Ex-Foreign Minister on Economic Programming
By Lincoln G. Peters
A veteran Liberian economist and diplomat, Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, says Liberia is economically declining in terms of output and productivity because the current Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., is very weak in economic programming.
“Where we are today, we have a Finance and Development Planning Minister, who is strong in Finance but very weak [on] the programming side,” Dr. McIntosh said during a live talk show on Spoon FM Sunday night, 22 May 2022.
“Usually, when you have something like that in any country, like Ghana and other African countries that have those ministries combined, they firstly develop a National Planning Council, and some country also calls it a committee, which is directly under the President while you have the Minister of Finance and Planning with that,’’ said Dr. Mclntosh.
Dr. McIntosh, a Development Economist with vast international experience, recently declined his appointment by President George Manneh Weah to chair the Governance Commission (GC) in the interest of seeking to be active politically as the country prepares for presidential and legislative elections due 2023.
He has not said if he would contest any of the elected positions.
Dr. McIntosh noted that without planning and programming, there can be no development because you have to match activities, output and mark results with the little money you have.
He notes that Minister Tweah’s focus is on Finance, because it’s used to support development and planning, but adds that he has heard very little when it comes to important things like national institutional issues, which talk about development, planning and programming.
Dr. McIntosh indicates that if you were to put Liberia on the scale, assuming zero is at the bottom and five is at the top, Liberia is hanging around two in terms of how the country engages Finance, partners, and international institutions.
He stresses that there should be a clear indication as to what is on your agenda in how you deal with those institutions.
That agenda, he explains, is like the development issues and interventions, adding that the government has the PAPD (Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development) which is heavily loaded with lots of good things in it.
But the Liberian Economist suggests that you have to take the document into segments with the four pillars in it and do the programming to start the conversation with the international partners.
“I have been in the boardroom of the World Bank, where decisions are finally made as to how countries will get money or not,” said Dr. McIntosh.
“The type of issues that come on the floor is that little paper, the strategic commitment and several other factors before that green light comes on,” he continues.
He says it’s time that the government here splits those issues up into committees as the PAPD’s planning policy mandates, noting that the PAPD calls for inter-ministerial machinery and committee, and the document is only good on paper because no committee is working.
According to Dr. McIntosh, Minister Tweah and his team have to do more by listening to others and engaging in sectorial planning by bringing people on board that understand their sectors to make sure there is proper planning, programming and development.
“That aspect of governance about programming, I have not heard [anything] from the Minister and it means his focus is one-sided.”
He also took issues with Tweah for his use of unexplained big economic languages when talking to the public, saying “you have to discuss in the context of the hearing of the public and at that time you do not speak as a strong economist with those big terminologies.
McIntosh noted that there is pressure on the economy, but you need to break it down for the public to hear and understand.