The United States has announced that it will cancel the nearly four-hundred-million dollar debt owed to it by Liberia. Speaking at a Liberia Partner's Forum in Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice highlighted debt relief as part of the U.S. commitment to Liberia's reconstruction and development:
"We will cancel that debt, all of it, under the framework for highly indebted countries. We hope that this will help to relieve Liberia's crippling debt burden, a debt burden that today's leadership and today's people of Liberia do not deserve. We hope that it will enable the government to direct more of its resources toward reconstruction and development."
After nearly fourteen years of civil war and two-hundred fifty-thousand deaths, Ms. Rice said, it is "a time of optimism" in Liberia. Refugees are returning to the country and Liberians are rebuilding their communities. Economic investment, growth and recovery are beginning to take root. For example, the International Monetary Fund reported that in 2006, Liberia's real Gross Domestic Product growth rose to an estimated seven-point-seven-five percent from five-point-five percent in 2005.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was elected president in 2005, acknowledges that peace in Liberia is still fragile more than three years after former President Charles Taylor was forced from power. Strengthening peace and security, Ms. Sirleaf said, has been her highest priority.
In an effort to help Liberia rebuild, the United States has provided over five-hundred million dollars in relief and development assistance since 2003. Lasting economic development requires a vibrant private sector, free trade, and access to international markets. To that end, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation is working with businesses to mobilize capital for Liberia's entrepreneurs and small businesses.
The United States is committed to helping Liberia transform itself into a prosperous and peaceful country. "This is a remarkable goal that the people of Liberia have set for themselves," said Secretary of State Rice, "and it is in that direction that they and their democratic leaders are striving. They desire and deserve our support."