The key concept and objective of the Liberia Reconstruction Development Alliance (LDA which builds on public-private partnership is to produce a new middle class, says Finance Minister Amara Konneh. However, this is not an existing economic structuring body, but one that is being proposed and to be heavily funded from the Liberian Development Fund. Creating a middle class which has vanished from the Liberian socio-economic structure many years ago has always been a major focus at intellectual discourses and political platforms of politicians seeking political offices; but one whose attainment has never seen the light of day. In an effort to achieve same, administrations have always created complex bureaucracies that bear heavily on the national economy without results.
It appears that the new Finance Minister is developing a new platform to that end. Whether his objectives would be achieved without a bulky complex economic scheme that sucks millions from the economy remains to be seen. Nevertheless, I do agree with Amara that public-private partnership could accelerate an active economic development interaction that might boost Liberia’s economy- not on a give-give basis- but on a give and take disposition. Private sector promotion breeds a responsive and productive economy that helps government shape infrastructural development and human resource formation.
Much as Konneh’s thoughts are progressive, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Trade, and Industry, Senator Abel Massalay is more concerned about the manner in which goods and services are distributed in the economy. He believes much pressure is bear on consumers by producers and distributors to suppressive economic ends. Massalay’s thoughts are that in the process of creating a middle class, public-private partnership interaction should bring solution to the disparities in market prices between consumers in Monrovia and those in faraway counties. In his opinion, this interaction should encourage major distributors and producers to establish depots in the counties to stabilize prices and make them comparative to prices in the capital.
Hon. Grant of Grand Gedeh County
Creating a middle class must take into consideration increase in the spending powers of citizens or making costs for goods and services affordable so that savings and investment opportunities are extended to citizens. On the other hand, Representative Alex Grant of Grand Gedeh County seems to argue that a middle class cannot be created with a foreign dominated economy. He believes whatever partnership as emphasized by Konneh would be largely beneficial to foreign businesses than Liberians.
However, Honorable Grant sees a re-visitation of the Liberianization Policy to be a positive step towards creating that middle class. He postulates that the policy is only in theory and has no substantive foundation to erect a lasting and transforming structure that would gradually produce a Liberian takeover of the economy. A re-visitation must therefore include structural policies and more profoundly a Liberian Business Development and Empowerment Center (LBDEC) that would provide guidance to Liberian businesses, assisting them to secure loans, monitoring their development through technical and regular supervision, and promulgating laws that would make Liberian partnership in high tune industrial ventures possible and compelling.
On that note, I do agree with Representative Grant. Steps must be taken that would gradually get Liberians in control of their economy. Nigeria must be seen as a role model. Research should be conducted on the Nigerian experience and methods adopted by which we can also reach that pedestal.
Liberia’s highly versed intellectual policies in solving major economic problems must now undergo transformation. The Konneh-nomics solution to creating a middle class with the pumping in of resources from the LDF should be strongly re-visited. Those in charge of policies formation should determine how best to structure the Liberianization policy for effective public-private partnership that boost domestic gains and shoot Liberians into the mainstream of Liberia’s economy with emphasis on the private sector rather than thickening the already complex bureaucracies and intellectual jargons that over-ride substantive means of resolving Liberia’s economic woos.
There is the agro-economic sector which begs for productive solution. To this, Representative Grant also presents another strong debate on how best the agro-sector could be more productive. He thinks the idea of regional agricultural cooperatives with GOL and Donors’ funding could be created by law. In his opinion, this would stimulate the agro-sector and increase incentives for farmers.
He believes a sound agricultural policy must have structural institutions and marketing policies. He also believes these cooperatives when established would transform Liberia from shifting cultivations to mechanize farming. To this end, the LPMC could be sufficiently revitalized to serve as the supervising, buying and lending institution to cooperatives. Also farm to market roads must be a top priority. With these enormous and most needed ventures, government and donors resources should be properly directed for needed national results.
The Ministries of Finance, Planning, and Internal Affairs also need to review national development policies and come out boldly with a decentralized plan for Liberia. As postulated in my last week article, a county and local government code has to be legislated. The centralization of resources and funding for counties and local governments has and continue to create obstacles in our drive to modernize Liberia.
The Konneh-nomics should not create another web of a centralized bureaucracy but to propose to the Legislature a new revenue allocation law which in essence is revenue sharing to enable counties formulate budgetary and development plans- not control by central authorities- but by the counties and their local administrations. He needs to propose a fair sharing of royalties from companies operating in the counties to reduce or eliminate agitations over concession agreements. He needs further to propose that county administrations should be brought in as members of concession committees once that concession is directed to a county. This would be the beginning of a new era and a legacy President Sirleaf could leave behind.
Truly, Konneh is one of Liberia’s brilliant young generations. What he needs to do is to re-assess objectively why, with all the brilliance of Liberia’s economists and development experts, the rural parts of Liberia still have a primitive look and Liberians are still far from taking over their economy.
As the new Senate Chairman on Commerce, Trade, Industry interest seems to be directed to interactions with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, and Industry and the business communities on how best policies can be shaped for the benefit of rural Liberians, it is needful for the Senate Ways, Means, and Finance Committee as well as the Senate Committee on Internal Affairs to go beyond the traditional scope of oversight by assessing Liberia’s economic and governing policies so that major transformations are experienced before the end of the Sirleaf’s tenure.