Liberia: The World Food Program US$9 Million is not just about Money
Monrovia – In the past two weeks, claims and counter-claims have been voiced regarding an amount that was supposed to be paid to the World Food Program to distribute food to Liberians who may be facing economic hardship because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The amount appeared scandalously high. How does one spend one-third of the budget on managing the budget? Voices of concern were raised by legislators on both sides. The media, through investigations conducted by FrontpageAfrica was able to reach to the bottom of the issue. According to WFP, the amount is “just” about 6 percent of the $30 million, or about $1,8 million. Be it as it may, many questions remain to be answered. However, my issue is at another level.
My concern is about the perceived lack of capacity and the issue of social trust that surface in the saga.
This is a system put in place by international organizations that siphon from funds going to “poor” countries, because donors do not have confidence in receiving. This is a process through which many international aid agencies making a living by serving as “intermediaries.” The 6 percent charged by WFP pale in comparison to what some aid transmission agencies take.
The sum of US $1.8 million is a lot of money in Liberia. It could build two miles of paved road, many schools and health centers, provide textbooks and medicine across Liberia. It could provide electricity to JFK hospital and JFD hospital for a year. Why, after almost 200 years of existence and 15 years of democratic governance, Liberia cannot distribute food to its own people? One could jump to blame the government. However, its biggest fault – besides the manipulation of numbers – is to have borrowed money while there is nothing dramatically new in the food situation in the country.
This is a system put in place by international organizations that siphon from funds going to “poor” countries, because donors do not have confidence in receiving. This is a process through which many international aid agencies making a living by serving as “intermediaries.” The 6 percent charged by WFP pale in comparison to what some aid transmission agencies take. A few years ago, in the early 2000s, it was considered that only 17 to 20 percent of aid reached receiving countries. Most donors never follow-up how much of their funds reach the poor and how it’s spent abroad.
The $1.8 million given to WFP by the Government of Liberia to distribute food to Liberians bring out two matters: it takes money from the poor; it -reinforces the notion of “lack of capacity” of the government; and finally it perpetuates the aid-system, an international bureaucracy that has no interest in seeing countries like Liberia becoming self-sufficient.
It is not just the amount; it is also the dependency mentality that it creates. Can Liberia and the rest of Africa stop it? Yes, if they decide to take control, instill trust in the people and build capacity. Trust and capacity take policy-years to become reality and in the current democratic play, with government trying to jump from one election to another, the status-quo seems to be an easier way out… Borrow, spend on “white elephants and get re-elected.