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Briefing paper

BP71: Popular appraisals of socio-economic conditions in Liberia, 2008

Afrobarometer Briefing Paper No. 71
1 Oct 2009 Liberia
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From the 1970s through to the early 1980s, the Liberian economy and individual living conditions were in decline. This was one factor that gave rise to popular discontent in the country, which was further fuelled by the political exclusion of the majority of Liberians. These undercurrents finally led to the military overthrow of the civilian political administration in April 1980. But army rule, lasting nearly 10 years, did little to change the economic situation in the country: there was little or no improvement in the living conditions of the majority of Liberians.

By the mid-1980s, reaction to the military’s failure to introduce electoral politics was turning violent, as prominent politicians sought to force the military to disengage from politics. In late 1989 this agitation broke out into full-scale civil war. For the next 14 years, the country was torn by conflict. Calm was only restored with the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement in Accra, Ghana in August 2003, leading to the establishment of a transitional government.

Between October and November 2005, presidential and legislative elections were held, which placed control of government and the economic management of the country in the hands of a democratically-elected civilian administration. From 2005 to 2008, the government reported improvements in many economic indicators, particularly revenue collection. The enormous support provided by international institutions and foreign governments also signaled the likelihood of improvements in the Liberian economy and the living conditions of the people.

This paper seeks to present a snapshot of what ordinary Liberians think about the country’s current economic conditions, their appraisals of the government’s efforts to manage the economy, and their perceptions of how the country’s economic situation is changing over time, using data from the first Afrobarometer survey conducted in Liberia in 2008.