“We can’t begin to tackle poverty without growth.” The words of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, speaking in the US last year.
Since the fragile peace negotiated in 2003, Liberia has had steady economic growth at an average of 7% a year. If the country can continue to build, tackle corruption, increase access to education and healthcare, and ensure that wealth is shared, then Liberian teenagers can dream of perhaps one day owning a car, living in a house with running water and taking sight-seeing trips to New York.
Meanwhile in the UK, the prime minister is reassuring businesses that his austerity drive won’t compromise their interests: ”Relentless focus on growth is what you will get from this government,” he said to the Confederation of British Industry in 2010.
Britain’s GDP per capita is over 150 times bigger than Liberia’s. Life expectancy is 21 years longer, infant mortality is 20 times lower and literacy rates are almost double. The majority of us already have the car, heated house and overseas holidays. You would have to go back 200 years to find the same level of poverty in Britain as Liberia has today, yet both countries have the same economic priority: pursue growth.