President Sirleaf Speaks of Progress Toward Debt Relief

Thursday, 23rd August 2007
President Sirleaf addresses members of the press at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
President Sirleaf addresses members of the press at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
Photo Credit: Adama B. Thompson/Executive Mansion

Monrovia, Liberia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has addressed a major press conference in Monrovia, spotlighting among other issues, the recently passed national budget, sea erosion, security, unemployment, debt relief, infrastructure and the rehabilitation of roads as well as the repairs of bridges, particularly the Vai Town Bridge. 

The President described the increment in civil servants salaries as a modest improvement in allocations and expressed the hope that more additions would be made as government revenue capacity expands. The current 2007/2008 budget reflects a monthly minimum wage of US $55-dollars for civil servants, a US 25-dollar increment from last year’s budget. Civil servants earned a monthly minimum wage of US $15.00 (fifteen dollars) prior to the ascendancy of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government.

The President said in addition to the budget, Liberia has received significant amounts in resources from partners to supplement the activities government’s own budget can finance. The President named the institutions as the World Bank which has provided approximately 163-million dollars in grants; while the European Community has provided 15-million Euros. The President said support has also come from the United States, which, in addition to its contribution toward the country’s debt relief, has provided approximately 120-million dollars in programs for the fiscal year, while China has assisted with more than 40-million dollars.

An Executive Mansion release quotes the President as saying that government is also working towards establishing bilateral relations with many other partners supporting the country in its peace keeping operations, and noted that the figures covering the support are not reflected in government figures because contributions are channeled through the United Nations system.

On the issue of unemployment, the President expressed the hope that with the opening of the various mines, oil palm plantations and the forestry sector, employment opportunities will be available to more citizens and help reduce the unemployment rate, “so that those being affected will find employment in the private sector.”  The President called on Liberians to take advantage of vacancies being advertised in local papers, cautioning that if Liberians to do not take advantage, the positions may be offered to non-Liberians.

On Liberia’s debt burden, the President said much progress has been made with support of the G-8 industrialized countries. More effort, the President said is concentrated on the three multi-lateral Institutions, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank. President Johnson Sirleaf expressed the hope that government would have met its commitments by the end of September. The process, the President said, would form the basis for assurances from the multilateral institutions that Liberia’s debt would be canceled. The Liberian leader told the news conference that the exercise is tied to the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, which will lead to the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPIC). The Chief Executive said she was optimistic that the processes being put into effect by government would meet the benchmark to qualify Liberia to access more resources from lending institutions.

Liberia’s ability to access financial resources from multi-lateral lending institutions is restricted due to the country’s huge debt arrears now put at more than US 4-billion dollars.

Thursday’s Press Conference by the President was the second this year. The President hosted her first conference for the year in January.

Click here to listen.