President Sirleaf Addresses the Nation; Highlights Health, Education, and Agriculture as Priorities in the Post-Ebola Recovery Period

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Monrovia, Liberia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is urging all Liberians to remain united and continue to have confidence and trust in government’s ability to rebuild the country during the post-Ebola recovery period.

“I will remain true to our cherished ideals,” the Liberian leader promised, and asked for the same unity of purpose across the useful diversities of government and society – the diversities which improves governance and make society stronger.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the statement in a televised address the Nation from her temporary office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. Her message highlighted priority areas during the post-Ebola recovery period mainly health, education and agriculture.

The Liberian leader said as an agrarian nation, government’s economic vision must now shift to agriculture to ensure that Liberia moves from the old system of extractive industries. She said government will aim at a higher potential for impact and export diversification through stimulation of production in a select few traditional tree crops such as rubber, oil palm and cocoa.

President Sirleaf emphasized that while continuing to support small farmers, food security can only be achieved through large scale mechanized and agro-industrial operations which focuses on small and medium sized entities, including agro-processing operations.

She stressed that private sector must become the driving force of the economy and that Liberia entrepreneurship must play its rightful role; urging compatriots to support and buy products made in Liberia, maintain a good credit rating and pay legitimate taxes.

The Liberian President assured that government will continue to do its part in making it easier to do business by reducing the bureaucratic hurdles thereby creating a more conducive and friendly business environment, by ensuring that the tax regime is fair and allows businesses to expand. However, she warned that all these efforts require a stable environment of peace and security.

President Sirleaf, touching on the educational system in which she has been an open critic, admitted that while there’s a scarcity of resources and the fact that rebuilding the educational system after years of decline cannot simply be a quick-fix, government is determined to address deficiencies in qualified instructors and inadequacies in facilities and instructional materials. “We intend to achieve this through consistency in effort, holding all stakeholders including parents, students, teachers and administrators accountable, as well as increase resources and support to the educational sector,” she noted.

The Liberian leader said government will continue the expansion of youth empowerment programs especially through technical vocational education and training. In doing this, government will strengthen the linkage between concessions and technical and vocational training centers so as to train Liberians for available jobs.

She said despite the setback of Ebola which saw the departure of contractors, technicians and stoppage of concession operations, she was pleased with the progress in government’s infrastructure development. “Our programs for road, power, ports and water and sanitation improvements are now restarted,” she disclosed; noting that these programs are the backbone for expanding the economy and improving the lives of our people. “They are therefore critical to achieving our goal of social transformation through inclusive growth,” the Liberian President pointed out.

Highlighting the impact of the deadly Ebola virus disease that have ravaged the country, robbed many of their livelihood, overwhelmed the country’s recovering healthcare system and threatened to reverse the economic gains, President Sirleaf praised all Liberians for standing together in combating this epidemic.

“Across superficial and perhaps historic divisions of our nation, we stood together. We came together – Christians and Muslims; youths and elders; religious, political, traditional and community leaders; ordinary folks; teachers and students; drivers and passengers; public and private enterprises – we who have felt compelled to be suspicious of each other came to appreciate the commonality of our fate,” she indicated, adding further, “Each, especially our brave health care workers, played important roles with some going beyond the requirements of their duties to assist and save the lives of their countrymen and women.”

Touching on the small setback in the country’s progression to be declared Ebola free due to the one confirmed case reported recently, she expressed confidence that as Liberia starts a new countdown, the Incidence Management System team and their local and international partnershave the experience and expertise to contain and bring this outbreak to an end.

“The truth also is that we continue to learn and may still not know everything about this virus,” she said, and called on all Liberians to continue to adhere to all preventive measures with which they are all very familiar, and to remain vigilant.

President Sirleaf disclosed that as the three countries most affected by Ebola have engaged world partnership to support a regional effort, a meeting with more partners is expected to take place in Washington, DC later this month to present a regional recovery program, and seek their support. On March 3, the leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia met with partners in Brussels, Belgium.

She said the three countries are pushing for support for a regional recovery effort; but in spite of that, government will continue to position Liberia to take advantage of the enormous outpouring of international goodwill toward our country; pleading with partners to join government as it undertakes the implementation of the Post-Ebola Recovery Program.

The Liberian President said this calls for more concerted efforts to reform the country’s service delivery systems and transform the structures of the economy through national development plans and strategies that not only specifically respond to the epidemic but are consistent with the goals and aspirations of country's development agenda – the Agenda for Transformation and Liberia Rising 2030.

“With vulnerabilities exposed at the height of the outbreak,” the Liberian leader said, “we continue to lift the rebuilding of the health system as a primary concern. Toward this end, we are implementing a ten-year program of training of health care professionals, improving and expanding services at primary and secondary healthcare centers, upgrading county hospitals and establishing three regional hospitals. We are emphasizing the repositioning of JFK to meet its envisioned role as a national referral center.”

President Sirleaf reiterated that as government works to achieve these objectives, the administration over the remaining years will need to be made stronger to underpin its determination for more timely and effective implementation of the overall development objectives.