By Jones N. Williams
October 4, 2022
Thriving economic activities can stabilize nations, enhance collective social and human security, improve living conditions, and reduce negative political and social strife. Past and contemporary global empirical analysis revealed that young people disengage from unnecessary political activities when they are employed – have jobs and a fulfilled life. The real unemployment rate in Liberia though realistically unknown does not erase the fact that many Liberians, especially the youth population between the ages of 18 to 30 years old are unemployed. Unemployment is Liberia’s main political, social, economic, and national security problem, and if the government does not act, every facet of life and undertaking in the country will continue to be undermined.
The foundation and effectiveness of a job creation program can be measured by how much extra economic activity would be generated. A rise in economic activity will result in augmented employment, and the number of jobs created is related to how much extra economic activity is produced. In this carefully designed briefing paper, Putting Liberia back to work, we seek to outline key criteria by which job creation, stronger economic growth, and collective national security can take root and be sustained in Liberia.
This list is not exhaustive, but it does illustrate the types and scale of policies and programs needed to put a real dent in joblessness and extreme poverty in Liberia in the near term.
The criteria are:
▪ The government must prioritize the establishment of an independent and empowered domestic policy advisory council that will work with various agencies to drive the country and the President’s domestic policy agenda across the nation ensuring that domestic policy decisions and programs are consistent with the President’s and the country’s stated goals and are conducted for the Liberian people. Liberia’s domestic policy, as with the domestic policy of most developed nations, must cover a wide range of areas, including job creation, innovation, sustainable agricultural-food production, information technology, business, education, energy especially solar, healthcare, tourism, law enforcement, money, and taxes, natural resources, social welfare, and personal rights and freedoms, infrastructure development, transportation, workforce development, sports, and entertainment.
▪ Through the domestic policy advisory council, the Liberian government must facilitate and champion public-private sector partnerships nationwide. These public-private partnerships will activate, support, and strengthen local government administrations nationwide in all sectors including agricultural-food production, innovation, tourism, healthcare, infrastructure development, natural resources and environmental activities, transportation, business, workforce development, sports, and entertainment.
In other words, the more effective policies and programs are at creating jobs, the more they partially finance themselves. The job creation proposals are:
- Enact a private sector-led job creation program to, directly or indirectly, put up to one million people to work in Liberia over the next two years by facilitating engagement in innovation, commercial agricultural-food production, scalable small business activities, small-scale manufacturing activities, rebuilding communities, and repairing schools.
- Prioritize and facilitate investments in environmental solutions, climate change, and private sector-led renewable energy and energy efficiency improvement.
- Prioritize and facilitate private sector-led investments in the digitalization of processes and information technology.
- Expand access to private sector-led primary and preventive healthcare services, workforce development, apprenticeship, and secondary education.
- Prioritize and facilitate private sector-led investments in eco-tourism and the development or improvement of national parks, museums, historical sites, waterways, and arts.
- Prioritize and facilitate development or improvement in sports and entertainment including comedy, music, and films as these subsectors provide structured and unstructured employment.
- Make Liberia an attractive subregional export-import zone by reducing tariffs on shipments and improving port services. This will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in transportation (trucking), warehousing, leisure, and hospitality, as well as generate revenues in highway toll fees, and
immigration entry fees while boosting trade and commerce in the country.
- Remove all and any monopoly on all goods and services to foster and protect free market competition and relieve the economic strangulation on the country and people by a select few.
- Prioritize and support the enactment of a job creation tax credit for firms, companies, and businesses that add and maintain employees every year, increase hours, or raise wages for rank-and-file workers, which could create thousands of jobs over the next two years if designed properly.
- Put in place a government-run social security identification number system for Liberians at home and abroad and the non-Liberians resident in the country. This will facilitate the establishment of a private sector-led smooth credit market system and the development of private sector-led credit and debt
collection agencies nationwide that will create additional jobs by themselves.
- Encourage and facilitate private sector-led widespread mortgage financing to increase homeownership to put more Liberians in their own homes, which could increase employment by thousands of jobs.
- Establish an autonomous government-run national employment security bureau/agency under the Ministry of Labor to collect unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation insurance from all workers in Liberia so that when eligible workers are layoff or fired from their jobs or are wounded on the job and expected to stay out of work for a short period, they can have financial security for up to three months based on specific calculations and their wages.
- Elicit further monetary support from the World Bank, the IMF, and other donor partners to strengthen some of these initiatives which aimed to create jobs, reduce poverty, enhance national security, boost economic growth and development and improve the living condition of all Liberians and residents.
Across the country, Liberians are talking about the unemployment crisis and their fears for themselves and their children. For too long this widespread concern has been overlooked by successive Liberian administrations in the recent period. A renewed emphasis on job creation is desperately needed. This briefing paper presents a menu of policies and potential economic programs that could generate millions of jobs and put the unemployment rate and levels in Liberia on a steep downward trajectory.
About the Author
Jones N. Williams is a Liberian. His professional experience includes serving as State Administrator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics programs and Labor Market information at which time he oversaw job creation policies and programs for the state of Maryland for more than a decade and as Senior Project Manager for Infrastructure Managed Services for the U.S. Federal Government as well as a Technical Project Manager for Verizon Telecommunications, Yahoo! and BlueJeans. He is a graduate of St. Kizito’s and St. Paul’s Catholic Seminaries and NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.