Countries have always relied on each other for help. At least all countries, at one point in time, in their history, have received foreign aid from another country or an International Financial organization. Foreign aid policies, overtime have had received much criticism and applause in equal measures. It will be discussed in detail, in this discourse, with a focus on the effect of foreign aid in Liberia.
Since the period after the Second World War, foreign aid has become a factor that has informed most developed countries foreign policies. The postwar period was an important time in the development of international relations issues. It was because countries were getting into bilateral and multilateral alliances that were meant to ensure sustainable peace of the respective countries and as a means of protecting former allies from the war who could not have had adequate military resources. This situation further played out in the Cold War period (Grant & Nijman, 1998).
Developing countries have been the biggest dependants of foreign aid in the world. With foreign aid estimated at US $ 2 trillion being received by most developing countries in the world. Most of this financing came from the United States, who still leads the world in the provision of aid in the forms of military, technical, development and economic aid. Foreign Aid became a United States foreign policy during the Cold War, as a form of post World War Two planning. The primary objective of this was to fight the Soviet communism influence that was gaining ground fast in the world. The end of the Cold War did not reduce the foreign aid that was been offered by the United States (Haski, 2004).
Liberia has been one the biggest beneficiaries of foreign aid from the United States. It is estimated that Liberia has received foreign aid in excess of $ 280 million, which is the highest amount of aid to be offered to the country in the Sub-Saharan Africa. The country is one the highest foreign aid dependent in the world, as it is an important source of funds for economic development in the country. Liberia and the United States have had close international ties for a long time. It was because Liberia was formed by freed slaves from the United States. The country was strategic during the Cold War as it was an ideal location for the United States to fight the Soviet communism influence in Africa. It was done by the U.S building communication facilities in the country, facilities that enabled the U.S to monitor intelligence and diplomatic traffic coming in and out of the continent. A mutual defense pact was also signed by the two countries during the Tubman administration. In return to the foreign aid, the Americo-Liberians majority administration, gave the U.S government land free and gave tax incentives to U.S investors (Mongrue & Mongrue, 2011).
Peace was experienced in Liberia under the Tubman administration. This peace was attributed to President Tubman’s anti-communism beliefs, which were consistent with the U.S government Cold War agenda and his support of the U.S stands in the United Nations during the Cold War. Due to his loyalty, the Tubman administration was rewarded through aid support from the U.S government. The U.S offered many supports to Liberia through direct investments in key sectors of the Liberian economy like agriculture, military support that ensured protection from external threat and development aid for infrastructural development and improvement of public amenities. The peaceful environment in the country encouraged the U.S government to continually offer assistance to the country. This lead to the development of better living standards in the country, a stable economy and better public satisfaction due to improved public amenities (Mongrue & Mongrue, 2001).
When President Tolbert took over from Tubman as the Liberian leader, the country was faced with a series of riots which, disrupted business activities in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. This unrest was caused due to increased in food prices, especially rice, which is Liberia’s staple food. It was attributed to reduced support from the U.S. This was caused due to the changes that President Tolbert brought in his administration’s foreign policy. He joined the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of countries that did not have any alliances with any countries in the west or the east. They accepted assistance from any willing partners including the Soviets an enemy of the U.S during the Cold War. The relations between U.S and Liberia became strained and in turn, aid assistance was substantially reduced. The U.S went ahead and supported the government of President Doe, who hoisted President Tolbert (Dunn, 2013).
Liberia was faced with a civil war that lasted for over 10 years. It was brought about by a war that ensued between Charles Taylor, the leader of National Patriotic Front of Liberia and President Doe. This war caused a humanitarian crisis in the country with more than 2000 people being displaced from their homes and hundreds of refugee camps developing all over the country. The negative effect of this war was the main reason the U.S government totally withdrew its support, including security and military aid, on President’s Doe administration. It was one of the reasons why the war continued for a long time, as the Doe government did not have the power to resist the National Patriotic Front of Liberia that was being funded by the Lydian government, under Muammar Gaddafi (Dunn, 2013).
The war, on the other hand, had some positive effects on the prosperity of the country. While the civil war was still going on, Western Africa economic bloc ECOWAS formed ECOMOG, a peace committee that was tasked with the role of finding a way to obtain a ceasefire in Liberia. Through this peace initiative, the U.S government was able to come back to provide Economic Development aid and foreign military aid to the EOCMOG and United Nations peacekeeping forces. These peacekeeping efforts helped future governments to have an adequate environment to start the process of building the nation after the conflict. Humanitarian assistance was also offered to displaced persons, albeit with a clear warning that, future violation of human rights by future governments would lead to total withdrawal of foreign aid from the U.S government and from other potential financing partners (Human Rights Watch, 1994).
After the end of the civil war, Liberia was in a dire need of reconstruction as all its public facilities and political systems were severely destroyed by the Civil War. According to Lancaster (2008), foreign aid is important to any country that has been in war, this is because it helps in post conflict recovery and in preventing the country for slipping back to another civil war. President Johnson Sirleaf took power from Charles Taylor in democratic elections. She was tasked with the challenges of rebuilding the country and unifying the people of Liberia. To do this, President Sirleaf heavily depended on foreign aid that was advanced to the country by the U.S government and other foreign financiers. To do this, the President launched a Vision 2030 master plan that would guide the development of the country (Dunn, 2013).
According to Haski (2005), foreign aid may cause more harm to the country. It is because, a corrupted and weak leadership will not be able to put in place the necessary institutional and legal reforms to facilitate the effective usage of the aid receive, thus ensuring sustainable growth in the long run. Foreign aid has significantly helped improve the economic condition in the country as the Sirleaf administration set infrastructure development and improvement of public services as a top priority. Sustainable peace over time has also encouraged International donors to sufficiently increase aid contribution to the country (Yunker, (2000).
These advancements have not helped in reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. Most people still live in the country still live in poverty. It has been attributed to the inequitable distribution of resources. It has also been caused by the country’s capacity to utilize the financial aid is limited, as it still lacks well established institutions and policies. It has been made even more difficult because aid was abundant on the onset of peace and has been substantially reduced with time (Elbadawi, Kaltani & Hebbel, 2007).
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