President George Manneh Weah launched his government’s five-year development plan dubbed, Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development or PAPD over the weekend in Ganta, Nimba County, targeting to reduce poverty by 23 percent in five of six regions in Liberia.
The ambitious document contains four pillars namely; Power to the People, Economy and Jobs, Sustaining the Peace, and Governance and Transparency. It was crafted by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund or UNICEF.
We can but only hope that the plan was truly designed with the Liberian people in mind, because they are supposed to be the ultimate beneficiaries in line with decision made at the ballot box during the December 26, 2017 Runoff Presidential Election. In short, the Liberian people overwhelmingly signed a social contract by electing then Candidate George Manneh Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party to govern the country and better their lives.
Too often in our country’s history, we have observed with serious disappointment that politicians come with grandeur agenda and intentions that never see daylight. Instead, they remain mere slogans and blueprint on papers while state resources that should be directed at actual implementation or execution to achieving the dreams are siphoned and misappropriated.
Instead of leaders truly endeavoring to lift their people out of the shackles of illiteracy, ignorance, poverty, disease and misery, they get carried away by extravagant receptions and gifts proffered by executives of investment companies trying to win their hearts and forget about the masses.
Here are a few examples: The late President William V.S. Tubman had the Open Door Policy that left this country bare for foreign investors during his entire 27 years rule with no tangible returns in terms of infrastructural development. His immediate successor President William R. Tolbert launched the similarly ambitious From Mat to Mattress Policy but he and his immediate relatives held the string tightly, directly involving themselves in all of the private investments, and at the same time running the government. Slain President Samuel Kanyon Doe ousted them in a bloody military coup in 1980, charged them with rampant corruption and executed 13 Tolbert officials by firing squad at the Barclay Training Center in Monrovia. After taking power, Doe himself got entangled by nepotism, tribalism and endemic corruption, placing personal loyalty above national duty, a misrule that led to his government crumble in
a rebel invasion on December 24, 1989 and his eventual capture and mutilation to death.
Rebel leader Charles Taylor preached freedom and patriotism from the bush on his way to Monrovia and launched Vision 2021 after winning election in 1997, but got blurred by power, ill-gotten wealth, women and personal aggrandizement, which led to his eventual downfall in 2003. Immediate former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power on a pendulum of massive international support and launched Poverty Reduction Strategy that was subsequently dubbed, Agenda for Transformation accompanied by Vision 2030. But after serving two consecutive six-year terms, she left office with no running water and electricity still remaining a luxury for most ordinary Liberians.
Therefore, we cautiously welcome the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, launched on the theme, “Unveiling of an Integrated Five Years Medium-Term National Development Plan towards Accelerated, Inclusive and Sustainable Development.” Notwithstanding, we believe the PADP will only become meaningful if it impacted people’s lives rather than just a mere slogan.
For instance, Pillar One – Power to the People would just become a catch phrase absolutely mean nothing if the nation cannot feed itself, if thousands of our people don’t have access to quality health care and shelter, while officials of government buy for themselves houses here and there, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars.
In short, the PADP should be truly people-centered by transforming lives. It shouldn’t be a lip-service heralded in public speeches for political gains, for the issues it intends to address have existed for decades, and would only be appreciated for the difference it would make in Liberians’ lives.