VISION OUTLOOK AND TRACES
As indicated in most papers I read, the idea to undertake a long term perspective studies on Liberia was advanced by the current President, H.E. Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when she headed the than Governance Reform Commission, now Governance Commission, chaired by Dr. Amos C. Saywer, co-progenitor of 'vision 2030'. Many perspectives were drawn from past analyses done by historians and researchers on the Liberian situation. These perspectives highlight the flagging questions of where we've come from as a nation. Where are we? Where do we want to go? and how do we get there? These deep-rooted questions were addressed by Liberians and other stakeholders both here and in the Diaspora.
Conducting long term perspective study on Liberia has long lingered. During discussions on the peace process in Accra, Ghana, these concerns were heeded every day in the conference atrium. At the final analysis, it was generally agreed that a collective peace-seeking process through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, could ensure genuine peace and national healing. About 800 public hearings were conducted, and 20, 000 statement taken both from victims and perpetrators. The report was concluded with many recommendations: key amongst which are reparation for victims; palavat hut process; binding individuals from holding elected offices for thirty (30) years, and a host of others.
Imbued with the problem of service delivery as well as the complexities in governance, government machineries began the construction of a multidimensional governance structure that could remain responsive to the needs of the “masses”. The postwar administration of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first elected woman President on the continent of Africa paneled on a long journey to salvage a country hurled by turmoil and other vices.
Several interventions were made, the promised of “small and effective government” was on its heels of implementation when citizens begun venting out their frustration on the 'right sizing and down-sizing' exercise, which aimed was to mainly safe government of the many wastage on ghost names. This is one out of the many policy interventions which has led to the consummation of the vision 2030. This recollection should not be seen as a waste of time, but rather one intended to deepen your understanding on the issue at bay. (Vision 2030)
Conceivably, the government is hugely contended with the sky-rocketing expectations from the end users of social services-a recurred phenomenon saturating our governance system posted by harsh economy reality.
Addressing these contending issues need no 'kitschy policy', but an action oriented and result-based framework through which the collective and shared aspirations of the people can be realized. To do this, requires lots of methodical measures.
So, was this whole issue about vision 2030 really necessary? Did we have to spend nearly two (2) million to conduct 156 district and five (5) regional consultations, including consulting people in the Diaspora? Did we have to travel to the sub-region, Europe and the Americas to consult our compatriots on the common good of the country? Cynics and other nationalists may be divergent in thoughts on this one. For me, with all the tattered arguments and cynicisms, I say a resounding yes!
I will attempt, to contextualize these fundamental and largely niggling issues, for which we are now finding painstaking therapy.
Firstly, Liberia has come a long way; its history is doused with many inadequacies. The people have long endured political marginalization and total exclusion from the deeply bumpy governance arrangement. This process started as far back as far when the settlers decided to totally exclude the indigene from the governance system of the country; they also denied them rights to have title to land and other natural resources, as well as other accompanying social amenities. The situation continued for far too long that the grandeur of Congo-hegemony felt ever relaxed that Liberia was their cooperative, nothing more, nothing less.
What a savagery!
The prolonged years of carnage did not only hark back to us that something was at stake and needed urgency, but that the celestial body too was dead-beat and almost on the brink of turn-back. The fundamental imperatives to create conditions as a government for harmony, cultural assimilation and equal distribution of the nation wealth cannot be finely tuned; also, citizen's responsibility in realizing a collective aspiration and establishing foundation for the unseeing generation cannot be over-emphasized. Government has to play its role while citizens too perform their civil duty.
The uncertainty that has for too long beclouded our governance system has to change and needs to be clearly defined. This is not like what we are seeing today as “quick-impact project”, as intimated by MIA Minister (Hon. Blamoh Nelson) during the consummation of the Vision 2030 discussions. Liberia's problem is seriously intricate, compounded with the issue of deception, envy and a host of other viles that continued to hunt and deepen our already hard-to-cure wounds. I am inclined to elevate this debate further, because, I feel strongly that we are making serious ceaseless swell in the governance system, considering the different drifts and drawbacks. I know that doubting Thomases will continue to create lots of misgivings, and conditions that would set government against its citizens or vice versa.
Embarking on a long term development framework for our common patrimony is a plausible painstaking enterprise which requires a collectivized effort from every sphere of the society. This, I believe, was the fundamental 'crux of the matter' for the different levels of consultations.
There are those whose critical outlook on this long term development program, or better still vision 2030, need serious attention. The consultation is over, the deal has been consummated!
Liberia's developmental agenda cannot be driven and/or realized by any solitary group, the shared effort of everyone must be embraced. Government effort to get fair representation from every sector of the society; political parties, the expected drivers of this process; religious community (Christians, Muslims, etc.); the Youth community (Fly, LINSU, Youth in politics etc); business institutions; professionals; Diaspora Liberians, to name a few, ultimately crush threadbare thoughts that the process was not “inclusive”.
The debate that we are good at “making laws” or “policies”, but weak in implementation must be tracked here. Look, “vision 2030” is neither a law nor policy. The linkage here is too wee but too far to be called the formers. You see, simplistic wise, laws are most often enacted, they are binding, when bridge; there is a set penalty, but that is not the crux here. Policy is a rationalized course of action to be undertaken, and with set goals.
They can be achieved based on commitment (political will), resources, good implementation framework and the required human capital. Vision here is almost the same as faith-the substance of things hope for but the evidence not seeing.
