Rethinking Liberia’s Polices and Politics: Liking Past With Present
To understand what drives people to congregate physically for shared religious practices may appear easier than what holds political actors and policy makers together.
Probably, faith and belief are more constant than the changing natures of political interests and actors compounded with the staggering needs and demands of the citizenry.
So how can we view politics and policies and how they interplay to affect the society? Especially thinking of man’s innate desire to control or seek compliance from others. (Randy, R. and Buss David M; 2010).
It is even intensified when fueled by manipulations of poor and uneducated populations which apparently the political scene Liberia is colored by. (Poverty rate 54% of Liberians live below the poverty line available- retrieved April 20, 2017).
Policies may be defined as courses or principles or actions adopted or proposed by a government, party, business or individual. But some individuals picture a peculiar significance claiming that it has little understanding and consider policies less important but in the view of S. Torjman we literally eat, drink and breath polices which are public in nature there by affecting the quality of life we live.
On the other hand, Clausewitz the classical German political theorist mentioned war as continuation of politics by other means which may look more contentious than defined as the activities associated with the governance of a country or other areas, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.
Thus, the author argues that no matter the strand of definition, policies effectiveness depends largely on the factors which influence the political system for which case studies are established in Liberia from its early stages of pre independence, the domestic politics of the early days of independence as well as major public policies which have been dented by mere politics.
Liberia gained its independence on July 26,1847 having amongst several reasons the need for self-governance as main cause although some literatures mention that the American Colonization Society(ACS) which was its principal institution steering the administrative affairs became bankrupt and forced the Common Wealth to early independence. Recent World Bank Report estimates Liberia’s population around 4 million, still having rubber and iron ore as major commodities.
Analysis: The Conundrum of Aged Problems
Dating back in the 19th century, Liberia emerged out of three counties (Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Sinoe) and later annexed Cape Mount and Maryland. Gradually, other Counties were formed in the 60s and with continuous formation of new Counties, River Gee and Gbapolu are the most recent (Available here retrieved march 20, 2017).
Also from about 3,000 persons during the formative stages to now estimated 4 million, could only be sufficient to show how Liberia has evolved immensely through statistical conversions of figures. But in terms of making policies and practicing politics, it can be argued that Liberia only looks like its early stages in many ways than not considering problem of decentralization, growth without development in the 60s which can form a twin pillar with massive aid and limited development in the 2000s.
Concession agreements now with limited corporate social responsibilities impact only look like 1926 Firestone agreement. Liberia between 2005 to 2015 has averaged more than a Billion is aid with 2011 alone accounting for 765 million OECD but still faces major challenges with road networks only having 6.2 paved primary road according recent world bank data, coupled with access to adequate health care and limited learning opportunities to match the demand for a highly literate population.
Between 1822 and 1839, Liberia (as a colony) experienced very slow economic development mainly because there were no highways from which produce from the hinterland to the coastal areas which were the epic zones of international trade could be transported , ( Guannu, J.S.; 2010).
Today most parts of Liberia remain without paved roads which undermine economic development especially during the rainy season. Like the coastal areas in the past, it can be argued that most of the economic activities are still concentrated in Monrovia and with stark difficulties associated with getting produce to Monrovia (the Nation’s Capital) from the hinterlands; an aged problem still mirrors.
Accordingly, very few Liberians had money to start their own businesses while a significant other preferred government work over business (ibid). Although in the early 1920s, trade and commerce experienced an upsurge in Liberian ownership but the introduction of more sophisticated hardware introduced by Germans and Dutch traders, forced low skilled Liberia artisans and salesmen out of business as mentioned in “A brief History of Montserrado County” by Henries D.B, Moore B.T et al.
Understandably, foreign traders had more capital to invest than their local counterparts despite the skills factor. Evidently, the story has not changed as many Liberians still seek for government jobs as exemplified in soaring of legislative aspirants which may reach its all-time high in 2017 holding current factors constant.
The Rice Factor
For most part of Liberia’s history, it has for its staple food rice. But to imagine that including rice 90 % of products consumed in Liberia are imported raises more questions than answers.
However, it may be more of a surprise to many than not, that Liberia produced one of best breeds of rice until what the author describes as “unmatched western agricultural intervention “altered the mode of production.
In Noam Chomsky book titled “Year -501 The Conquest Continues”, he explains Anthropologist Gordon
Thomasson discovery of how hundreds of varieties of rice matched precisely to the micro environments in particular ecosystems developed by the Kpelle was discontinued due to US agronomists advised capital-intensive Green revolution techniques using petrochemical inputs, which apart from being far too costly for a poor country; brought lower yields and loss of traditional knowledge.
It further affected the wide variety of seeds that have been bred, selected, diversified and maintained over centuries. He described this as Irrational Disdain for Native Intellectual Achievement (Chomsky; N., 1993).
He further estimated that as the result, agriculture productivity will be cut by 50 present if the rich genetic pool of rice varieties is lost and replaced by foreign inputs something which corroborates with high imports of rice over locally produced rice in Liberia presently.
To follow how policies have been formulated to change the story and subsequently overturned by politics the infamous 1979 rice riot can revisited.
Understandably, President Tolbert had realized that only when local farmers are empowered to produce rice, Liberia will continue to feed on foreign inputs. So, he created schemes to empower local farmers building upon the famous “Rally Time National Policy” and increased tariffs on foreign inputs that caused rise in the price of rice from 22 USD to 26 USD for 50 Kg bag of rice.
Something which would obviously have a transitional growth period before the actualization of desired outcomes. Despite the intent, it was capitalized on by mere politics that led to a massive uprising on April 14, 1979.
The situation to allow the test of the policy to empower local farmers was not given adequate time for maturity but rather manipulated to create domestic tension. As study has proven, when tariffs are placed on essentials goods, shortages may occur and when such situation occurs demands ceiling and prices follow same pattern.
Someone may argue that putting tariffs at that moment was not necessary but on the other hand, the price was affordable considering the intent and sprit of the policy to empower local farmers.
Amongst the many problems is the issue of unemployment, especially youth focused, something which appears as a global concern. Skills development then becomes a major strand to follow, in aspiration to first of all set the preparedness premise that illustratively leads to world of work.
This supposedly means, government should prioritize within youth empowerment programs skills development and higher education encompassing Technical Vocational Education and Training and Information Communication Technology.
These are likely to empower young people for quick transition than mere “road side brushing” which the author describes as just physical community short term impact project lacking long term sustainable development incentives. This will enhance production and entrepreneurship to drive competition of Liberians with foreign businesses.
The paper has outlined a historical trend of protracted problems with argument that negative politics have undermined significant polices. It identified causes for which Liberian businesses have suffered limited capacities to compete considering skills and adequate capital acquisition to invest.
It unpacked a broad focus on failure to address sectors of the society which drive growth and development including education, convenient road connectivity and sustainable agricultural practices.
John S.M. Yormie, Jr. , Research Analyst FSI/Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Liberia