The Legislative responsibility in development processes of Liberia should go beyond chamber’s debates on presidential bills, ratification of national and international instruments, and/or law making. The obligations to the people of Liberia as a branch within the context of effective oversight, and monitoring of development patterns, reviewing governmental policies, and the social conditions of citizens of the Republic of Liberia.
Profoundly, each Legislator therefore has a constitutional mandate to ensure the transformation of his or her constituency at the close of the tenure of that Legislator. This means, a Legislator must closely study Executive programs and policies within the context of how those policies and programs are to impact the development of his or her constituency. This is why legislators should take keen note of the President’s legislative agenda and to review if it is reflective of the aspirations of his or her constituency when she appears before them.
This trend when followed could be referred to as a comprehensive national development agenda. The essence of the appearance of the President before the Legislature to present a legislative agenda is solely intended to gain the approbation of the Legislature to underwrite costs associated with those social, economic and development programs that are contained in that agenda. If constituencies’ developments are not profoundly reflected in the said agenda, the Legislature should be under no obligation to commit state resources to such programs.
In view of what of the above stated points, the million dollars question to all of us would be: has Liberia’s development and governing style experienced radical change over the last six decades? Has representation also drastically changed over the last six decades? Has Liberia’s commercial and industrial policies significantly changed over the last six years?
If these debates attract a yes answer, then we need to look closely at our constituencies and constituents to see the impacts of those changes that we so profoundly cherished and hold dear to our hearts. I do share the thoughts of some Liberians about the challenges Legislators are faced with. Liberia’s commercial, trading, and industrial policies have remained conspicuously the same. This has had and continues to have serious negative responses to consumers and the Government of Liberia.
Liberia is endowed with rich mineral resources which have attracted industrial powers and endeared them to our nation. However, we have not put into place investment mechanisms that would make it compelling to establish processing and finishing plants so that Liberia becomes exporters of finished products to increase the performance of our economy and make us industrial giants.
Further, Liberia’s commercial and trading activities have become most centrally active and easing for city dwellers than those in the rural parts of the country. Major suppliers and producers seem more restrained to the capital and thus creating harsh economic burdens for rural dwellers. When these suppliers failed to establish depots in the rural parts, consumers would have to depend on local businesses to import those goods and services to other parts of Liberia at higher costs than necessary. This is what I might call domestic export into a domestic sector. What have been the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, and Industry position to reduce or ease the cost burden for citizens outside Monrovia? These are key issues that have not been reflective of many Liberian Presidents’ Legislative Agenda. Hence Commerce, Trade and Industry remains highly centralized and imposes difficulties for constituencies represented by Legislators. The focus of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Trade and Industry would therefore be efficient oversight to ensure that these are given appropriate attention.
When the Executive Branch does not come up with appropriate policies, then it becomes the responsibility the National Legislature to do so by enacting laws that would comprehensively deal with Liberians development aspirations. The processes of lawmaking have been made constitutionally interesting. The Legislature may evolve bills for enactment and so does the Executive, Judiciary and citizens or citizens groups. So then, we all do share responsibilities in coming up with master plans that would transform Liberia into oasis of modern developments consistent with the millennium development goals (MDG).
From the treasury of Liberia, enormous financial and material resources have been provided to the Good Governance Commission to come up with a master plan for the decentralization of Liberia. Those transforming blue prints for a new and progressive Liberia should now become the focus of the National Legislature before the close of the 53RD Legislature. Legislators who make up the 53rd Legislature should brace themselves to come up with the necessary debates and consultations that would lead to the formulation of enabling legislations such as, a new revenue allocation law that would empower local administrations financially and to provide opportunities for them to plan and execute their own development programs alongside with national government development programs.
The Legislature should therefore begin looking into local government empowerment and partnerships in economic ventures in their localities as a significant step as well as their participation into concession discussions and developments relating to mineral resources within their geographic areas. Such decisions would stimulate national growth and transform constituencies represented by Legislators.
After the Marcos imperial rule in the Philippians, the new administration took bold steps to correct the anomalies of the system and by September 10, 1991, the Philippians’ House of Senate under Jovito R. Salonga and House Speaker Ramon V. Mitra passed a Local Government Code which was approved by Corazon C. Aquino, President of the Philippines. This was a beginning of a new era for that country.
The significance of the Philippians revolution could not be altered by incoming administrations. In 1998, February 5, the new Senate President, Neptali A. Gonzales and new House Speaker Jose De Venecia, Jr. passed several supplementary Acts to strengthen the local government codes which was signed by President Fedel V. Ramos. In 2002 March, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo also approved supplements to make the system work. The 53rd Legislature in collaboration with the Executive and Judiciary can implement a national renewal program (NRP).
I think the time is ripe for Liberia to now begin a process of political and economic transformation to alter systems that have kept Liberia in the back seat of development and its people in poverty. Legislative oversight committees should delve into matters affecting constituencies’ development. One of the most crucial steps should be the operational style of the economy. Questions should be focus on why Liberia, in the midst of vast and rich natural resources, cannot have all major roads and highways paved. Why Liberians have not taken over their economy and why major suppliers and distributors have not established depots in the counties and why price control has not been effective.
As Legislators, the satisfactions of our various constituencies should emphasize our productive work. What this means is that we have to shift our focus to more crucial areas of national development and depart from standards set many years ago. We have to protect consumers and producers alike to balance the economy. We have to work actively on a decentralized governing system and create the environment for counties to develop their own economies by decisions jointly made. The Philippians’ experience should provide a guide.