By: Stephen B. Lavalah
The clamor of government productivity within the scope of the 150 days deliverables have been under extreme beleaguerment in the midst of claims and counter claims about the upshots. From the very beginning, it was rhetoric and silver-tongued elucidation being propagated by state actors, devotees, and cronies of the ruling order. With optimistic and unswerving posture of ensuring a more prosperous nation and booming citizenry; these propagators including the President of this Republic, promulgated efficacious implementation of the deliverables through extensive media outreach initiatives in various forms and manners. Consequently, the expectation and vigor of ordinary people have been raised to a large extent with confidence anticipating that the ornate deliverables would be transformed to concrete actions to better the living standards and create a well-to-do country. Waiting unflappably with eagerness and envisioning nothing less but the best rescue package amidst destitution and extreme hardship, the people unanimously consented to remain imperturbable.
Even though a good number of Liberians had got no access to the deliverables needless to mention ever glimpsing or comprehending what it entails. As a matter of fact, illiteracy rate is at the highest peak and gloomily, most of the educated population can barely read newspapers or listen to electronic media as evident in the 2011 International Alert report. Besides, preponderant media outlets are Monrovia based while the largest portion of rural inhabitants remain incommunicado. For the most part, scores of rural community radio stations choose to provide entertainment for a longer period over educative and vital information. In this 21st Century, when the world is a click of a mouse, many people in the remote parts of the country have got absolutely no access to GSM communication let alone internet connectivity. So, it is extremely difficult if not impossible for majority of the population to be enlightened and informed about unfolding circumstances as well as contemporary issues.
Due to the high level of ill-informed people, every too often, the government uses billboard to communicate with bulk of its populace. More to the point, state authority also takes advantage of the uninformed people to propound whole lots of promises and policy documents that can, have, and will not be fulfilled. It can recalled that during a recent phone-in talk show with Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on ELBC's Bumper Show, Madam President expounded that she was not aware about how certain components form part of the deliverables. She further asserted “...Five of the deliverables will not be completed”. The President revelation leaves one to wonder if she is like James Flomoyan, former Chairman of the National Election Commission who claimed to have forgotten to reread a letter, but instead shaped the blame on his Communicator Officer. However, others have begun to postulate that the President edict was not a bizarre, rather the same old blame shaping and business at usual mentalities, where incessant mendacities and ill-intentioned declarations take precedence.
From time in memorial, this regime under the stewardship of Africa's first female president and a Harvard trained governance mogul has always initiated the crafting of various public policies, many of which have not been implemented nor translated into tangibles for the common good of all. The government continues to splurge tax payers' resources on policy documentation while the over half of the population remains indigent. In fact, of the eighty-four deliverables earmarked, only thirty-four were tangibles whereas fifty-two of the listed action plans accounted for intangibles, which implies that the government is over and over again prioritizing policy formulation while the citizens linger in perpetual abject poverty and deprivation. More to that, upon taking the mantle of authority in 2006 the government along with international partners coined an ambitious Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy which did not achieve its overall objectives. If not adding insults to injury, the ruling establishment complemented its haphazard Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy with the full grown Poverty Reduction Strategy, which was unconsummated again to the extent that policymakers had to create the County Development Agenda. Yet again, the leadership had chosen to carry out a flimsy and deficient 150 days action plans that is being rated below average by Liberians across the country including a modernized aggregation technology from the Liberia Media Center, which computes scoring values for each of the action plans. If this government cannot complete the 150 days deliverables would it ever envision a rational, reasonable and achievable self-styled Vision 2030? One can only ponder and imagine what sort of political leadership that has begotten Liberia, where too many policies are being formulated without impact on the people.
Raising the “Red Flag”
When the President requested civil society organizations, the media and Liberians in general to raise the red flag, from that moment upward, the Youth Exploring Solutions – a passionate and voluntary youth-led development nongovernmental organization – immediately commenced the process of scrutinizing the deliverables in its totality. Ironically, the Government reluctantly and consciously repudiates prudent proposals from patriotic individuals and institutions labeling them as “noisy minority”, nevertheless valiant and nationalistic Liberians engender to remain uncompromising and unwavering in the quest to ensuring a wholesome functioning society based on social justice and equitable distribution of resources.
