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‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’ are Liberia’s top priority – UN

‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’ are Liberia’s top priority – UN official

With unemployment running at an estimated 85 per cent in Liberia, the creation of “jobs, jobs, jobs” is a top priority as the country struggles to rebuild economically, a senior United Nations official has said, urging rapid debt relief, international assistance and other measures to foster growth and development.

“Liberia is coming out of a war, it’s had a successful programme of demobilizing some of the old soldiers, getting rid of some of the old military and police, and transforming the security institutions, but it has an enormous amount of young people who have yet to get to work,” Jordan Ryan, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Recovery and Governance, told the UN News Service on Tuesday.

“The big priority right now is jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said, pointing out that the great need for employment could be met by repairing Liberia’s shattered infrastructure.

The development challenges facing Liberia were one of the “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About” released by the UN Department of Public Information (DPI) on 15 May.

“We hope that the international community will find ways to act more quickly because now is the time in Liberia – not three or four years from now – now is the time to capitalize on the peace that the United Nations has provided for this country and to get them back to work,” Mr. Ryan said.

“Debt relief would be a very important part, but we can hope that it would be rapid debt relief, not a prolonged process to get debt relief,” he added. Noting that the country’s leaders are experienced in economic development, he voiced hope that the international community would match their efforts by providing long-term development assistance that helps turn Liberia around.

Elaborating the challenges facing the country of 3 million people, he said that the younger generation had lacked access to a proper education during the war. “The education system is totally bankrupt in terms of being able to provide a real quality education for all girls and boys,” he said.

Liberia is dependent on the UN and its partners to supply about 90 per cent of the health care to the country. “The challenges of the country are enormous; we don’t even know how high the HIV/AIDS rate is,” he said.

“There’s no city electricity in the capital, Monrovia. Lights are not on unless you’ve got a generator and can pay for the fuel. Water is not supplied in the town,” he observed. The situation is even worse outside the capital. “If you go outside Monrovia you are lucky if you can get anywhere because when it starts raining – and the rainy season lasts about six months out of the year – the roads are simply impassable,” he said. “The infrastructure needs of this small West African country are enormous indeed.”

The envoy pointed out that expatriate Liberians can do much for their nation. “The combination of having a more favourable environment for the private sector and encouraging Liberians who are now overseas to come back and help their country I think will be both a challenge for the new Government [and] an opportunity to make Liberia a more prosperous country,” he said.

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