Donors Conference Today

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

February 5, 2004

Gyude Bryant was selected in Ghana by the Liberian warring factions to head the interim government of that West African nation after 14 years of civil war in which over 250,000 hapless people were slaughtered, and hundreds of thousands of the citizens displaced. Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, is the only capital city in the world with no electricity and running water. The new interim leader is headed the the United Nations today to ask for assistance for his country. He is heading a forty-man Liberian delegation to the United Nations.

Initially expected to raise about $500 million dollars, the conference, which has not started (up to press time) has already realized $555 million dollars. In addition to its initial pledge of $245 million dollars to help defray the cost of UN forces (UNMIL) in Liberia, the United States is pledging $200 million dollars towards reconstruction of Liberia. For its part, the European Union is pledging $120 dollars for reconstruction. Besides the United States and the European Union, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Japan, and China are expected to send high-power delegations to the conference.

However, as these international delegations and Liberia's forty-man team throng the conference hall, many questions remain unanswered.

1. What are some of the things on the GOL’s list of economic and structural priorities that will be presented to the donors?

2. What about the 3 billion dollars debt? Will there be a request for debt relief?

3. Does the government foresee any reluctance by donors to release the money they will pledge if former warring factions resist disarmament?

4. It has been reported that Liberia is sending a 40-man delegation to the donors’ conference. Why does Liberia have to send such a large number of people to the conference?

5. Many, including some members of the Assembly see this as a vacation trip at the expense of the Liberian people - although the irony of the assembly’s demand to include more of their members on the delegation is clear. Does the size of the delegation make any economic sense?

6. The Assembly has already requested the budget for the trip. Is there any budget and if so how much is it?

These are just few of the many questions that remain unanswered. Efforts have been made for government officials to comment on these concerns, but to no avail. One of those contacted to comment on these concerns is Harry A. Greaves, Jr., Gyude Bryant’s Chief Economic Advisor. From what we gathered from talking to members of the delegation, it seems that they do not want to comment on these issues because they feel that highlighting these issues might have the propensity to discourage the international donors. They, however, agree that this trip clearly serves as a vacation trip for many of them, saying privately that it’s shameful that Mr. Bryant has brought this number of people.