Liberia Country Profile 2012-2013
A long period of political stability and relatively good macroeconomic development, but under a monarchy dominated by the so-called Americo-Liberians (originally freed slaves), ended in 1980 with a bloody coup of “master sergeant” S. Doe, a representative for the oppressed local ethnic groups. Economic downturns and increased polarization led to a 14 year civil war (1989–2003). Around 270,000 people were killed, 700,000 displaced, 70 percent of public infrastructure destroyed and gross domestic product dropped radically as a result of the war.
After the war, the security situation was stabilized with heavy UN presence and nearly 500,000 internally displaced persons and refugees from neighboring countries returned. Free elections were held in 2005. The election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Harvard graduate and Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state, helped make Liberia the favorite of international donors, who flocked to build the country after the total devastation of the war.
However, the traces of the civil war are still very noticeable in the form of destroyed infrastructure and lack of basic services and skilled labor, which is a serious obstacle to economic development. According to the statistics by CountryAAH, Liberia is thus one of the ten poorest countries in the world, with 60 percent of the population living on less than $ 1 a day.
President Johnson Sirleaf at the head of the Unity Party was re-elected in November 2011 after winning the second round of elections over Winston Tubman of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) with “1995 Soccer Player of the Year” in George Weah as Vice Presidential candidate. 10 opposition parties urged their supporters to boycott the second round of the election because of alleged electoral fraud, but international election observers accepted the election and the CDC decided not to contest the election results before the courts, with the unanimous legislative assembly being given more mandates than the election in 2005, but did not achieve a majority and must still rely on support from other parties on a case-by-case basis, for example, working with descendants of warlord Charles Taylor’s old National Patriotic Front party,countering attempts at a civil war settlement proved to be a problem for the president’s opportunity to reform the country.
The authorities’ lack of capacity for the implementation of political decisions, poor cooperation between the government and the national assembly and poorly developed party life mean that there is still a long way to go to a viable democracy. In the annual Democracy Index of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Liberia comes in the “hybrid regime” class in line with Uganda and Zambia, countries that have good external signs of democracy but are hampered by poor capacity that impedes citizens’ ability to exercise their rights
The security situation is fragile but stable. The justice sector is in dire need of reform and capacity building. Corruption is high at all levels. The country ranks 91st (out of 182) on the Transparency International Corruption Index, while the same organization’s global corruption barometer shows that 89 percent of its citizens paid bribes to a public official in 2010. The post-civil reconciliation process has not gone in depth. One of the reasons has been that the final report to the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, among others. recommended that President Sirleaf, along with 48 other Liberians, be banned from public office for 30 years. The president had supported rebel Charles Taylor at an early stage before Taylor had begun his human rights violations.
Liberia has had a good growth in the economy in recent years, from a very low starting point. Economic growth was 7.3 percent of GDP in 2011, and growth was expected at 9 percent in 2012. The country has large potential resources in agriculture, forestry and mining, especially iron ore. In recent years, several major licensing agreements have been signed with foreign mining companies and agricultural companies, which require investments of approx. $ 16 billion over 20 years, which could make a significant contribution to Liberia’s economy next year. Liberia’s high foreign debt, which was 800 percent of GDP, was reduced by over 90 percent through the International Debt Reduction Process (HIPC).
The economy depends on the development of agriculture, which accounts for more than 60 percent of GDP, and in particular rubber production. Traditional food production is small and many foods are imported, such as eggs and chicken. Industrial production accounts for 13 percent of GDP. The most important industry is breweries and cement production. The banking and other service industries were severely affected by the war, but over the past few years Liberian and foreign banks have re-established themselves. Liberia has the world’s second largest register for ships under the flag of convenience, with no more revenue for the Treasury than $ 15 million a year. African Petroleum and Chevron have found traces of oil in the Liberian sector. African Petroleum is working to investigate whether their discoveries are worthwhile. ExxonMobile recently acquired an exploration license.
Social situation and human rights
The situation for political and civil rights has improved greatly since the end of the civil war, but public enforcement varies greatly. Domestic violence is widespread, and women and children are particularly at risk. Although legislation exists, enforcement is lacking. Women are to a small extent represented in decision-making bodies.
The press and civil society enjoy relatively great freedom and diversity is great, but as in other countries in the region, a lack of expertise and resources hamper the participation of civil society in political life.
The number of refugees from the crisis in the Ivory Coast in 2011 of 170,000 has been reduced to 60,000 in line with normalization there and is likely to continue to decline.
63 percent of all births in Liberia occur outside hospitals, in a country where 40 percent live in rural areas with poor access to transport and very poor roads. The six-month rainy season makes accessibility difficult. Nearly 100 percent of children start primary school, but the quality is poor and the dropout rate is high. Reading and writing skills are 60 percent.
Liberia faces major challenges
A reconciliation process after the civil war must begin, and the security situation must be strengthened considering that the UN forces are being withdrawn in a few years. It is important to find work for youth and former warriors in the civil war, and land ownership is a combustible political issue that needs clarification. The judiciary and the police must be prepared and the corruption must be greatly reduced. So far, it does not appear that the president has used the electoral victory to address these issues vigorously. Hopefully, improved finances will give her a better opportunity to fight youth unemployment, which could otherwise be a source of turmoil.