In the autumn of 2014 Liberia was in the wake of the worst of the Ebola crisis. The numbers of people becoming infected was still rising and it was not clear how or when things could be brought under control. At the same time our colleagues in the government, including the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, saw the damage the crisis was inflicting on the economy – for example a 27% drop in expected tax revenues. They knew they had to take immediate action to stabilize the situation and at the same time to begin developing plans for a post-crisis recovery.
One of the Deputy Ministers of Finance quickly put together a first outline of an ‘Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan’, published in April 2015. At this point AGI, as part of our work supporting the Finance Ministry, started to work alongside him and a small team to flesh this out and develop the Plan. We were at that time very much 'all hands on deck’ in supporting the government’s coordination of various aspects of the crisis response, but the need to plan ahead was still there.
We helped the team to try and distil the issues that needed to be addressed - a difficult task given the lack of good data on the nature of the impact on the economy and livelihoods. They had to identify the actions that would have most impact on stabilising the economy in the short term - for example getting international flights back, ending border and market closures, maintaining government spending (including through mobilising new emergency budget support) and getting the major construction projects re-started. These stood out compared to other areas where it was more a case of addressing the underlying vulnerabilities that had been highlighted during the crisis, though over a slightly longer timeframe. For example, the fragility of the education system and infrastructure.
Coordinating a plan of this scale, with stakeholders across government and beyond is no small challenge. Everybody has strong views on the priorities that the government should set out. For that reason linking the recovery plans to the national budget process was a critical step. One of the key priorities for the Government as part of the recovery now is to diversify the economy away from the reliance on extractives and developing more private sector jobs within the Agriculture sector, including through more agro-processing. Of course there is also a lot of focus on the Health sector given the nature of this crisis, but this is seen as key to building a more resilient economy that can better withstand future shocks and crises. .