Liberia has been living in peace for more than a decade since the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 (World Bank Group, 2016). The country has been receiving foreign aid (FA) before, during, and after its wars. Nowadays, it is one of the aid-dependent countries of Africa (Starr, 2010).
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To make a difference, FA needs proper management (Understanding development, 2014, pp. 38-41). The present paper is devoted to analyzing the way Liberia has been using its FA and defining if it is managed properly.
Peace, War, and Foreign Aid
According to the data provided by the World Bank Group (2016), Liberia has been receiving FA since before the 1980s, and its amount has had the tendency to increase with some of the years breaking this pattern. For example, during the Second Civil War, total FA was noticeably smaller than before and especially after it. Since 2003, the amount of FA has been growing again. In 2014, Liberia received $744,330,000 of net official development assistance and official aid (World Bank Group, 2015).
During the war, the distribution of FA in Liberia was admittedly ineffective. FA could be stolen: in 1996, over $20 million worth of FA was “distributed” in such a way (Narang, 2015, p. 185). Authorities could abuse their power: for example, the Liberian leader Charles Taylor shared the FA provided for his territory but demanded 15% of it to be considered an import tax (Narang, 2015, p. 186).
The question of how Liberia distributes FA during its peaceful times is not easy to answer. Liberia’s budget is among the lowest-ranking ones with respect to the Open Budget Index (OBI). For Liberia, OBI equals 38 for the 100 scale, which is a minimal OBI (International Budget Partnership, 2015, p. 7). The government publishes insufficient information, does not encourage participation, and is more likely to be corrupt than those of almost 80 countries that score better. Besides, much of the Liberian FA is sent directly to NGOs, and the donors tend to make their donations similarly non-transparent (Parks & Kadaba, 2010). As a result, the distribution of FA in Liberia is hard to track.
Leadership Agenda and Economy
In order to restore the country’s economy and life, the government of Liberia has created the Agenda for Transformation that is aimed at reducing poverty, developing the human resources, economically transforming the country, and growing sustainably (World Bank Group, 2016).
Liberia understands that the dependence on FA is not a desirable characteristic. In 2014, the official FA that Liberia received amounted to 44% of its NGI, which is higher than it was during the war, but lower than immediately after it (60%) (World Bank Group, 2015). In 2010, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced that Liberia has the resources to be independent (Starr, 2010, para. 1). She intended to attract foreign investments to that purpose, and it appears that the country has largely succeeded in it: according to the World Bank Group (2016), the investments in priority economic sectors have grown.
The OBI of Liberia has increased dramatically since 2008 (International Budget Partnership, 2015, p. 38). However, its current state appears to be incompatible with the amount of FA that the country receives.
The World Bank Group (2015) can provide only a little information on the government’s expenses. For example, in 2012, Liberian government was spending 8% of its total expenditures on education, which is an improvement when compared to the rate of the year 2008 (7.3%). Health expenditure per capita was $48 in 2014, which is an improvement: it used to equal $5 at the end of the war.
Results of Aiding
Peacemaking and Aid
The peacekeeping force did help in keeping the peace in Liberia (World Bank Group, 2016). Still, during the war, FA was proven to have an opposite effect, which is the logical outcome of alleviating the expenses of the war. For example, the “import tax” of Charles Taylor was eventually spent on warfare (Narang, 2015, p. 186).
The World Bank Group (2015) provides some of the information concerning Liberia’s development, and its results are mixed. For example, the percentage of the population that had access to sanitation facilities after the war was 13%, but nowadays, the number reaches 17%. However, the current completion rate for primary school is 59%, which is a decrease compared to the 64% in the year 2006. The life expectancy for Liberian people has been growing slowly. To sum up, Liberia continues to struggle with poverty and other issues of human development, which is reflected in its Human Development Index (HDI).
According to the United Nations (2015) Development Programme, Liberia is ranked 177 out of 188 in HDI, which indicates a low quality of healthcare, education, standard of living, and short life expectancy. The data presented by the United Nations (2015) shows that Liberia’s growth in HDI is among the lowest when compared to the countries of the same HDI group (low HDI).
The world crisis and Ebola have affected the country’s state (World Bank Group, 2016). However, this fact does not explain the lack of transparency in the spending of the FA or its relative ineffectiveness.
The example of Liberia allows making the following conclusions. The war, while it may attract aid, negatively affects FA distribution. During the peace, the transparency of FA usage proved to be an issue. FA can prolong conflicts, be inappropriately distributed (during and after a war), turn an economy dependent, and fail to make a sustainable difference for the people. Therefore, the need for proper FA management is confirmed by this Liberia case study.
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Narang, N. (2015). Assisting uncertainty: How humanitarian aid can inadvertently prolong civil war. International Studies Quarterly, 59(1), 184-195. Web.
Parks, B., & Kadaba, N. (2010). The elusive quest for effective aid management in Liberia. Web.
Starr, P. (2010). Liberia and aid dependency. UN Dispatch. Web.
Understanding development (4th ed.). (2014). Strayer University: Soomo Learning.
United Nations. (2015). Table 2: Trends in the Human Development Index, 1990-2014. Web.
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World Bank Group. (2016). Liberia. Web.