A two-day Cabinet Retreat, called to review progress on Government's “Lift Liberia” Poverty Reduction Strategy, ended Saturday in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, with a success story that 86% of programs targeted in the 190-page document has been realized.
The PRS is the government's three-year development and reform program (2008-2011 June 30) that has four basic pillars including Peace and Security, Economic Revitalization, Governance and Rule of Law, and Rehabilitation of Basic Infrastructure and Restoration of Basic Social services.
The cost of implementation is estimated at US$1.6 billion, with the government looking up to donors to fund at least two-thirds (at least US$1 billion).
Planning and Economic Affairs Minister, Amara Konneh, whose Ministry spearheads the Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC), said that Planning will press for a six-month extension for implementation of PRS, due to end June 30, 2011.
Minister Konneh said that despite the 86 percent success recorded in the overall implementation of the program, more time was needed to tackle 30 projects which will not be completed by the June 30 end date.
“We have achieved an overall of 86 percent implementation,” Minister Konneh reported, but insisted that the target is to achieve a 100 percent success rate as the country transitions to a long-term development agenda.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf earlier urged Liberians to review concession agreements entered into by Government to better appreciate what benefits they contain.
Concession agreement falls under one of the four PRS pillars, Economic revitalization. A total of at least US$16 billion in concession agreements has been signed in the country, though the impact is year to be felt. Many of the agreements have been criticized, especially by opposition politicians.
“It is only when citizens read the documents, and understands the benefits the country will accrue, that they will appreciate the benefits which Liberia stands to reap,” the President said.
The concession agreements, the Liberian leader indicated, are not secret documents; they are available for citizens who desire more information.
With noticeable progress reported in the implementation of year two of the Strategy, the President lauded the efforts of the individuals and institutions that have contributed immensely towards the success of the program, the Executive mansion said.
Liberia's progress, the President said, must be judged from the context of “not what we have achieved but from where we have come.”
The President highlighted the policies and programs that have been put in place by Government to address the needs of the country and its people, but cautioned that it would take time to achieve tangible results.
She spoke specifically of the increased enrollment in schools, but urged the relevant Government ministries and agencies to address the issue of teachers' salaries and those of nurses. “It needs to come to an end so that the legitimate people will get paid,” according to an Executive Mansion release quoting the President.
Earlier, the Ministers of Defense, Finance, and Public Works, and the Director-General of the Civil Service Agency made presentations, in their capacity as Chairs of the four Pillars of the Poverty Reduction Strategy, outlining the successes and challenges in implementation of activities pertaining to Peace and Security, Economic Revitalization, Infrastructure and Basic Services, and Governance and the Rule of Law, respectively.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, His Honor Johnnie N. Lewis, and Justice Minister Christiana Tah, also made interventions concerning the Rule of Law sub-pillar.
The United Nations Mission in Liberia, represented by Deputy Special Representative Moustapha Soumare, welcomed Government's continued engagement with development partners, calling it an indication that the Government is determined to deliver and deliver well.
He hoped that all involved would maintain the focus because turning words into action implementation was always the most difficult part. “Let's dig deep and strive for the goals set,” he urged.
The UN is encouraged that Government is assuming full ownership of its development priorities, the DSRSG said.
A national capacity strategy must be supported, and he hoped that the long-term development strategy being formulated would be a reality. He urged all partners to support the vision. “We have made progress but we must not lose focus of the challenges ahead,” the Deputy SRSG said.
Cabinet Ministers and their Deputies, development partners as well as officials of diplomatic missions accredited near Monrovia, including the Ambassadors of the United States and the People's Republic of China, also attended the two-day Buchanan Cabinet Review Retreat.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday chaired the opening of the two-day Retreat to review progress and challenges in the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).
Following President Johnson Sirleaf's opening remarks, the chairs of the four pillars of the PRS the Minister of National Defense for Peace and Security; the Minister of Finance for Economic Revitalization; the Director General of the Civil Service Agency for Governance and Rule of Law; and the Minister of Public Works for Infrastructure and Basic Services made presentations.
This was followed by an interactive question-and-answer period, after which the participants moved into 15 break-out groups for strategic planning and review.
At a tete-a-tete meeting with county superintendents and assistant development superintendents on Thursday evening, President Johnson Sirleaf said that reports about the misuse of funds intended for the development of the country's 15 political sub-divisions are troubling and must be addressed.
Funds set aside under the County Development Fund and other financial programs are meant to develop the counties and help improve the welfare of the citizens and not to enrich Superintendents, she added.
The President reminded local county officials of their responsibilities in articulating Government's development programs and said they would be held accountable to promote those objectives.“You are our direct representatives appointed to promote and implement Government's development policies; if you cannot do so, you have failed,” the Liberian leader reminded the county officials.
She urged county officials to remain focused on the development objectives of Government to generate the desired impact. County officials, she noted, were appointed not because of their political alliances but for their commitment to Government's development programs. President Johnson Sirleaf said officials with political ambitions are free to pursue their objectives, but cautioned that such objectives will not be allowed to interfere with the development aspirations of Government.
In separate briefings, the superintendents thanked the President for the support, despite some challenges, particularly regarding the deplorable road conditions which continue to impede development.
They spoke of increased agricultural activities and school enrollment in their respective counties. They also urged the President to lift the restriction recently imposed on the use of the County Development Funds to help speed up development projects in their counties.