Liberia closed the Liberian chapter of the Red Cross amid alleged misuse of funds, according to Reuters. The decision comes after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s dismissal of Red Cross board members in response to the supposed spending abuse. Liberia’s economy has suffered due to an Ebola outbreak that wreaked havoc throughout West Africa. Over 4,800 Liberians died during the outbreak.
Ebola news no longer makes headlines, but countries such as Liberia are still dealing with the ramifications. The closure of the Liberian Red Cross is a negative, but a separate organization called the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) continues to operate in the West African country. The World Health Organization dubbed Liberia transmission-free, but the alleged misspent funds reveal underlying corruption that plagues Liberian politics and society.
However, Sirleaf reduced foreign debt and brought stability to the economy after decades of civil war. The country has a history of instability, with the most recent conflict starting in 1999. Known as the Second Liberian Civil War, the government of President Charles Taylor faced incursion from the rebel group Movement for Democracy in Liberia. Taylor was ousted in 2003 and he faced war crimes charges from Sierra Leone. Amid domestic and international pressure, he fled to Nigeria in exile, but was later apprehended and sentenced to 50 years for his crimes.
Taylor’s successors made no major impact until Sirleaf’s election in 2006, and though she is widely praised among the international community, critics accuse her government of nepotism and complacency in fighting corruption. Corrupt governance in Liberia has hampered economic progress and left many citizens in poverty. Such abuses have fostered a great deal of mistrust from the public.
To Sirleaf’s credit, she aims to free Liberia of its dependence on foreign aid, in addition to securing middle-income status by 2030, but the effects of Ebola and corruption may stall her goals. Liberia will have to diversify their economy to minimize the effects of a low-priced commodity market. A lack of sound infrastructure has been devastated through mismanagement and war, but the United States has aided Liberia through various infrastructure projects.
Liberia needs greater foreign investment, but the current business climate has failed to lift more people out of poverty and benefit Liberian society on a large scale. Societal problems worsened when the Ebola outbreak caused many businesses and investors to shut down operations and flee the country, and the amount of spending needed to contain the health emergency drained state coffers, notes the Central Intelligence Agency.
Authorities contained Ebola for the time being, but the country’s image of a corrupt-ridden nation could prevent further investment and donor aid needed to sustain the economy.
FROM ECONOMY WATCH