First and foremost, pillar one of the Action Plan which encompasses reconciliation, youth empowerment, and national visioning was absolutely botched. For far too long, reconciliation has always been a palaver hut program and extravaganza that involve empty talk and obsequiousness. Therefore, the government should not have trended on such path, instead concentrate on establishing a reparation program for war-affected citizens through budgetary allocation, and work toward the implementation of the TRC recommendations.
The Government professed to have expended ninety eight thousand United States dollars (US$98,000.00) on a National Youth Conference that ended in deadlock and booing of the National Youth Advisor to the President. When other countries are empowering youths through budgetary allotment of grant to potential youth and student organizations, so as to stimulate creativity and competitiveness among the youthful community and as well allow those institutions established by an Act of the National Legislature to play supervisory, monitoring and evaluation roles, Liberia is empowering handful of institutions. As an alternative, the Government should resolve from apportioning thousands to FLY and LINSU, familiar for leadership crisis, sleaze, and slander as evident in the deeds of both statutory organizations, but instead create a pool fund for youth groups as it is done with the State Department support to youth initiatives. Furthermore, the boys and girls scout have not be strengthened and they are seeing in a tight building toward the beach on Gurley Street. There is no need to comment on the National Youth Act, because the Government has brazenly admitted that the passage of the Act would not be actualized.
The Government is spending over 2.7 millions United States dollars to publicize and amalgamate information under the canopy of national visioning. Since launching the so-called “Vision 2030”, a lot of Liberians are yet to understand the entire concept. Without any momentum of the vision across the country despite widespread media coverage, the Government still plump for marketing said vision to Diaspora Liberians. Up to today's date, the outcomes from these numerous consultations are not being made known. Where is the National Reconciliation Task Force & ToR, when the country remains profoundly divided on the basis of regional, county, district, clan, town, quarter and household? It is a conspicuous fact too that ethnicity, religion, and plutocracy continue to further segregate the people. The European Union revealed that social discrimination and exclusion are potential recipes to breed conflict in Liberia. Besides, the President has been accused by many political subdivisions and various stakeholders of during little or nothing to unite the country. Liberia reconciliation should not be a cosmetic consultation under the pretense of fostering unification and patriotism, but there must be a framework established where the Constitution will be taught in all institutions of learning. At the same time, the Government must ensure and demonstrate that Liberian dress code, diet, and culture are adhered to at all times.
The issue of Jobs, Education, and Better Services which constitutes pillar two of the Action Plans was indeed not achievable. For a government that promised 20,000 jobs every year, within the course of 150 days could not even boost of creating 1,000 productive jobs. What a shame? Even the much publicized 5,000 temporary jobs are yet to be fulfilled, because no recruitment or whatsoever has taken place. It is without doubt that the young people are tired and frustrated over government tactics of providing temporary jobs through labor-intensive public work projects just for US$3.00 daily when in reality, no government official consume US$3.00 a day for breakfast or lunch or supper. The young people deserve sustainable and gainful employment and not any pseudo empowerment scheme. Government has always declared that most young people are unskilled and not knowledgeable for the job market. Wretchedly, the small number of young people who acquired technical or tertiary education generally obtained employment as drivers, security, janitor, and receptionist as well as other low-skilled jobs. As a result, these young people soon become functionally illiterate, because they have got no opportunity to perform in their respective areas of studies. To tell the truth, there is a young man who earned a Master degree in Public Health at the age of 26 and is serving as a watchman; though the Government complains of human resource capacity gap.
The Government has bluntly affirmed that the pilot One County One Product program would not be actualized without any scruple of deceit. The provision of 2.7 million loan guarantee to be used for increasing micro credit to petty traders and small businesses is yet to be accessible to majority of its proposed beneficiaries. Thus, foreign nationals continue to dominate the economy while Liberians have got nowhere to obtain financial services. On the other hand, the US$1 million fund to purchase “designated food crops” has gone to a few farmers who had got the necessary contacts and excluding thousand of potential farmers that have got no connection with political authority.