Our imagination about a “middle class” economy is a “HOPE”, but a collective one, realizing it must be through national rally. So, this vision is a collective and hopeful aspiration. Hey, wait a minute, do you know that Africa is richer than any other continent, but yet the region with the most developing countries? Read this: Africa possessed 50% of the war raw materials, but only 15% of investment opportunity is realized. (Report from 2010 FOCA)
African countries that are making headways in economic growth stories are not dissimilar from ours; in fact, they endured more hardships, their citizens were more impoverished and tattered than Liberians. Their colonial past is far more vexing than Liberia. Botswana for example, experienced adverse conditions of inequality. Her impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, cautious fiscal policies, with international financial and technical assistance, and a sharp-eyed foreign policy. It is rated the least corrupt country in Africa, according to an international corruption watchdog, (Transparency International) the people of Botswana, with all the intricacies, mustered the enthusiasm and courage. Do you know that Liberia resource potential (Timber, Iron Ore, Rubber, Diamond, Gold, Uranium-unofficial, Oil, etc) is higher than Botswana, but yet remains the fourth poorest country in the World? Am sure you are now seeing the need for a collective national vision. When Liberia's growth potential was compared to other countries in the 50s, Botswana was still under colonial rule.
Why spent nearly 2 million on consultation?
Interesting, Liberia's governance past is seriously replete and/or characterized by bad leadership, simply put. With political exclusion, marginalization taking center stage. Public bureaucrats in time past considered consultation, inclusion and perhaps merit as a 'no-go-zone' in the formulation and implementation of public policy. This was due in part to the lack of interest in our people. Current government actors, headed by this wonderful female President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf realize the fact that Liberia cannot made any steps forward in governance without seeking the involvement of the people. Reading from within, non-partisans in this government are even occupying several strategy positions than Partisans. This is so because at such critical juncture, you need the involvement of everyone, and at every level. Coming back to the main issues; when a country goes through such turmoil, the need to embark on a long term development agenda requires no soothsaying.
Liberians are scattered all around the World as a consequence of the vitriolic civil carnage. The mindset of the people towards government is absolutely diverse. The trust and confidence has to some extend be wrinkled; restoring it requires honesty, not lip service. One approach which can be adapted here is to allow everyone take ownership, not when the policy is formulated. Vision can sometimes be conceived by one and sorely implemented by the conceiver. In this context, Liberians have unanimously agreed that this long standing problem has to be solved. You cannot solve a group problem with one segment left in abeyance. This will be seen as the reverberation of those excesses of the past. To decide a country long term development future through broad based consultations entails real capital.
Realizing vision 2030: mile stone to a middle income economy
Here, my focus is place on the role and responsibility of citizens, government and our transnational partners.
The end users of basics social services are becoming increasingly frustrated about the laid-back pace to which services are being delivered. There are several factors one can consider as we all strive to make Liberia a 'middle class economy'. Firstly, government needs to remain stern or reinforce her strategy in implementing all the good policies that are on the book. Education is a major factor here: Liberia educational system is gradually improving, but need serious patch up to the effect that the required human capital is available in the country.
Our reliance on imported brains in restructuring our private sector poses serious problem to the growth of Liberia's economy. Creating a middle income economy is based on the quality of education, requisite training, commitment and the desired infrastructure. I have heard over times the President's comment on this. The government must be the driver in this process. When the enabling environment is created, I mean the right policy here; there will be no need to worry about the right human capital. When trained teachers are place in the class room and with the right text book and lucrative salary, our problem of quality education can be laid to rest. The issue of consultancy needs to be carefully looked at. Consultants in most Ministries are almost out numbering the employees-to be brutally frank; most of them are below the belt. Another very critical issue I like to throw light on at this juncture is this “10%” which has enveloped the implementation of most government projects. One fundamental basic for the slow pace or poor quality of most projects in government is due to the fact that vendors, concessionaires and contractors are often times squeezed to make flat payment before they are awarded. Is this part of “international best practice”? Citizens too are very critical here as we move towards a 'middle income economy'. Too many ostensible comments aimed at empowering Liberian owned businesses and /or prioritizing our products have been uttered over times. I know there are steps, but we need to be hasty and very prudent. Even the entertainment industry (Music, movies, etc) ought to be looked at-let's stop, if not minimize the importation of foreign artists to perform at national events. Our economy will grow when government officials stop the manipulation of awarding million dollars contracts to bogus companies that are created by them.
To successfully realize vision 2030, the citizens must remain within the ambit of their expectations. We need to roll our sleeves not only as receivers, but major contributors to this painstaking process. Do you know that on the average we don't respect our security officers? How our laws will be implemented when the police and other security personnel's are the least respected in the society; when our teachers and doctors are being insulted; when teachers are receiving bribe to pass students who are do not meet the educational requirements of the country ; when the parents are sending their kids to buy alcoholic beverages; when the big man continues to stifle the small man due to fear that the small man may take his job; when the politicians are still using the vulnerable and smart young people as conduit just to meet their vested interest; when disparity in the salary payment of government officials are on the rise.
Standards need to be established to ensure productivity, efficiency and commitment to duty.
Finally, I would like to advance to the government of Liberia under the leadership of H.E Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, considering the statistics of Liberia's illiterate population, that the vision 2030 document be translated into simple English and circulated to deepen the understanding of our citizenry. This in effect, will create conditions for ownership.
About the author: Amos B. Tweh is junior cabinet Minister of Urban Affairs, at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Unity Party National Youth Congress Chairman.