President Sirleaf Vows That Liberia Will Not Be Dependent on Foreign Aid in 10 Years,
And Will Be a Middle-Income Country by 2030
(NEW YORK, U.S.A. – Friday, September 28, 2012) President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says her government is determined that in 10 years Liberia will not be dependent on foreign aid, but will foster development on the basis of its resources. “We are determined, when I talk about the 2030 Vision, that come the year 2030, we will be a middle-income country. That’s our commitment to our people; that’s our people’s commitment to themselves,” she said amidst thunderous applause.
According to an Executive Mansion Dispatch from New York, the Liberian leader made the comments at a breakfast interaction with a cross-section of international partners at the Council on Foreign Relations, Friday, September 28. This was the President’s third such interaction at the think-tank since becoming President.
Recapping her first term, a question posed by the moderator, George Rupp, President of the International Rescue Committee, the Liberian leader catalogued the progress she’s made since becoming the country’s 24th President in 2006. She enumerated the progress her government has made that has turned Liberia from a failed state to a fragile state, and her determination to take Liberia from a fragile state to a competitive state and middle-income status by the year 2030 through Vision 2030.
She outlined a long list of challenges that still remain, including youth development, integrity, corruption, capacity building, reconciliation, judicial reform, and infrastructure. As specific areas of focus, President Sirleaf named power, ports and roads that need to be put in place to begin the country’s move forward.
A major challenge facing the country, she said, is the issue of changing the mindset; she called it “values system reordering,” describing it as the most difficult part of all. “Young people, old people, subjected to deprivation for a period of two decades, who have survived mainly by their wits any way they could, whether it was a resort to extortion, or resort to violence, or resort to dishonesty, they had to survive; it was a survival mentality, and that affects the mindset of people,” President Sirleaf indicated, asking, “How do we change that, so that everybody becomes the owner of their own society, the protector of their destiny, that they, indeed, can determine their fate and know that their country only grows by their participation, by their ownership, by their contribution?”
She indicated that the “moral rearmament” is something that she doesn’t have an answer to, but would rather look to the social scientists and others who can help to deal with that.
The Liberian President re-emphasized that with all the progress and challenges, Liberia still remains a nation of hope. If there’s anything that she has been able to accomplish, she said, is to have given Liberians hope; hope for the future; the promise of a better life; as well as the promise that, indeed, tomorrow, they can be what they want to be, on the basis of their own industry and their contribution.
Among questions from the audience, one participant asked, “Now being a Nobel Peace Laureate, are you still considering welcoming the United States’ Strategic Command Post for Africa (AFRICOM) to Liberia?”
Responding, President Sirleaf had a different perspective than is being perceived by others. ”I don’t see it as a force that would incite violence or militarism. I see it as a force that would train our own military personnel, giving them the capacity to do things,” she said. She cited a similar type of training going on in francophone African countries by the French. She said she still endorses US-AFRICOM because it has good effects of promoting infrastructure development for the country and training military personnel not only in Liberia but also the sub-region and beyond. “While there was protest about this before, I think, in light of drug trafficking, child trafficking, piracy in our area, the presence is much appreciated today.”
On the question of foreign governments’ contribution to Liberia’s reconstruction and development efforts, President Sirleaf re-emphasized that the U.S. is Liberia’s Number One partner. She named security, health, education, institution-building, infrastructure sectors as prime areas of United States assistance to Liberia. She, however, named other partners, including the People’s Republic of China, Germany, Norway, other traditional partners and multilateral institutions that are also assisting Liberia in its reconstruction efforts.
Asked about the kind of leadership that is needed, and effective, to change the future in Liberia and the continent, President Sirleaf responded: “We hope that we can inculcate the value of ownership participation. Too often because we get support, we tend to get complacent and let our partners determine our destiny and dictate our priorities. That has to change,” she said, emphasizing that Liberians have to take responsibility for their country’s development.
Liberians have to determine that the nation’s resources will be used for the country’s development, President Sirleaf said, adding, “If we can send that kind of message to our younger generation, who will be assuming leadership over the next few years, then I think the sustainability of our effort will be secured.” She added, “Today, globalization is real and we’re not to reverse it.”
Concluding, President Sirleaf said: “The interconnectivity of the world, the communication revolution, and the demonstration effect that results from that are all the realities that we’ll have to face in this world. Until each one not only takes responsibility, but recognizes that that interrelationship and that interconnectivity will not go away, then when you begin to look at the dynamics of your own situation and how it relates to the rest of the world and how you fit yourself into that moving spectrum, that’s the challenge we have to inspire and pass on to the generations that follow.”