Reflections on Liberia

July 18, 2008

I recently returned to CGD after spending almost 7 weeks in Monrovia working in the Ministry of Finance. It was a great experience and I will quickly share some of my general impressions in this blog.First of all, I was blown away by the physical beauty of Liberia. It is a verdant country with lush forests and gorgeous sand beaches. I was also struck by the sense of optimism and hope that the Liberians display even after enduring almost two decades of war, fear and hardship. Of course things cannot change overnight, but Liberia is on the move! I take that back- some things do change that quickly! On several mornings on the way into work, side roads previously riddled with deep potholes were literally repaired overnight! There were many construction projects, freshly painted stores and I even saw a billboard erected in the span of an afternoon.Progress is undoubtedly being made, but I hesitate to paint too rosy a picture of Liberia since it is still in a fragile state. While small infrastructure projects may be possible to repair in a short span of time, governmental reforms, job creation, sustained peace and stability, and improved access to health and education don’t happen overnight. Liberia has a vibrant media and the newspapers were constantly reporting on the horrors of the past. The papers were filled with often gruesome and unfathomably atrocious personal stories from the war. Most famously, papers printed word for word the testimony of Moses Blah, a former Vice President and short lived President, who agreed to testify in the Special Court for Sierra Leone against Charles Taylor. Besides moving past the psychological effects of war, Liberia faces many difficult challenges including poor infrastructure, low capacity, repatriating and reintegrating thousands of refugees and crime.I don’t want to be too negative. There seems to be broad support for the government and hope for a better future. If anyone can keep Liberia out of conflict (it’s been almost five years now) and remain on the path towards sustainable development, it is President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Not only does she inspire Liberians, but she also has the respect and endorsement of the international community.During my stay, President Sirleaf hosted a dinner at her house in honor of the Scott fellows and numerous summer interns. While in Monrovia, I worked alongside many of the fellows. I was amazed by their ability to stay motivated despite long work hours and was impressed by their accomplishments despite having limited resources. By the end of August, there will be 16 fellows in Monrovia. I will continue to update the website as they arrive, so stay tuned!


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.