It is an undisputable fact that school fees and educational accessories have increased in the course of 150 days more than ever before. The students from AME University went on the rampage in demand of reduction in credit hour fees, which led to immediate closure of the university for over two weeks. Likewise, all institutions of learning have raised its fees at the detriment of the already poverty-stricken people. The Government should have contemplated on introducing “Service Learning” in the national curriculum with the aim of nurturing volunteerism amongst youths and utilize funding allotted for temporary jobs to reduce tuition and other fees that are skyrocketing progressively. Instead of the Government concentrating on the construction of vocational and technical schools across the country so as to create a middle class of technicians and technocrats; the Government sorts to rehabilitate technical and vocational facilities, which are yet to be completed. Despondently, the Ministry of Youth & Sports (MYS) enunciated that the Memorandum of Understanding with the Liberian Opportunity Industrial Center would be accomplished. MYS further disclosed it has provided scholarships for Vocational/Technical skills to over 1,300 when 3,000 youths were to be trained. Accordingly, many people are hopeless and worrisome of ever achieving their full measure of happiness.
The Government needs to rethink its strategies toward social assistance and services initiatives with the purpose of guaranteeing that it is realistic, objective and time bound in order to avoid deception. The pilot cash transfer program has not lifted the people out of poverty in Bomi County, but the Government pretends that it is workable. The quest to construct 5,000 affordable housing units and a mortgage program was never attainable, but only meant to make low-income families live in the state of utopia. As citizens struggle for transport services using motorcycle as an alternative, the National Transit Authority deliverables of procuring 10 new buses and constructing a modern new terminal in Monrovia fall short while solar refrigerators in clinics are yet to be completed.
During the course of the 150 days severe water shortage hit Monrovia and its environs to the extent that people used to wake up as early as 2 O'clock in the morning to search for water in long-distance places. However, the situation could not be remedied by Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation as the machine to pump water from White Plains was dysfunctional and even the new ones procured needed more time to be installed by Ghanaians. The Government shoddily failed to ensure sanitary amenities. Garbage is visible around street corners and public sewage facilities remain deplorable, resulting to gush of feces across principal streets in Central Monrovia, especially during rainy season. If the Government cannot provide safe water supply and sanitation services to residents in its political capital, can rural inhabitants ever have access to clean water?
In pastoral Liberia, most people obtain water through nearby streams and used the lower end for defecation. Although, the Government revealed to denizens of five counties of complete construction of 25 borehole wells and promised 10 counties occupants of the construction or rehabilitation of 150 sanitation facilities, but not even 10 borehole wells nor 50 sanitation facilities have been constructed. Despite the fact that the Government is struggling to repair White Plains, it bogusly proclaimed the rehabilitation of White Plains facilities and supply of water in three counties capitals. What a paradox? To further exacerbate and ridicule the situation, Government resulted to the repair of minute hand pump just in two of the many districts, which is yet to be actualized. Scandalously, the Government has reneged on community-led total sanitation actions in three counties as promised.
The Government decided to hoax many Liberians if not all on pillar three which accounts for Infrastructure and Economic Development. The city grids are usually powered off when there is a heavy down pour of rain. Even as that, Light Poles are substandard and fall anytime on billboards and dwelling locales, most especially during lightning and thunderstorms. Gigantic generators provided through foreign assistance mounted in Point Four, Waterside and Joe Bar areas remain the primary source of power supply while private generators in various communities create nuisance and emission, which is hazardous. Since the entire electricity hubbub has become a cock-and-bull story, the Government with funding from its international partners resolved to bestow electricity to low-income households even though extreme poverty is at a standstill. From all indications, the energy sector performed below expectation. Up to the completion of the 150 days deliverables, nothing much have been achieved. Most of central Monrovia is very dark in the night due to the lack of street lights, yet the Government averred that it was going to expand transmission and distribution facilities. For this reason, many people and properties have been destroyed by the usage of candles and tiger generators. In point of fact, most recently four juveniles died of suffocation from a generator. Therefore, it baffles one imagination regarding the status of the arrangement for the installation of solar lights in over 10,630 villages. However, the people are still awaiting the “big light”, Madam President.
