World Bank Unveils More Support for Liberia -Gives Update At Retreat On Handsome Envelop in Offing

MONROVIA: While skeptics were conjecturing that external post-elections interventions for the current political establishment would follow the usual “wait-and-see” attitude by international financial institutions – a situation that marred a number of unlucky political administrations in the past – it seems the World Bank Group (WBG) is breaking off. Less than five months of the newly elected Joseph Boakai administration, the Briton Woods is not wasting anytime before joining forces with its Liberian partners to respond the ever-worsening socioeconomic state of the Liberian people. In fact, the WBG was pretty seated at the administration’s first cabinet retreat intended to brainstorm and share notes with its domestic counterparts on how to accelerate the government development agenda. As The Analyst reports, so much goodies intended to underpin the UP-Government’s ARREST Agenda was unveiled by the Bank, which is arguably one of the biggest supporters of Liberia.

The World Bank Group, which attended the maiden cabinet retreat of the Boakai administration, has re-echoed its determination to support Liberia’s development efforts through its Country Partnership Framework (CPF) that will be rolled out in the critical sectors germane to reset the country’s development path.

In its presentation, copy in the possession of The Analyst Newspaper, the WBG said it would deepen its partnership with Liberia through the Framework that focuses on the ARREST Agenda, the National Development Plan of the government, as well as on other overarching development program such as the Liberia Rising 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

In the context of the new vision and mission of the WBG which is summed up in “Ending Poverty on a Livable Planet”, the institution seeks to accelerate progress on the SDGs with focus on eight global challenges that include climate change and mitigation, fragility and conflict, pandemic prevention and preparedness.

Others are energy access, food and nutrition security, water security and access, enabling digitalization, protecting biodiversity and nature.

The World Bank assured the fledging Boakai administration that it will set up a “One WBG Engagement”, and that going forward, 45% of WBG financing will foster Liberia’s climate adaptation and resilience.

“We will adapt through greater privatization and selectivity. Strategic partnerships will be essential for scaling results that matter for the Liberian people.”

Earlier during her presentation on Saturday, May 25, 2024 at the occasion, Georgia Wallen, World Bank Liberia Country Manager said she and her team were excited for the rare opportunity to interact with the Boakai Administration at a decisive moment for the country, highlighting three points that were key in the presentation.

She noted that the World Bank was impressed seeing the enthusiasm and strong showing of Liberia’s development partners joining government’s first development brainstorming dialogue, something she said signals keen interest on the part of international partners to engage with the Government of Liberia in order to understand its priorities and support the leadership of Liberia’s development agenda.

“I hope this will also send a message to the Liberian people. The message is that international partners care deeply about their well-being and are actively investing in their future,” she further asserted.

“I want to affirm, on behalf of my World Bank group colleagues, that this is our greatest motivation.  Our mission to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity on a livable planet places people at the core – the Liberian people, especially youth and women,” she said.

Ms. Wallen said over the course of discussions,” let’s aim to drive towards concrete next steps and listen for areas of convergence.  Convergence around shared priorities is the foundation for future partnership.”

Amidst cheers from the audience, Wallen said: “One point of convergence is already very clear: we all agree on the urgency of this moment, with no time to waste in the six years to 2030. This is a defining moment for Liberia, and we are all committed to making the most of it”.

Observers believe the presentation by the WBG is seen as a major boost to the government that is eager to change the narrative of the development in the country and vowed to deliver on all key promises made to the citizens during the 2023 general elections.

Few days back, it rolled out a report that catalogued its major achievements, tagged “100-Day Deliverables” – a set of development initiatives undertaken since its inauguration on January 22, 2024.

The Cabinet Retreat brought together top officials of government, mainly from the executive branch, presided over by President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Vice President Jeremiah Kpan Koung. There are a throng of members of the Cabinet, development partners, members of the diplomatic corps, and some major stakeholders in the governance structure of the country.

Startling statistics

Without making inquiry why the World Bank Group is not sparing a moment to link up with the Boakai administration salvage the socioeconomic challenges faced by Liberia, the statistics flaunted in its presentation at the retreat speak volumes.

According to the World Bank, all spheres of life in Liberia is bedeviled. For instance, on Human Capital Outcomes, the Bank noted that Liberia’s Human Capital Index (HCI) is 0.32, and that a child born in Liberia today is expected to be only 32 percent as productive when they grow up as they could be if they enjoyed complete education and full health.

“Liberia’s GDP per capita could be almost 3.1 times higher if the country reached the benchmarks of education and health,” the Group stated. “This is equivalent to  2.3 percentage points of extra annual growth over the next 50 years.”

The World Bank brands Liberia’s educations sector as a “Silent Crisis”.

On expected years of schooling, the Bank states that there is a learning-adjusted years of schooling in Liberia, which is the the lowest in the world.

“15-20 percent of children aged 6 to 14 were not enrolled in basic education,” said the World Banking, adding that 40 percent of students who start first grade drop out of school before completing primary education.

Regarding Liberia’s health sector, the Bank noted: “Between 2015-2019, 9 in every 100 children died before the age of 5. Forty percent of these deaths were in the first month of life (neonatal period).

Malaria continues to be a major cause of mortality. Twenty-two in every 100 15-year-olds will not survive to the age of 60.”

While indicating that addressing these development challenges require strong policies and institutions, the World Bank nevertheless divulged a number of stark challenges.

It states that Liberia’s policy and institutional assessment score has been stagnant at 3.0 on a scale of 6 since 2020, and also that Governance and structural policies have been the least performing categories.

“A whole-of-government approach to strengthening policies and institutions is key, including for leveraging IDA financing for development,” the WBG also asserted in its presentation at the UP government’s first cabinet retreat.

Moving Forward

As a point of departure, the World Bank says its strategy now is to focus on Liberia’s core development constraints, and that it will work in partnership focusing on areas of human capital, infrastructure and institutions building. It states that it will focus “Institutions for Inclusive Growth, Economic Opportunities through Human Capital and Narrowing the Infrastructure Gap”.

Commitments to those efforts, according to the WBG include, for National Portfolio commitments in the tune of $928m, with an undisbursed balance of $423m, and percentage disbursed to 54 percent. On the commitments on International Portfolio, the Bank reported: commitments: $144m, undisbursed balance $124m; percentage disbursed, 14% and percentage disbursed at 54%.

The WBG also spoke of upcoming new projects to address Boakai administration priorities. The three major interventions include the Governance Reform and Accountability Transformation (GREAT) Project of $30M with the aims to enhance access to selected digitally-provided public services, raise tax revenues, and improve the openness of accountability institutions.

The second project is the “Liberia Energy Sector Strengthening and Access Project, Phase 2 (LESSAP 2) valued at $45m. the project, according to the Bank, is intended Aims to increase access to sustainable, reliable and affordable energy in the program areas in Liberia; potential to reach over 500,000 people.

The third is the “Early dialogue on policy support to promote inclusive growth and climate resilience.”

According to the Bank, its collaboration with the Boakai government is expected to result into the following outcomes: Increased attention to Fiduciary and Environmental and social aspects of project implementation; Increased pace of procurement and continuous contract monitoring; Joint monitoring of possible risks and proactive risk mitigation measures; Regular portfolio check-ins and periodic joint portfolio reviews; continuous capacity building and strengthening.

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