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State structure

The Constitution of 1986, amended in 1988, provides for the separation of the three powers. The executive power lies with the president and the vice-president. The president is the head of state, head of government and commander-in-chief of the army and is elected for a six-year term. There is no limit to the number of presidential terms in the constitution. Legislative power is vested in the parliament, which has two chambers: the House of Representatives with 64 directly elected members and the 30-member Senate. The constitution provides for a multi-party system. Amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority of both chambers.


Since August 2003, the political climate in Liberia has been cautiously developing in a positive direction. The forced departure of Charles Taylor seems to have created an opening from the chaos of the civil war. Domestic politics are developing along the lines of the agreement reached in Ghana's capital Accra on 18 August 2004. The transitional government had neither the capacity nor the political will to govern the country effectively. The parties participating in the transitional government put their own interests before those of the country and there was no coherent policy. Reports of non-transparent dealings and corruption by members of the caretaker government and the caretaker parliament did not help efforts to restore the authority of the state. Corruption was also the main concern of the international donor community for Liberia's reconstruction. In September 2005, a proposal for a Governance Programme (GEMAP) was firmly negotiated between Chairman Bryant and the international community. Chairman Bryant refused to agree on a key element of the programme, namely the inclusion of an international Chief Administrator in the Central Bank of Liberia with (co-)signature powers, a key requirement of the international community to support the programme. Bryant said he could not 'sell' this to the members of the NTGL. The international community was considering a binding UN resolution that would ratify the GEMAP, to force the NTGL to accept the document. International influence over the implementation of the good governance programme was at the heart of the discussion from the outset. According to Bryant, Liberia needed technical support but could manage its finances on its own. However, given NTGL's performance in this area, the international community did not trust it.

These non-transparent and abusive practices had to be put to an end with the presidential election in October 2005. These elections took place peacefully and were won by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, albeit under protest from the main opposition candidate, George Weah. Johnson-Sirleaf enjoys great international recognition and support, and has received much praise since taking office. She made work of her 150 Days Action Plan, which was intended to bridge the period during which an interim Poverty Reduction Strategic Plan (iPRSP) was written. In her 150 Days Action Plan, Johnson-Sirleaf announced that she would pursue a zero-tolerance policy towards corruption. To this end, after taking office she dismissed all politically appointed officials in the Ministry of Finance. Other priorities are national reconciliation, reconstruction and reintegration of the large numbers of child soldiers in the country. The (near) future will show how successful the new Johnson-Sirleaf government will be in governing and developing the country over the long term after years of anarchy and violence.

The current political situation is described in the chapter history.


The economy suffered greatly from the seven-year civil war in the 1990s and the subsequent Taylor regime (with war again from 2002). With the arrival of the transitional government and many donors, economic issues received renewed attention. The allocation of economic positions in the transitional government to former rebels was a cause for concern. These positions were misused for political and financial purposes (such as serving their own armed constituencies). The restructuring of Liberia's economy will therefore have to start with the introduction of transparency in the allocation of revenues from natural resources.

The struggle between rulers and rebels concentrated on getting their hands on Liberia's natural resources, especially the diamond and timber sectors. These were used by Liberian (rebel) leaders for their own benefit. In recent years, the economy has improved significantly, even though Liberia remains a poor country.

Economic growth in 2017 was 2.5%. GDP per capita is still dramatically low at $1,300 (2017). The unemployment rate is at 2.8% and more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. Exports have a value of $260.8 million and imports amount to $1.17 billion, The main trading partners are China, the United States, South Korea and Singapore.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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