The Pro-Poor Government: What It Must Entail
PRESIDENT-ELECT GEORGE Weah’s victory speech delivered on December 29, 2017 was quite a remarkable one and it has triggered massive expectations of many ordinary Liberians. The oration was coated with hope and when fulfilled would set Liberia on the right trajectory.
WEAH’S PHENOMENAL VICTORY in the December 26 presidential runoff does not come as a surprise to many in a country where for the past twelve years the citizens have had to pay for the government’s wasteful agenda and the luxurious life style of its officials. More than 60 percent of the national budget for the past 10 years has been recurrent expenditures.
UNDER THE OUTGOING Unity Party government led by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, somehow unconsciously or deliberately in aid of self-importance, government officials institutionalized the practice of enjoying ‘comfortable lead’ on the shoulders of their compatriots.
THIS PRACTICE BY our own kith and kin who found themselves at the helm of power created vividly segregation in our society and made government’s job more attractive compared to the private sector.
OVER THE LAST DECADE, we have seen legislators, ministries and directors cruising in SUVs worth over US$70,000; flying first class on foreign trips; receiving loads of mobile phone air time and hundreds of gallons of petroleum. To put in context, the outgoing government strangulated the vast majority of the population to luxurious and wasteful life style of government officials.
A VAST SECT OF THE population was denied their rightful share of the nation’s resources and its spoils, evident by how thousands of supporters of Weah took to the streets in jubilation upon his announcement as winner of the elections.
IN WEAH, THE MASSES now believe, it is end of a ridiculously mind-boggling wasteful spending, particularly when viewed against the backdrop of the numerous challenges facing our nation.
PRESIDENT-ELECT WEAH in appreciation for the votes that brought him to power said he would celebrate Liberians by forming “pro-poor public governance”.
“I CAN TRULY SAY THAT the best way to celebrate all Liberians is to improve their lives through the instruments of pro-poor public governance.”
“I DECLARE PUBLICLY today that transforming the lives of all Liberians is a singular mission and focus of my presidency,” he said.
THIS IS A GOOD PROMISE, but what would Weah’s pro-poor government entail?
FIRST OF ALL, WEAH’S cabinet ministers must be people who have the public’s trust share in the vision of pro-poor governance. This means they should be officials who recognize that outgoing officials exploited the economy through undeserved salaries and benefits. This should be reconciled by the willingness to break away from that regime and modus operandi.
SECOND, WE THINK A pro-poor government must give Liberia back to Liberians. The avenue must be created for citizens of the land to build their own economy. It’s only a person living in utopia would argue that Liberians are in charge. Peeping into stores along Randall Street, Sinkor, even Waterside or Red Light commercial district, you would easily notice foreign nationals behind the counters – they own most of the biggest stores you see around town.
WHY? THEY HAVE the capital and easily maneuver through government’s bureaucracies.
WE ARE NOT XENOPHOBIC, but we MUST stressed that Liberia belongs to Liberians and citizens of this nation must be given the first preference in all that matters. We have seen over the years foreign companies earning all the big construction contracts at the detriment of Liberian firms. The abstruse argument accuses Liberian firms or companies of underperformance.
BUT WHAT HAS GOVERNMENT done to enhance the capacities of these struggling firms. Nothing. Matter of fact, government agencies or their manipulative top brass have done more harm to our Liberian firms then good. They demand kickbacks to award contracts, thereby strangulating these firms.
PRESIDENT-ELECT WEAH would have to be pragmatic about implementing his pro-poor governance theory. No lip service, no cronies or greedy so-called kitchen cabinet. There’s a need for strong micro-finance institutions that would help vitalize small and medium sized Liberian-owned business to compete with the foreign ones. The Liberalization policy must be amended to protect more Liberian businesses.
WHAT LIBERIA NEEDS is a proactive government fueled with zest, commitment and willingness of its public officials at all level.
THIRD, THE GOVERNMENT must be decentralized. It must be taken to the people. This means, the presence of the government must be felt in every county.
THE DECENTRALIZATION OF government seems to be on the right track following the establishment of several service centers across the country. This initiative must be sustained and strengthened.
WE BELIEVE IF THIS EFFECTIVELY continues by a Weah led government, it would help counties generate some level of revenue for self-development. And with a well tailored decentralize fiscal policy that would be guarded by responsible and development-oriented policies, the impact of the national budget will cut across the nation.
WHAT WE ARE EMPHASIZING is the significance of a government that is elected by the people, of the people and for the people committing to true purpose of coming into being. There are already looming suspicions of business as usual considering some of the names that are resurfacing as potential cabinet ministers in the Weah’s regime. But if the incoming government must sustain its popularity with the marginalized population, it must stick to the ideology of its pro-poor leadership by breaking the culture of waste, cronyism and corruption.