Together they met President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, her Cabinet, Heads of Agencies and representatives of government institutions and reaffirmed the international community’s backing for the reform process and their readiness to help Liberia rebuild its institutions and public services.
Hilary Benn, on his first visit to Liberia, announced increased funding from the UK, bringing the annual support for Liberia to $18 million (£10 million). The extra aid will help the Government fight corruption, maintain peace and security, extend support for basic services such as health care and access to clean water, and maintain humanitarian assistance.
Commenting, Hilary Benn said:
“Dealing with corruption and strengthening the Government’s ability to track and monitor spending are essential to help rebuild Liberia’s economy after years of civil war. So too is delivering basic services so that people have access to clean water and health care. That’s why we are increasing UK’s aid to Liberia and backing the reform process introduced by President Johnson Sirleaf.
“The challenges are great, but we are committed to playing our part – alongside the
international community – to help the Government build a better life for the people of Liberia.”
During their visit, Dr Kaberuka and Mr Benn met health workers and patients at Clara Town Clinic to see for themselves the challenges facing the health system and how aid from various donors reaches those that need it. The Government facility, which sees 200 patients per day, has 39 staff and one doctor on call, is supported by the Medicins Sans Frontiers (Belgium). TB medication is provided by the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria, to which the UK provides funding, via the Ministry of Health.
They also met representatives of various civil society organisations such as the Mano River Women’s Peace Network, the community empowerment group LACE, and the human rights group FIND, as well as faith groups and NGOs to listen to their concerns, and hear their views about dealing with corruption and how the international community can best support development in Liberia. Mr Benn and Dr Kabaruka both stressed their commitment to work more effectively together as part of the international community to support Liberia.
Dr Kaberuka underscored the African Development Bank’s commitment to support the Government of Liberia in its efforts to reconstruct the country. He commended the efforts so far to improve economic management and reform and welcomed their endeavours to re-engage with the international community.
“Turning around Liberia’s economy and improving people’s lives is important not only for Liberia, but for the region and for Africa. And, as the African Development Bank develops its approach for fragile states, the lessons learnt from Liberia will be important for other countries in similar post-conflict situations.”
Dr Kaberuka also highlighted the need for the Liberian Government to build capacity, and pointed to the ADB’s forthcoming Institutional Support Project for Economic Management and Governance in Liberia.
Liberia’s significant debt problems were also discussed during the visit. Currently, Liberia has around $3.7 billion of external debt, including substantial arrears to the multilateral development agencies: the World Bank, African Development Bank and the IMF. Both Mr Benn and Dr Kaberuka recognised Liberia’s urgent need for a resolution to enable the same multilateral development agencies to support the Government’s national development plan and expressed their commitment to help find a solution.
Mr Benn said the UK stands ready to support Liberia through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries’ (HIPC) Initiative which would lead to Liberia’s debts being cancelled once its financial systems and processes met with expected international standards and it has shown its commitment to poverty reduction by implementing its Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Both noted the good start being made in managing Liberia’s economic governance – such as better auditing controls, transparent financial systems and revenue collection – through the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme (GEMAP). GEMAP is fundamental to Liberia’s prospects, they said and encouraged the Government to maintain its strong support for its successful implementation.
Mr Benn concluded:
“We both remain strongly committed to helping Liberia and we commit our agencies to do all they can to help Liberians meet the major challenges of national recovery in order to build a better future for themselves.”