Across the country, road conditions remain very much deplorable to the extent that motorcycles have become the major hauler. All the more so, brand-new roads constructed within relatively short span of time, have now become decrepit. Take a ride on SKD Boulevard or Jamaica Road or perhaps any neoteric road to come to the realization. Dilapidated drainage systems along newly rehabilitated roads have led to serious deluge of rainy water, which resulted into the evacuation of people from their homes within the course of the 150 days deliverables. In this modern age, when other nations are building tunnels and super highways, the Government is busy constructing or rehabilitating primitive and narrow roads. Most of the roads are dusty and government repeatedly spent millions of United States dollars every fiscal year on phony rehabilitation. The Ministry of Public Works carry out ground breaking ceremonies, feasibility studies and assessments within the period under review, but the trickle-down effect is yet to be realized when dreadful road conditions caused pregnant women death and marketers commodities damage. It is a glaring fact the 10 reinforced concrete bridges have not be completed up till now. Though, the Government finally completed and launched the Transport Master Plan, notwithstanding the implementation has not jump-started.
The ports are vulnerable and appalling, which is totally unacceptable for Liberia in this new age. Poor runway and lack of backup power supply at Robert International Airport (RIA) continue to be awful even as the Master Plan for RIA to become a regional trade hub is being developed. Nevertheless, RIA management admitted that the Airport generates US$600,000 monthly with no contribution to national budget but still operates below standard. So, one can only ponder on where is the money going? The Government inability to administer the Freeport of Monrovia gives rise to privatization of operation segment of the port, controlled by ATM Terminals. In spite of this the National Port Authority has been unable to manage its own facilities. The entire operational area of ATM Terminal is paved while the Port vicinity is filthy and any insignificant down pour of rain creates flood. Shockingly, less than half mile road that leads to Bong Mining Company pier is muddy with countless potholes and messy, though it is being used by CEMENCO, China Union and other companies. With all the revenue accumulated and fabulous salaries and accompanying benefits to higher-ups in the Port, it took weeks if not months to repair the main gate and electrify some strategic areas. Although, the ports of Greenville and Monrovia were dredged, but the overall objectives were not achieved and even the first 160 meters of marginal wharf at the Port of Monrovia is yet to be completed.
With support from the World Bank and government partnership among GSM companies, the optic fiber capable reached Liberia. However, its connectivity has been a slow pace and many people do not have access to affordable, effective and convenient internet network. The public is yet to benefit from the deployment of Fiber to support nationwide ICT infrastructure.
The four pillar centered around crucial issues of Governance, Rights, and Transparency, which are pivotal to reclaiming Liberia's future. It is an unarguable fact that warlords, so-called progressives and renowned activists have always attributed prolong civil conflict and political upheaval on these issues mentioned supra. Indeed, it forms the basic for every governmental discussion and remains essential propaganda machinery. It is excruciating that the President who approved the deliverables, consciously rubbished request from the people to ensure that Finance and Planning ministries merged as enshrined in the deliverables. Despite all of the outcries and pleas, the merger is yet to occur after the deadline expired. And, Minister Amara Konneh continues to head both ministries at once with all rights and pledges pertaining thereto. This is undeniably a pity for an emerging democracy.
The Economic Management Team has somewhat been strengthened comprising of many foreign experts while knowledgeable Liberians loitered various streets in search of jobs. After massive downsizing exercises which put thousands of qualified and competent people out of job, the President soon began creating more and more commissions and bureaus to accommodate her cronies and loyalists. Again, just within the scope of the deliverables, another auxiliary of government is about to be formulated known as National Bureau of Concessions. Obviously, the Government has developed the first mid-term budget, but it has got no potential to create middle class. There is no component of the budget that invests into social and natural sciences research in order to breed new technicians and entrepreneurs. Studies have proven that without prioritizing research any country is doomed.
