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GeneralLiberia newsON 2ND THOUGHT

On 2nd Thoughts: Liberia-A nation lacking commitment to a national vision

By Othello B. Garblah

“When there is no clear prophetic vision, people quickly wander astray. But when you follow the revelation of the Word, heaven’s bliss fills your soul. A stubborn servant can’t be corrected by words alone. For even if he understands, he pays no attention to you.” Proverb 29:18-19 (The Passion Translation).

A few weeks ago, the Joseph Boakai regime released what it said was its 100-day deliverables just before the national legislature could pass the FY 2024 National Budget, with plans to develop its version of a 5-year national agenda -ARREST.

In 2008, the Government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf developed a 3-year (2008-2011) development strategy named and styled Lift Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). It was considered a post-war emergency reconstruction to economic recovery.

Lift Liberia PRS was a government action plan and a framework for organizing donor assistance. When the plan was written in 2008, the funding for its implementation had not yet been pledged, so it did not fully achieve its intended purpose.

By 2012, as she ushered in her second and final term, the Sirleaf regime had developed another development strategy: a five-year strategic Agenda for Transformation (AfT).

Though not expected to deliver transformation, the AfT was the first step toward achieving the goals set out in Liberia RISING 2030, Liberia’s long-term vision of socio-economic transformation and development.

The vision, spearheaded by Gbarpolu County’s current Senator Amara Konneh, then Finance and Development Planning Minister under the Ellen regime, failed to achieve its initial five-year strategic agenda following the EBOLA outbreak, which sent post-war gains backward.

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However, in 2018, the AfT was soon replaced by President George Weah’s Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

The Weah strategic development plan, which ran from 2018 to 2023, was the second in the series of five-year National Development Plans (NDPs) anticipated under the Liberia Vision 2030 framework.

It follows the Agenda for Transformation 2012-2017 (AfT). It was said to have been informed by lessons learned from implementing the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy 2007 (iPRS) and the Poverty Reduction Strategy (2008-2011).

These five-year plans were steps toward achieving the country’s 2030 Vision. However, 10 years have passed, and not much has been achieved under these two separate five-year strategic development plans.

As the country awaits Boakai’s own 5-year ARREST agenda, Liberia is less than 6 years away from its 2030 development vision without taking any significant steps toward achieving it.

National Agendas are long-term plans whose implementation spans ten years and requires periodic updating and revisions. They include a set of national indicators in the sectors of education, healthcare, economy, police and security, housing, infrastructure, and government services.

The ultimate purpose of National Agenda is to achieve sustainable development through a transformation program. It promotes an inclusive environment that integrates all segments of society.

From the above, Liberia appears to lack national commitment and political will to achieve a holistic national development agenda, as each regime has its own defined strategic plan for the 2030 Vision.

A nation with a clearly defined vision also has a developed roadmap leading to its implementation, which is passed on from one regime to another, while the citizens hold each regime accountable for its implementation.

For example, what is the program for, say, roads under Vision 2030 for infrastructure, and what has been the commitment toward that from one regime to another? Spending US100 million by law each budget year would be a strong commitment to the road network alone under the 2030 Vision Road Program. This would have improved road connectivity over the last 10 years.

It is critical to note that a national agenda without a clear, developed roadmap to achieve it is mere words on paper. Knowing what you want is one thing, but knowing what to do to achieve it and committing to that is another.

Liberia’s national vision should be a working tool for all administrations and a desire to implement the right programs to achieve it. This vision should be legislated to compel every government to commit to such an agenda by law. The indicators within the vision should be stand-alone items in the budget. Liberia’s National Budget has been recurrent expenditure-based and not development-oriented year on year, and this has hindered progress in achieving the country’s development goals.

Politics aside, the Boakai administration can get this right by holding a national development conference that would bring all stakeholders on board, including but not limited to all opposition political parties, development experts, the media, diaspora Liberians, and business community members as well as members of the religious community.

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