His Excellency Joseph Nyumah Boakai, President-Elect, Republic of Liberia, West Africa

Creating Jobs Must Be the Boakai Administration’s Top Priority In Liberia

Liberia has matured! In recent days, the country has expressively indicated and positioned itself as one of the most democratically admirable nations in Africa where an ultimate gradation of widespread electoral participation, free speech, freedom of expression and association, and partisan campaigning driven by and based largely on issues took center stage.  The recent 14 November 2023 Presidential Election testifies to this new status bestowed on the country, and Liberians of all walks of life must exercise and wear this pride as a batch of honor.  If nothing is commendable about Liberia today, being one of the most uncompromising and mature democratic nations in Africa must matter.  With this marked success, what is before Liberians, the Liberian nation, and especially before the incoming Boakai administration is how can Liberians develop a vision for impact-driven inclusive governance, one in which creating private sector jobs must be the top priority.

The failure to prioritize job creation and the carelessness to not consider the private sector as an equal and indispensable partner was the weakest link for preceding Liberian administrations over the past two decades. This has contributed to an increased level of poverty, food insecurity, a weak healthcare system, sluggish economic growth, consistent and repeated budget shortfalls, and reliance on development partners and donor assistance for even internal obligations such as national budget fulfillment.

If Liberians form and have the right vision and set in motion the right domestic policies and data-driven innovative programs backed by effective monitoring and evaluation, accountability, and structured transparency, after one hundred and forty-seven plus years, Liberia cannot time and again be dependent heavily on foreign assistance. As a country, Liberia’s top priority must be job creation and sustainable growth led by the private sector, not the government whose role is to provide the enabling environment and the judicial space for the rule of law to instill business and investment confidence.

Previous Liberian administrations and indeed most governments in Africa confused job creation with economic growth. These are two fundamentally different variables. Although job creation and economic growth are related, it would be a faulty assumption that having economic growth implies jobs will follow.  Over the past several decades, many nations have realized economic growth without concurrent growth in employment and the narrowing of skill gaps.

Why should the incoming Boakai administration in Liberia prioritize job creation? Firstly, and simply put, unemployment irrespective of geographic location is a national and collective security threat and a recipe for poverty, hopelessness, and underdevelopment in all countries, societies, and communities.  It is a systemic vice that has the potential to make normal people abnormal and hopeless individuals subjects of political thespians. Unemployment is also one alibi that even gloomy and uninteresting political and social rhetoric can exploit more easily.

Secondly, creating jobs helps the economy by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). When individuals are gainfully employed, they are paid by their employers. This generally results in those individuals having money to spend on things like food, clothing, medical, entertainment, and a variety of other areas. The more employed people spend on anything, the more that demand increases.

Thirdly, in the context of today’s Liberia, just focusing on job creation alone will lift several thousand if not millions of people in the country out of poverty and into the economic independence and self-sufficiency class, empower thousands of Liberian women and unemployed young people, and help the country develop a strong, secure, and robust 21st-century national economy.

Fourthly, Liberia is not an isolated terrain. It is a part of the global economy, and its citizens consume services offered by and products made in other countries where jobs are created.  The global economy at large faces unemployment challenges.  Half a decade ago, World Bank estimates suggested that more than 200 million people around the world were unemployed or did not have a job but would like one. There are also two billion people, most of them abled body women, who were or are of working age but are neither employed nor looking for work. According to the World Bank and other international estimates, three years ago, in 2020, our world needed to create 600 million more jobs than there were in 2005 just to keep the employment-to-working-age population ratio constant. That is yet to happen, even after three years when the projections were made.

Fifthly, Liberians’ access to jobs will determine whether Liberia has a nation, a region, and a world of flourishing consumers to which it will sell its goods and services.  This means Liberia’s exports must support a sizeable percentage of Liberian jobs, especially Liberia’s advanced and traditional manufacturing jobs, green jobs, and knowledge-based jobs. It also means as a  fundamental part of creating more jobs for Liberians here at home, Liberia must position itself to create good jobs for people in other countries.

Sixthly, job creation helps local economies – in the case of Liberia, the 15 counties and the districts in the country will flourish and this will mitigate over-population and its associated drawbacks in the capital Monrovia. The creation of jobs is necessary for any local economy – county, district, city, and even town. Without employment, a society, as in the case of many Liberian municipalities, can and will become unproductive and inefficient.

If the Boakai administration prioritizes job creation, it must also create just jobs – the sort of jobs that will be accompanied by decent wages, good benefits, and good working conditions, including the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The reason is that without good pay, workers cannot become powerful consumers and without the rights they deserve, workers will lack the economic stability they need before making big investments in themselves, their children, and their communities in Liberia.

Ordinary Liberians who make up most of the country’s population will appraise the incoming Liberian administration’s governance progress and mid-term successes by the impact on their lives and the yardstick for this judgment will be the labor market after 365 days or even less in, the first 100 days.  To push for sound labor market policies, drive innovative job creation programs, and sustainable private sector growth, industry innovation, and workforce development, would require a serious, tested, and experienced domestic policy team in the presidency and a knowledgeable and experienced leadership at the country’s labor department. Together, they will serve the Liberian people and the president well by pushing legislative and policymakers to elevate job creation to a top priority in Liberia, on local government agendas as well as in arenas like the Liberia Chamber of Commerce, the National Investment Commission, and the country’s foreign service.

About the Author:

Jones N. Williams is the interim CEO of the West Africa-based Equity Link Capital-Africa and a former State Administrator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics programs and labor market information in the State of Maryland.

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