This article does not in any way strive to condemn any economic recovery plans in Liberia, all have been penned with the hope of restituting poverty with prosperity, but nearly all remain a plan, strategy and a goal yet to take its significance course and effect the ordinary Liberians, rather have only restituted and benefited a few Liberians with the majority striving in poverty, surviving on less a $1US dollar a day. This article is penned not really as a model or an economic recovery policy, but seeks to challenge current policy makers, and make stakeholders cognizance that the struggles to bring economic freedom is not new; even at the height of the dictator Charles G. Taylor and the pearl of the depression of Samuel K. Doe; they both have the greatest economic recovery plan for Liberia than many of the democratic civilian leaders, accept William Richard Tolbert Jr., who was killed with Liberia’s greatest recovery plan. This article seeks to highlight economic recovery and reform policies, particularly the ones concern with the poor Liberians from the 1st Republic of 1869 to the 2nd Republic of 2017; Liberia, its Poverty Recovery Strategies and Failures, and why it Pro-poor Agenda will fail if Lacked Future Perspectives; and it quest for economic recovery and liberation from 1871 – 2017.
When you say ‘Pro-poor’, people likely to believe that a government has come straightly for the suffering Liberian people, and it appears like for the first time, no economic platform has ever surface in the history of Liberia to emancipate the people from poverty. But before driving you to the ‘pro-poor’ agenda I sincerely enlightened you on reforms in the corridor of our history by past leaders that strive to eliminate poverty, but failed. And here we now stand with a ‘Pro-poor agenda.’ Where does the ‘Pro-poor agenda’ come from? It is a George weah led innovation?
“Pro-poor Agenda” Weah’s Economic Reform Policy, and why it will Fail if Lacked Future Perspective
George Manneh Weah: Liberia most moderate Opposition Leader in the 2nd Republic and Liberia’s current President
Accordingly, ‘when development studies were born, after decolonization in the middle of the twentieth century, poverty was not an important concern of policy-makers.’ The situation changed in the early 1970s, a question of how the interests of the poor could be incorporated in policy-making arrived. ‘New data became available, showing that famine was still occurring and that a third of the poor were not gaining from growth; inclusive policies were presented as a means of allaying threats to state security within a cold war environment, especially in Asian developing countries; and a big boost was given to these policies by the commitment of donors – especially Robert MacNamara; World Bank president – to reorientate lending policies towards urban poverty and rural development. Under the stress of global crisis, poverty focus among aid donors decayed in the 1980s, but it continued among many recipients, especially in South and South-East Asia. In the 1990s, it was relaunched, first tentatively, as a means of protecting the losers from global adjustment (a process which, with the end of the cold war, now embraced Russia and the former Soviet Union) and then more decisively, a process which culminated in the Millennium Development Goals. In the 2000s, with the decay of the Washington consensus, the idea of pro-poor orientation becomes incorporated into a more state-dominated politics in a number of middle-income, especially Latin American, countries.’
‘Pro-poor’ is not a Liberian idea. The general understandings that can be drawn from “pro-poor policies” are those that directly target poor people, or that are more generally aimed at reducing poverty. There is also a general consensus that pro-poor policy processes are those that allow poor people to be directly involved in the policy process, or that by their nature and structure lead to pro-poor outcomes. The current definition used by the Civil Society Partnership Program is that 'the aim of pro-poor policies is to improve the assets and capabilities of the poor'.
Pro-poor agenda is just another borrowed policy like the Green Revolution and the Poverty Reduction Strategy. ‘A pro-poor government is largely understood as a government driven by the primary objective of reducing poverty. A pro-poor government thus takes direct actions that alleviate the sufferings and reduce the number of its citizens living in poverty through sustainable and long-term interventions managed by both the state and the private sector,’ Liberian scholar Ibrahim Al-Bakri Nyei wrote.
‘Pro-poor, according to a working paper by International Poverty Centre (IPC) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), “Pro-poor growth may be referred as growth that benefits the poor and provides them with opportunities to improve their economic situation, as often cited by international agencies (UN 2000, OECD 2001).”
Therefore Pro-poor Agenda should donate its agenda to Pro-poor Growth. Pro-poor Growth is dubbed in two measures: relative pro-poor growth and absolute pro-poor growth. Without these examinations pro-poor is meaningless.
