This week, Liberians celebrated in the streets -- faces painted, drums blaring, and dancing with abandon. They're not rejoicing over some recent triumph by the Liberian soccer team or a local festival. The streets of Monrovia were overflowing because of debt relief. That's right, debt relief. On Tuesday, Liberia secured nearly $5 billion in irrevocable debt relief from the World Bank, IMF, African Development Bank, and bilateral creditors. It's a massive sum -- the equivalent of roughly $1200 for every man, woman, and child in Liberia. As President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated, "today, ladies and gentlemen, is a day for us, as Liberians, to celebrate." And celebrate they did. And so should we.
Beyond celebrating Liberia's monumental achievement, we also should take a step back and examine just how they did it. On Wednesday, CGD was privileged to host two of Liberia's leading stars in the debt relief drama -- Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan and Economy & Planning Minister Amara Konneh -- along with a member of the IMF's senior management, John Lipsky. Their insightful remarks kept coming back to one central theme -- the overriding importance of strong, responsible, and persistent political leadership. President Sirleaf and her senior team knew the road would be long and rough. But, they refused to give up and overcame each successive wave of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Take two quick examples: