated by the IMF and World Bank in June 2010 after Liberia met the requirments for the Heavily Indebted Poor Country initiative. The 19-nation Paris Club group of creditors cancelled a further $1.2 billion dollars debt in September 2010. The government states the money saved will go to infrastructure and social services. But government capacity remains limited. It will be difficult for Monrovia to find adequate funding for essential programs, although there is at least the promise of increasing revenues, which are expected to reach $353 million dollars in 2011, up from $301 billion dollars in 2010.

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Liberia maintains an embassy in the United States at 5201 16th Street, NW, Washington DC, 202-723-0437.
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