Relative Pro-poor Growth: economic growth should benefit the poor proportional more than the non-poor. This growth reduces poverty faster and incites inequality.
Absolute relative Pro-poor Growth: the poor receive the absolute benefits of growth equal to the absolute benefits received by the non-poor. This pro-poor stimulates equality, but slow in growth.
We stand yet to know which pro-poor growth we are subscribing to. Maybe we are subscribing with the two growths.
Liberians are actually poor people. Poverty is destroying the foundation of the nation. Private schools continue increasing school fees, and the Liberian dollars is depreciating daily. LD$ 600 should be the relative amount to give a nuclear family a daily appreciative meal, not to mention an extended family. In all my research tours in major market places in Liberia, in schools, university campuses, in meetings and public places I have sensed that public trust is wading away and the respect for character is growing cold, and people are getting legally inclined on their right, but morally lack passion for humanity and people are taken character assassination and personal attack as democracy. We live in total confusion and we are becoming selfish with no economic prosperity. Poverty has retaken it course in the Liberian society and people are looking for a new sense of economic emancipation every day. So ‘when President George Weah announced his pro-poor agenda two days after winning the 2017 election, optimism swelled about a well-defined set of policies to address the plight of the intrinsically poor population (Lennart Dodoo, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Weah’s Pro-Poor Projects earmarked with resources allocated under the pro-poor policy include:
- Pay Junior and Senior High School Examination Fees for public and private schools;
- Fulfill government obligation by paying the salaries of 400 new teachers and correcting the salaries of 180 underpaid personnel;
- Increase the number of local Liberian experts through professional skills development for key technical positions in government;
- Provide beds, tools, and other medical equipment and facilities upgrades for John F. Kennedy Medical Center;
- Support on-going humanitarian outreach programs by the First Lady;
- Repair and maintain traffic lights in Monrovia and construct 400 new street lights along the Roberts Field Highway;
- Conduct feasibility study for new Military Hospital;
- Finance efforts to issue biometric identification to government employees and rationalize the wage bill through payroll verification;
- Repair and maintain damaged NTA buses;
- Introduce non-discriminatory loan and grant facilities will provide empowerment and support for Liberian-owned businesses.
Two months after launching the ‘Pro-poor Agenda,’ the President Weah, his First Lady, Mrs. Clar Weah, and some members of his Cabinet have lunch in a local ‘low-level’ restaurant, eating with his bare fingers. Few minutes later, photos of the President eating at the local restaurant went viral on social media in an attempt to depict the pro-poor agenda. These photos, most Liberians understood as the beginning of emplacing government of the poor, denigrating the pro-poor agenda. These humanist photos with the President eating with the poor in local cook shop, but with no plan to transform their lives were the early beginning of the failures of the Pro-poor agenda. Pro-poor Agenda is not about identity, is about transformation. Now, here a recommendation to improve the president pro-poor agenda with local cook shops or restaurants in which he strive to identify with, with no transformation:
Introduce a program that empower and make rural women effective of producing and milling country rice and make the urban cook shops’ women to buy the country rice from the rural women for a minimum cost and then sell the food to the ordinary Liberian people in the various cook shops. With such program; you are helping to promote the country rice in Liberia as compare to imported rice. When you say pro-poor, be cognizant that it is a board idea that needs innovation to transform your people.
Before I address the prospects of the Pro-poor agenda, let me corroborate, not legally, but in my conscious mind inject what are NEWS and what are OLDS in the pro-poor projects weah embarking. However, all the pro-poor projects are crucial and significance for the survival of our nation.
What are old in the pro-poor project?
o Pay Junior and Senior High School Examination Fees for public and private schools:
Taylor did this without platform, but when this happens continually, then, it is a new project.
o Fulfill government obligation by paying the salaries of 400 new teachers and correcting the salaries of 180 underpaid personnel;
President Sirleaf fulfill government obligation, pay salaries and give retire benefit and pension bill. Continual implementations of these projects are the problem Mr. President.
