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Press Conference with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili, March 29, 2010

March 29, 2010

Introductory Remarks by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

We are very pleased to welcome the Vice President of the World Bank for Africa along with her team which includes the Regional Director, as well as the Country Manager who is based here with us. This has provided the opportunity for us to review very quickly the programs and activities which the bank is supporting in the country – roads, water and sanitation, energy, waste management.  We have looked at those things and decided how we can move forward on them.  We have also expressed appreciation for the great support Liberia has received from bank.  Generally, also in our debt reduction program, technical assistance, employment creation, all of those…  They have done so through grants because Liberia does not qualify for credits right now, and they have gone through extraordinary means to be able to identify sources of funding to be able to support the programs that we have with them.  So, I just want to say again to the Vice President, on behalf of Liberia and the Liberian people, our thanks and appreciation for the strong partnership which we have with the bank and the support we continue to receive.

Response by Obiageli Ezekwesili

Well, thank you very much madam President. It’s really been a delight working through our programs with you and capable members of your cabinet. As we were discussing the debt allotment prospects for Liberia, it’s made even much more urgent  by virtue of the fact that economies are in the process of global recovery after the down-turn and so areas of investment and infrastructure would be key for recovery and that a lot of the time we spent together was committed towards the discussion and really bringing to delivery the operations that we have in the whole sector and we are looking forward to interventions that enable us to give the benefits of infrastructure for debt allotment to the Liberian people; and to attract much more private sector investments in this Country that has potentials. We also focused on some other areas, specifically, job creation, because youth unemployment is an issue that needs urgent addressing.

We already have some of the interventions that go toward that, but additional financing to generate much more landscape of employment that contributes to economic growth, would be key. We do have a new intervention that would address this particular program. It’s quite a delight to be able to review programs with the President focusing on energy, agriculture, and issues of technical and vocational education for skills building and those opportunities that we have foster outside the south and south debt allotment.

In Countries like Liberia and Singapore, all of those were issues that were discussed.

It was really a delight visiting with my colleagues.

Questions and Answers

Horatio Willie- (Star Radio): I want to say thank you and welcome to Liberia. You talked about twenty (20) projects funded here, and a portfolio around 250 million dollars. Do we expect to see any increment in the portfolio of the projects and how does it intend to help finance some of the budgetary support as Liberia prepares for the next fiscal year?

Ezekwesili:  In-terms of the budget, we will do direct budget support this year (2010) in the region of $11 million. In-terms of additional to existing portfolio, I brought good news to the President; under our crisis respond windows, they will have an additional of $32 million, which is really substantial money because some of the other countries got less. As part of Liberia’s importance as a fragile state, our focus is to mobilize as much resources for the country. Also, important in mobilizing resources is the regional integration of resources. The inter-connection project will enable Liberians become a beneficiary of the West-Africa Power Pool  which is the original project and that is the project done across lots of Countries and Liberia will benefit. The project is above 200 million.

We also have ten (10) million as response to the food crisis that occurred last year. Private sector is key to Liberia’s development.  Every legislation that needs to be passed must be done on time.

Alphonso Toweh (Reuters): You talked about interventions, what are the interventions that you would like to carry on? What are the key things that Liberia hasn’t done yet and you’d like to see done?

Ezekwesili: When I talk about interventions, we anticipate additional program that is going to be something in the region of sixteen (16) million to address the issues of youth employment. We are going to support the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), to clean up Liberia and the facility to do this will cost $2 million to get trucks for the process. The completion of the Cotton Tree - Buchannan road, getting that road deliver in as much a time as possible before the rainy season is key for us, and cost$ 40million dollar.

I can’t tell you what she hasn’t done yet, but what could be done better is in the area of capacitating building which remains a major constraint.  Some of the things she already demonstrated are the quality of Cabinet Ministers. Beyond that is the capacity of the public sectors which is key, because the public sector will help to translate the vision into action. We need to give them the kind of training they need, because in some cases, it might not be their area of specializations and so, people need to be proactive if they want to deliver their results. Also, the poverty reduction strategy and linking it very well to the budget so that that the vision captured in the PRS will be linked. We also need to keep an eye on inclusive growth.

James Aquoi, Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS): In the area of waste and sanitation, what are the principal things discussed?

Ezekwesili: The principal thing discussed is how to facilitate and fast-track the waste and sanitation projects in the projects that are presently ongoing.

The President of Liberia really wants us to capacitate the government entity that is embarking on this work. Through our programs, $2 million will be given through grants to enable them get more trucks for the clean-up.

Winnie Tamba (ELTV): Madam President, I see you in a joyful mood beaming with smiles, and I want to know what’s behind those smiles that Liberians need to know.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: I’m smiling because there are lots of good things the World Bank has promised.

You heard the Vice President talked about giving us fund for additional budgetary support. Liberia does not enjoy a large amount of money for budget support …

You heard her talked about a big program of employment that has been one of our areas of concern because we want to get youth employed so that they can be productive endeavors.

You heard her talked about capacitating the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), with our difficult waste management program that has been something that didn’t happen before. We have contractors that have been in the process and now with the support, they can take on greater responsibility in addressing this problem.

They are new things that will enable us to… laughter.

The Buchannan road that have started, though I haven’t been there, but people who travel on it say, tears come down their cheeks when  they see that beautiful road moving.

My anxiety is let it keep going on and on… They have promised to do more.