Most of the country's natural resources are being continually exploited by only a few elites. Government has to a greater extent mortgage almost all of the resources that should be reserved for posterity. The discovery of significant quantity of crude oil has further worsened the quest to accrue wealth. Members of the National Legislature placed a still order on all contracts with the exception of Block 13 pertaining review and scrutiny of the laws and regulations governing the oil sector. Even as the Government is revising the Energy Policy, scores of Liberians are disenchanted over the President appointment of her son as 'Pro Bono'. Moreover, the Government intention to address transparent management in the oil and gas sector has again proven futile as Israel Akinsanya who was charged with defrauding Lonestar MTN over 2.5 million dollars is being appointed to serve as Vice President for Public Affairs, a position recently created. So, where is the transparency? When Philibert Brown divulged that “Chevron has given 10.5 million for Social Development Funds to Robert Sirleaf through President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry Office”, the statement that was neither denied nor confirmed.
It is without doubt that the Government is not prepared to fight corruption, which has engulfed the country for far too long. Take time out and ruminate over the President intentional and tenuous justification for not appointing a new Auditor General. If Madam President openly admits failure to appoint Auditor General then what becomes of appointees who have got flimsy excuses for not achieving specific deliverables? Amazingly, what is even more baffling is that the President claimed she owes no apology for mendaciously reneging on an indispensable promise to her employer (the Republic) as expressed in Article 60 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Since its establishment, the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission remains a toothless bull dog without power to persecute corrupt officials and passage of the proposed legislation to improve effectiveness of LACC would have little impact. The LACC should as well create more awareness to discourage dishonest practices not only in selected high schools in Monrovia, but form partnership with institutions across the country.
The new Executive Code of Conduct is just another witticism and far from being achievable. All presidential appointees are yet to disclose their assets. Imagine only 64 out of 239 officials have complied, which is diminutive. Of course, the long-awaiting Code of Conduct for public servants is distant from being passed by lawmakers who all too often engage into discussing all sorts of nonissues.
Over the years, somewhat think tank has been established; however the ordinary people have got little or no idea about what is unfolding in government. Many chiefs throughout the country lack basic equipment or qualified staffers or economic empowerment. A group of well-educated and professional individuals drafted the Decentralization and Local Governance policy, and in recent times organized a conference to inform the chiefs about what the policy entails. Hence, it is crystal clear that the decentralization process could take longer time to implement than expected. Evidently, the Information Commissioner has been appointed and the Broadcast Regulatory Act submitted, notwithstanding to obtain information remain difficult as most agencies of government do not even have a website let alone resource center. Besides, there is still violence against media petitioners and outlets.
Conclusively, pillar five accounts for Security, Justice, and the Rule of Law. The security of the state remains fragile and in the absent of UNMIL, there is a likelihood for chaos. Lawlessness remains eminent while impertinence to constituted authority continues to hike which have got the proclivity to breed mob violence and a new conflict. Every so often, the media unveils venality in the judiciary system. Barely few days ago, two jurors were entangled with bribery. Most state security apparatus persistently exhibit all sort of unscrupulous and cantankerous conducts which result to chaotic circumstances. Thus, lots of people do not confide in security personnel, regardless of the fact that the police force launched a pilot program to attract better quality officers and increase public confidence. The Gbarnga Regional Hub is yet to be utilized and not to even mention its associated deliverables. Probation and parole programs have kick-started on a minuscule level, then again convicts and trial detainees are not separated whereas over crowdedness of already grubby prisons creates a complete health hazard for inmates. Scanty housing facilities, trivial salaries and accompanying benefits have led to countless AWOLs. The Small Arms and Light Weapon Control Acts along with the National Drug Enforcement Agency legislation have been submitted to the National Legislature, but it is yet to be printed into handbills.
The time has come for politicians, policymakers and commoners to put aside differences and scramble for the presidency in 2017 to begin the work of remaking Liberia. When other countries are speedily progressing, there is absolutely no space for empty promises and “Did Well” trophy. It is time to get up, roll up the sleeves, and wear the boots to strive to make Liberia better than what it is now. The Government must be made to account for every penny through vigorous civic engagement. Now is the time to move Liberia forward forever and there is no turning back.