Increase the number of local Liberian experts through professional skills development for key technical positions in government;
President Sirleaf did this by sending young people aboard for study and mentoring young people and later entrusted them with ministry. An example was Augustine Ngufua who Ellen assigned as deputy to Anthontee saydee and later become Liberia’s youngest Finance Minister.
o Provide beds, tools, and other medical equipment and facilities upgrades for John F. Kennedy Medical Center;
Not new, when Ellen took over in 2003, JFK was practical empty with equipment, bed and human resource capacity. It was Ellen who revamped JFK since 15 years.
o Support on-going humanitarian outreach programs by the First Lady;
Not new, President Doe support lots of humanitarian works of his wife and then Charles Taylor, who support lots of local project in His wife Jowel name, thus, gave her some political preference in Liberia.
o Repair and maintain traffic lights in Monrovia and construct 400 new street lights along the Roberts Field Highway;
Not new, Ellen was always maintaining road and repairing traffic and street light and she had plan to extend street lights to kakata and Robert Field highway.
o Repair and maintain damaged NTA buses;
Not new, Madam Sirleaf introduced a system reserving fund for maintenance and repairing of NTA buses, but the system collapsed in early 2016, two years after the Ebola crisis hit the nation.
o Introduce non-discriminatory loan and grant facilities will provide empowerment and support for Liberian-owned businesses.
Not new, Madam Sirleaf did this through the 4th pillar of the TRC recommendation. Community dialogue and empowerment through Macro loan through the Central Bank of Liberia, a program which Dr. Mills Jones intended using for his own political relevance to integrate his political will among the rural and urban Liberians.
What are New in the pro-poor project?
o Conduct feasibility study for new Military Hospital;
New indeed. This will add value to the military, and transform them from a warlike human figure to humanitarian.
o Finance efforts to issue biometric identification to government employees and rationalize the wage bill through payroll verification;
New in height of technological but old as just database. This is the beginning of improving security and transparency in government
- Provision of digital registration system for the University of Liberia and free Wi-Fi internet for students at the main campus;
New, and a very proud project. Not that it touches students, but that it is an incentive of modern technology that should have been introduced 10 years back, but failed to deliver.
All the pro-poor projects the President intends to embark on are genuine and crucial for the survival of the nation.
You are likely to wonder why I analyzed some projects as NEW and some as OLD. I antedate to tell you that some of these projects have existed in the course of our reform process, but failed to materialize due to the lack of implementation. These projects are done once and for all, but they are project to be carefully monitored and maintained, with no future prospect to maintain the life cycle of these projects to foster national growth and development, the pro-poor agenda will fail if lacked future perspectives.
The building of new Military Hospital, issuing biometric identification to government employees and rationalize the wage bill through payroll verification and providing digital registration system for the University of Liberia and free Wi-Fi internet for students at the main campus are new projects under the pro-poor agenda. But former President of the University of Liberia; Dr. Emmitt Dennis was always annoyed when you referred to Capitol Hill campus as main Campus of the University of Liberia. He preferred directing the University of Liberia activities on Fendell campus, for he indents to shape the student population to Fendell. This is exactly what President Tolbert intends to do. A pro-poor project to provide free Wi-fi internet for students at the main campus without mentioning Fendell Campus which now carries the highest density of the students’ population tends to contradict a pro-poor agenda project. Maybe, not to jump the gum, it’s Fendell Campus that the President is referring to as Main Campus; not Capitol Hill Campus.
All the pro-poor projects are welcoming, demanding and appealing as threat against poverty, but do not in any way adequately stand to fight poverty and reduce it to the lowest to match the courage of the suffering Liberian people. But they are good start for a political soccer patriot who believes that he can transform the lives of the suffering Liberian people, make them proud as the best carrier of the Lone Star of Liberia, and bring hope and relief to his people through a borrowed pro-poor agenda that I believe if not properly Liberalized, will fail. No one should be convinced by politicians and critics that he does not have plan for Liberia. Yes he has, but he is faced with dilemma to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor and also remain a strong friend and confidante of the rich whom his pro-poor agenda intend to narrow some of their benefits and give them to the poor. The process is ongoing now! The cutting of some luxuries, benefits and salaries of some cabinets and members of the executive branch was, however the beginning of implementing a pro-poor agenda.
