Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweh at the head of a Liberian Government delegation, on Sunday, April 15, held a town hall consultation on the government's pro-poor agenda with Liberians in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States of America.
Minister Tweh told the Liberians that the government was in the process of formulating a new national development plan and needed to hear from all sectors of Liberians, their vision for the Country in order to inform the direction and design of the pro-poor agenda. " The President sent us to consult with you to craft a new vision to replace the Agenda for Transformation. We cannot craft a vision without hearing from you." Minister Tweh told the gathering of Liberians.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Minister Tweh said the Government's strategy is to use developing countries including Rwanda, Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire as benchmarks and apply lessons learned to develop Liberia. The Minister said currently, a comparison of the education, health, commerce and other sectors show that Liberia is lacking far behind these countries, a situation that has to change.
According to a dispatch from Liberia's Mission to the United Nations, Minister Tweh identified weak macroeconomic performance, poor infrastructure, deplorable education and health systems, wasteland of Liberian agriculture and extremely weak private sector as problems that need to be addressed.
The Finance and Development Minister said the Pro-Poor Agenda will aim to change the situation through a more effective and efficient national budget execution, massive investment in road infrastructure, support to the private sector, empowerment of young people and ensuring an end to gender and social vulnerabilities among others.
Minister Tweh explained that critical investments would also be made to improve access to and quality of education and build human capacity in the health sector.
He informed the gathering that first steps have already been taken through the recasting of the budget that reduced budget deficit by 31 percent and generated US$ 9.6 million in savings that are paying for 13 pro-poor budget items.
The Minister also spoke of the negotiation of a 536 million loan to fund the construction of roads connecting coastal cities. "The Government of Liberia has entered an MOU with Eton Finance Private Limited for funding the Buchanan – Cestos City – Greenville Barclayville Road Project, the Barclayville – Sasstown Road Project, the Barclayville – Pleebo Road Project, the Medina - Robertsport Road Project, the Tubmanburg – Bopolu Road Project and other associated projects. The Loan is highly concessional: Seven year Grace period, no accrued interest and no interest payment during the grace period" said Minister Tweh.
During an interactive session that followed the presentation, several Liberians complained about the high taxes and difficulties in bringing in goods and services into the country and doing business in Liberia in general. They urged the government to reform the sector and make doing business easier.
Other Liberians at the town hall meeting proposed that the Pro-Poor agenda prioritize and invest in fighting corruption, provision of electricity and water across the country, increasing salaries for teachers and nurses, and capacity building for the aviation sector among others.
In response, the Minister of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism Eugene Nagbe thanked the Liberians for turning up for the event and assured that their inputs will be included in the new development plan to be launched before June 30, 2018.
Minister Nagbe emphasized that the George Weah Presidency is not business as usual and assured that development plans will be effected in a timely fashion.
The Minister of Agriculture Morgana Flomo, Minister of State without Portfolio Trokon Kpui and Deputy Minister for Economic Management Agustus Flomo also form part of the Liberian delegation.