Photograph — Toronto Star

On October 10, Liberians decided who would be its next president. They came out to vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. There were 100 senatorial contestants vying for 15 seats and almost 900 contestants for 73 seats in the House of Representatives.

This was the fourth post-war presidential election in the country. The current President, George Weah, represented the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), who was elected in 2017 and competed in an electoral race against 19 other candidates. Among his opponents are former Vice President Joseph Boakai from the Unity Party (UP) and businessman Alexander Cummings of the Collaborating Political Party (CPP).

A major concern for many voters is the economic situation of the country, the inflation rate still stands at 6.9%. Liberia has a high poverty rate, with over 50 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Its GDP has experienced fluctuations and relatively slow growth in recent years.

In 2022, the GDP growth decreased to 4.0%, down from the 5.0% reported in 2021. This decline was mainly due to significant growth in the mining and construction sectors on the supply side and heightened infrastructure investments on the demand side. The slower growth can be attributed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which led to increased commodity prices and constrained fiscal resources. But the inflation decreased from 7.9% in 2021 to 7.4% in 2022, driven by a consistent decrease in domestic food prices.

The fiscal deficit expanded significantly in 2022, reaching an estimated 4.8% of GDP, up from 2.4% in the previous year. This widening deficit results from increased expenditure on infrastructure and wages. As of October 2022, the public debt had also risen to 54.6% of GDP, compared to 53.2% in 2021, reflecting an increase in borrowing activities.

GeoPoll conducted a survey ahead of Liberia’s elections to feel the pulse of the people. The survey showed that there is a lack of confidence in the government’s capacity to address Liberia’s challenges, with 65.85% expressing low to deficient trust levels. Meanwhile, a significant majority (78.3%) believe corruption is rampant within the government and public institutions. The survey paints a grim picture of the socio-economic environment, with 81% describing the current level of poverty as severe. Employment challenges are prevalent, as almost 92% of respondents struggle to find stable employment.

As a new president takes office, the task of revitalizing the economy becomes paramount. To address the issue of poor economic growth in Liberia, the incoming president must take a conscientious approach toward improving the people’s standard of living.

Corruption has long plagued Liberia’s economic and political landscape, hindering foreign investment and eroding public trust. Transparency International ranks Liberia 142 out of 180 on its Corruption Perceptions Index. The new president must prioritize the fight against corruption through robust anti-corruption measures and strengthening institutions responsible for enforcing the rule of law. Transparency and accountability should be at the forefront of government operations to regain the confidence of both domestic and international investors.

Effective management of the nation’s finances is crucial for economic growth. The president should work towards reducing budget deficits and curbing public debt. This can be achieved by implementing prudent fiscal policies, reducing unnecessary government expenditures, and enhancing revenue collection through fair and efficient taxation. A well-balanced budget will improve economic stability and attract investment.

Invest in infrastructure

Inadequate infrastructure is a significant barrier to economic growth in Liberia. The new president should prioritize roads, ports, energy, and telecommunications investments to facilitate trade, reduce transportation costs, and attract foreign investment. Public-private partnerships can be explored to finance and develop critical infrastructure projects.

Diversify economy

Two of Liberia’s main exports are iron ore and rubber, over-reliance on these commodities has left Liberia vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations. The new president should encourage diversification of the economy by promoting sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and technology. These sectors have the potential to create jobs and generate sustainable economic growth.

Strengthen healthcare and social services

A healthy and productive population is vital for economic growth. The country’s healthcare sector has been set back by several factors that have undermined its ability to provide quality health services to the people, leading to high mortality rates. The new president should prioritize healthcare infrastructure and social services, ensuring that citizens have access to quality healthcare and education. A healthier and more educated population can contribute more effectively to economic development.

Weah’s administration inherited these issues from past governments, he cannot be solely held responsible for these problems. Whoever the new president is cannot afford to turn a blind eye to these challenges, implementing these priorities will help pave the way for Liberia’s economic recovery.

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