On the other hand, pro-poor agenda also narrow-net and reduce government spending on high cost vehicles and introduces strong and affordable vehicles and motor bikes to government agencies with the basic concern to carry them to jobs to carry-on governmental functions with the focus to narrow the gap between the rich and poor. Your government officials are riding the best of vehicles which is also a contradiction to a pro-poor agenda. This element of the pro-poor will not take its course in Liberia?
Another element of pro-poor should be continuant of, is the aspects that improve the living condition of the people through government credit loan programs. In this element of pro-poor policy, Government provides portable homes for poor people living in slum communities, but not really free houses, rather maybe, tells each head of a poor family residing in the house to pay a house tax of $200 LD per month. Base on the quality of the house, some generation pay for five decades, through cash, works and services. When you say Pro-poor policy, please look its elements; and imply them in your certain with innovation. This is why the Green revolution failed. This is why the Poverty reduction Strategy failed. When you say pro-poor, it is not all about including poor people in your government, its main concern is about innovation and program to transform their lives and release them from poverty since you will never be able to employ all. I am not only talking about the condition of all poor men and poor women in Liberia. When they say poverty, sometimes the person does not even understand that he or she has anything to offer to desire his or her lives a better life. When you say pro-poor is likely that you are playing fool out poor people if you do not look beyond the ladder behind the poor people I am addressing their plat to your pro-poor agenda. If your pro-poor agenda does not understand the underlining factors beyond the poor, it will fail, and it will be a mare policy which will leave, with this country stay subscribing to poverty after post pro-poor era. When you say pro-poor, you better understand the elements of pro-poor. It is a policy that you have borrowed with an intend to transform your counties, and you must observed the elements that made it succeed for other counties and then apply it from a Liberian perspective to deliver our poor people, but without these future prospects, the pro-poor agenda will fail.
When you say pro-poor, do not think you have come with a highest realm of government’s policy to liberate the poor people and ignore the private sectors. You should develop programs to empower the private sectors. All policies before the Pro-poor too, were appealing, all claimed to have the greatest economic platform to deliver Liberia from the sin of poverty, but none was able. All met resistance, and moreover, faced the problems of lack implementation and dishonesty. When you say pro-poor, be honest to yourself, and make all progressive efforts to implement whatsoever plans you have to make the Pro-poor plans materialize. You will fail not because of the lack of plans, rather because of the lack of implementation and dishonesty. Few factors could be responsible for the failure of the pro-poor agenda if lacked future perspectives to underline and right the frauds and errs which are responsible for the failures of past economic reform policies, and what might hinder the pro-poor policy in Liberia:
v Lack of implementation
v Lack of monitory system
v Using millions of dollar undercover to buy opposition law-makers
v Suppressing nationalists and truth floor fighters in the legislature
v Celebrating pro-poor day or pro-poor government
v Hosting ministerial leagues
v Indecisive of pro-poor growth between the rich and poor, who to befriend while implementing a Pro-poor Policy? The poor are the ones you wish to transform, while the rich are the political elites and warlord?
v Managing conflicts of interests with law-makers; they hope to increase their salary and get benefits from every national barrowed loans under a pro-poor government
v Loyalists: they defend the pro-poor policy more than listening to their mistakes, not adhering to suggestions that may yield to transformation
v Loyalists: another tendency of loyalist is the hit back tendency on social medias to tease oppositions and aggrieved Liberians
v Lack of plan to measure the pro-poor in education, agriculture and technology in a new dimension. But its dimension on road is clear.
v Lack of pro-poor policy advisors to narrow Pro-poor vision to befit an individual Liberian road in a nation building process; as the result, individual squarely see pro-poor agenda as government business
Pro-poor agenda is a good policy with the ability to transform this nation better for the common good of every Liberians. It driver (George Manneh weah) is a nationalist who refused to donate his pride as a French citizen when he was emerging as a super star in soccer. With this, there are some sorts of truth values and loves of this nation relatively defined in him more than some thousands that look for opportunity with no regard for origin. He too, can transform this nation, but also with no warranty to failure if he does not revise his pro-poor plans and look at it future perspectives and challenges as discussed above. Here come the pro-poor; it is a long road that requires a new definition for better success! It is an old policy, but new in Liberia.