THERE HAS BEEN some sort of euphoric celebration from the government and its supporters upon receipt of the news last week that since 2018 Liberia has for the first time successfully passed 12 of the 20 thematic benchmarks of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which underscore consideration for a compact support.
THE MCC SCORECARDS consolidate an individual country’s scores for each of the policy indicators, such as the country’s commitment to democratic governance, investing in its people and economic freedom.
A BREAKDOWN OF Liberia’s success this year shows that the country decisively dealt with inflation which was brought down from 29% in 2020 to 7.8% currently. There was a resounding 100% score recorded under “Employment Opportunity”, which implies that Liberia showed strong commitment to ending forced labor, preventing employment discrimination, and protecting the rights of workers and people with disabilities, as well as passing the Rule of Law indicator, which is driven by the unrelenting efforts of Liberia in the fight against Human Trafficking.
ALSO, ACCORDING TO the breakdown, there was great improvement on democratic rights indicators which the report referred to as “Control of corruption”, and the existence of “political rights” which got a pass mark at 88%, an indication that the country is committed to the holding of free, fair and transparent elections as was demonstrated in previous elections since 2018; the rights being enjoyed by political parties and the unhindered participation of every citizen in the political process of the country; as well as the improvement on trade policy which was recorded at 74%.
THESE FEATS ARE commendable especially from the background where the government has never recorded any success in scaling through the hurdle since it was inaugurated in 2018. The ‘victory’ as others may call it, signifies that the government has demonstrated enough willpower to undo some serious challenges that are obstacles in obtaining some assistance through the attainment of targeted goals, for which we must emphatically commend the government on passing the MCC Scorecard for the first time.
BE AS IT MAY, we would however like to offer words of caution to the government and its supporters who have begun the celebration because according to them, the hurdle has been cleared and Liberia can now receive all the assistance or benefits attached to passing the MCC Scorecard.
TO THIS, WE would like to first of all draw the attention of the government, its supporters and interested audience to the statement from the US Ambassador to Liberia, Mr. Michael McCarthy, that while it was good news that Liberia passed the scorecard, that does not automatically qualify Liberia for the Compact. He said there are other countries lined up for the compact assistance as well, having equally passed the scorecard, for which funds are limited.
BUT WHAT WAS noteworthy as part of the requirements to qualify for compact support, which was re-echoed by Ambassador McCarthy, was that countries need to pass the scorecard multiple years before being considered for the compact; especially given our own situation where this is the first time Liberia has ever made a pass after several years of failure.
FURTHER EXAMINATION OF the other conditions, such as the country’s policy performance over time using the standard indicator methodology; the opportunity to reduce poverty and generate economic growth in the country and the country’s performance in implementing its previous compact, including evidence of a commitment to further reform, put Liberia in a very tight corner to receive the expected compact assistance. It is therefore foolhardy for any celebration to be sustained by the government and its supporters in the wake of these stark realities.
FOR INSTANCE, BY using the standard indicator method it will be difficult for the government to pinpoint tangible reasons if the policy performance of the government was anything to be considered as serious. The Ambassador has on several occasions lambasted the government for doing little or nothing to curb the wave of corruption and impunity in the country. We are fully aware that the US State Department through the Embassy here has a major say on decisions that border on corruption and impunity, which in the final analysis defines the direction of the US government’s assistance towards any country.
SECONDLY, THERE IS no doubt about it that there is pervasive poverty in the country, and it can be reflected in the physical living conditions of the people. There are more school going age children that are out of schools today because of lack of money from parents and guardians to send their children to school. Many families are finding it very difficult to feed on a daily basis just as prices of goods and services are skyrocketing and shops and other businesses are folding up.
MORE UNFORTUNATELY, THERE has not been any significant foreign direct investment to offer jobs and other opportunities to the citizens even as the only major concessionaire in the country, ArcelorMittal, is having a running battle with the government to ratify its Mineral Development Agreement (MDA) deal that should be seeing it investing up to a billion United States Dollars that will create more jobs, pump more revenue in government’s coffer and provide other opportunities for the citizens.
THIRDLY, WE DOUBT that Liberia’s past performance with its previous compact could be satisfactory to the authorities at MCC. After spending millions of dollars on the electricity sector, much results are yet to be seen especially in the wake of the several condemnations from Ambassador McCarthy on the issue of power theft in the country where he blamed the management at the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) for not only colluding with others to rob the entity and the government, but for exerting little or no seriousness to ensure the survival of LEC, which is a key beneficiary of the MCC compact.
THESE AND MANY other reasons not cited here are concerning, and it is high time the government starts to employ strategies to convince the MCC authorities that they are fully prepared to exercise due diligence and apply all the conditions a country must fulfill before qualifying for any compact.
It is in this light that we urge the government to cool down on its celebratory mood and concentrate on addressing the issues raised herein, so as not to receive a brutal shock if another compact assistance does not come our way.