Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program

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The Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) is an effort, started September 2005, by the Liberian government and the international community, via the International Contact Group on Liberia (ICGL) to reshape the fundamentally broken system of governance that contributed to 23 years of conflict in Liberia.

Description[edit]

GEMAP's effectiveness is a point of contention as there is evidence to support both sides. Proponents argue that the nature of the program, with its 'intrusive' financial controls and arbitration body for resolving disputes with the executive directly, sent a strong message to the Liberian elite that the corruption of the past would no longer be tolerated. In fact, there is considerable anecdotal evidence that GEMAP introduced an element of accountability into the bureaucracy that hadn't existed for over a generation. In this sense, GEMAP has accomplished its goal of modifying the conversation about corruption to a direction of reform. However, the Johnson-Sirleaf government has also taken a pro-reform platform, so responsibility for this cultural (if not practical,) shift may never be known.

Critics argue that the program has been ineffective in combating corruption, and that the situation is as bad or worse than in previous administrations. They note that rampant corruption still persists in GEMAP institutions like the National Port Authority, and recent criticisms about the national budget cast doubt on the transparency of revenue intake and outflows. Others have renewed protests against GEMAP, claiming that it was developed in the context of the highly corrupt transitional government, and the responsibility demonstrated by the Sirleaf government demands a reduction of the oversight.

GEMAP was never designed to 'fix' the corruption problem in Liberia. Only a generation of law enforcement, governance reform, technical assistance and education can hope to tackle that monumental problem. GEMAP was designed as economic 'triage' for a hemorrhaging (= 'bleeding') country, and in that narrow view, it can be considered a success, partly due to the 50% year to year increases in government revenue, the government's review of contracts and concessions (and renegotiation of the Mittal and Firestone contracts), reforms in the timber and diamond sectors, and the general high-level commitment to improved financial controls.

Awareness[edit]

GEMAP is under consideration by both academics and policy makers as a tool for other post-conflict states. With greater awareness by donors that they function as 'investors' in developing countries, it is likely that additional GEMAP-like programs will be created in the future in order to provide the 'investors' some measure of reassurance that their 'partners' are in fact spending their money, as well as the donors' money, responsibly and with accountability.

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