MONROVIA, Montserrado – As she ended her mission to Liberia, European Union Ambassador Tiina Intelmann gave an exclusive exit interview to The Bush Chicken where she encouraged citizens to ensure that they vote for candidates who can promote better economic policies.
Speaking to The Bush Chicken briefly ahead of her departure from the country, Intelmann said Liberian voters must be cautious of the different manifestos of candidates, and identify which ones are achievable and whether they will move the country forward in the next five to ten years.
“It is quite clear that Liberia will need very sound economic policies in the years to come,” she said
According to her, donor money in the future cannot be the only basis for the country’s development, and she encouraged citizens to use their power to make the right decisions at the polls.
To make Liberia a middle-income country, the outgoing EU diplomat said the next administration must focus on implementing sound economic policies.
She also expressed a hope for a peaceful transition of power in January next year, and that the new government will sustain the gains made by the current government and supported by EU programs.
When asked about the current excessive salaries of Liberian lawmakers and what effort the EU delegation has made to support a reduction, Intelmann said the decision was with Liberians to make, especially during next month’s presidential and legislative elections.
“It is the Liberian people that are running this country, and who have the stake in the development of their country. I really think that a lot of questions that have been directed to us donors, it’s now time to address them and talk them through at the level of the electorates,” she disclosed.
She maintained that although the salaries of lawmakers are high and that the calls for reduction are fairly reasonable, the citizens must now decide at the ballot box on how they want their country to be run.
She said the EU has already contributed US$12 million to the pending October elections, as part of its commitment to promoting democracy and good governance in the country.
She praised the good nature of the country and friendliness of Liberians as things she would miss while back home.
She said serving the EU in Liberia since 2014 has been exciting and successful, especially helping the government achieve in areas of governance, education, agriculture, and infrastructure.
“When I came here in 2014, we were in the middle of the Ebola crisis, and if I look back now, almost three years, there have been a lot of changes in this country, and it’s good that we at the European Union were part of those changes,” she said.
Intelmann said the people of Europe contributed to Liberia in many ways, including direct budget support, support to eradication of the Ebola epidemic, the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant, the ongoing project to extend the electricity grid, the completion of Suakoko Highway, and maintenance of other major roads in the country.
“For the fact that we have managed to accomplish this, it’s fantastic, and now it remains with the Liberian people to take good care of these gifts we have given them,” she said. She promised the EU’s continuous support to the country.
On her negative impression about the country, she said Liberia continues to face a lot of challenges, including citizens’ perception of time. She said unlike, in Europe, people in Liberia take a lot of time to take single steps.
“It seems to me that the procession of time in Liberia is quite different from the procession that we have in Europe. We in Europe, we are in hurry, but Liberians like to take their time,” she noted.
This perception, according to her applies to the overall situation of the country.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah