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National Development Summit: An Evaluation of National Vision 2030 & the AFT Midterm Review

The National Development Summit was held on April 25, 2016 at the Administrative Building in Gbarnga Bong County. The Summit’s theme was “Liberia Rising 2030: Taking stock of a shared vision, and Mid-Term Review of the AFT ”, and served as an assessment of progress made so far since the 2012 National Vision 2030 Conference wherein the Liberian people, through their delegates, announced their “Vision” for their country, Liberia.  The people’s “Vision” code name “Liberia Rising - 2030” identified issues to be addressed and achieved to ensure that Liberia reaches middle income status by 2030.

The objective of the National Development Summit was to formulate a Liberian national development strategy based on the National Vision 2030. Such a document would serve as reference point, a compass and guide to the identification of concrete national policies, and the analysis of key constraints that need to be overcome in the short and medium term in order to operationalize the Vision.

In remarks, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf gave a brief background on the process that led to the actual holding of the National Vision Conference on 12 December 2012.The President gave recognition to members of the National Vision 2030 Steering Committee, some of whom were present at the National Development Summit. The Vision 2030 Steering Committee membership included Dr. Togbah Nah Tipoteh, Ms. Gladys Beyan, Dr. Baron Tarr,   Mr. Ezekiel Pajibo, Dr. Evelyn Kandakai, Dr. Henrique Tokpah, Yah Gono, and Zan Zan Kawa, among others.

President Sirleaf expressed gratitude to the many Liberians, at home and abroad, who participated in the National Vision, noting “the aim of Vision 2030 was to make Liberia a middle income country, and the Agenda for Transformation was a product of that Vision”.

There were two major presentations made at the National Summit – the first was by Dr. Amos Sawyer (Chair of the Governance Commission) on the theme “LIBERIA RISING 2030: Taking Stock of a Shared Future, and the second by out-going Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Amara Konneh on the theme “Mid-term Review of the implementation of the Agenda for Transformation”. The AfT is a product of National Vision 2030.

In his presentation, Dr. Sawyer described the Vision 2030 process as “scientific” involving rigorous consultations with women, chiefs, and superintendents in every district and county. He said the end product of those consultations, the Vision 2030 document, and the Vision 2030 Statement were discussed at the National Vision Conference and adopted on 12 December 2012. The final documents were presented to the National Archives Center. Formal copies of the Vision documents have been presented to President Sirleaf, and available for wider distribution.

Dr. Sawyer reiterated that National Vision 2030 is the People’s Vision adding “it is not a vision of the politicians or the government.  It was adopted and handed over to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by the people on 12 December 2012”.

Dr. Sawyer conceded that more needs to be done to popularize the National Vision Statement – “One people, one nation, united for peace and sustainable development”. He promised that the Governance Commission, which he heads, will redouble efforts to support the ministries and youth groups in popularizing the Vision Statement so that it becomes part of the National consciousness.

Dr. Sawyer spoke of other documents that came out of the Vision 2030 process, namely: the National Reconciliation Roadmap and the Agenda for Transformation. He said the Reconciliation Roadmap has three program categories including accounting for the past; managing the present; and planning for the future. The National History Project, he said, was a critical component of planning for the future with the potential of forging national unity.

Dr. Sawyer reported that responsibility for implementation of a number of Vision 2030 projects were assigned to both the Governance Commission and the Independent Human Rights Commission. Many of the Vision 2030 projects including the history, citizenship education, and political dialogues (to name a few) are already underway.

The Governance Commission Chairman spoke on a number of other issues including the interconnectedness of the AfT and the holding of peaceful credible transparent elections come 2017. The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning is currently engaged with the National Elections Commission to provide necessary mechanisms and support for the holding of credible and transparent elections in Liberia next year.

Dr. Sawyer emphasized the importance of the passage of key legislation required for the establishment of the Ministry of Local Government and making decentralization irreversible and hopes that it will be passed before the political season begins in earnest in 2017. Decentralization is important because it brings services closer to the people, ensures their participation in the development process, and reduces the struggle for leadership at the top, hence the importance of passing the Local Government Bill.

In his evaluation of Vision 2030, Dr. Sawyer gave an update on progress made thus far on the constitution review process, describing the process as on-going, and that a presentation had already been made to the Legislature making the case for the amendment of certain provisions of the Constitution. He looks forward to a debate in the Legislature with a view to advancing the review process, bringing it to its logical conclusion through the holding of a National Referendum. He also looks forward to the holding of the National Referendum during the elections year but was quick to note that this may not be realistic taking into consideration the very tight political schedule. “If the Legislature passes the propositions which constitute the first stage of the constitution review process, then the referendum could very well take place after the elections”.

On the issue of public sector reform, Dr. Sawyer maintained that the reform process was at a crossroads due to the risk of institutional memory loss that could occur during the transition. To mitigate this risk, the Governance Commission, in collaboration with the Civil Service Agency and the Liberia Institute of Public Administration (LIPA), proposed the replacement of the office of Assistant Ministers with the creation of the position “Principal Administration Officer” (PAO), to serve as the highest civil servant, and positioned to retain institutional memory within government ministries.

In his progress report on the Agenda for Transformation, outgoing Finance Minister Amara Konneh noted that Liberia was still in the “red” and that there was still serious work to be done in terms of realizing the goals set in the document. 

Minister Konneh gave an historical analysis on Liberia’s statistical growth since the 1960s, stating that Liberia came from growth in the 1960s to collapse and then rebirth, and is now beginning to climb up what he described as the “growth ladder”. “Every time we begin to make progress something happens in the world beyond our control in Liberia”. The Minister emphasized that this trend has to change. “For example, “if something unfavourable happens in countries that grow rice, Liberia is affected and, similarly when the price of rubber or iron ore is affected we are affected”. Liberia, he said, needs to consider being self-sufficient in rice production.

Minister Konneh’s presentation/progress report was divided into several categories:

  1. Security and the Rule of Law

According to Minister Konneh, the key indicators for national security and rule of law include the land issue, access to police, the military, and judiciary. Minister Konneh said the land issue is being addressed and was no longer a key national security issue. He reported steady progress regarding the issue of policing, meeting 63% of its training target, with 5,000 of the 8,000 police officers trained.

Mr. Konneh pointed out that threat to Liberia’s national security is far reduced in 2015/16 as compared with 2006 but still below the continental level; and that the national peace and reconciliation conference planned for the near future will further improve national security and the rule of law in Liberia.

  1. Economic Transformation

Minister Konneh noted governments efforts at improving sub-standard road infrastructure, inadequate electricity supply being addressed though some of such projects were either on track or stalled, and a contract signed to complete a new runway for Roberts international Airport. According to him, although $152 million have been spent on agriculture, that sector is still sluggish. Minister Konneh suggested a relook at Liberia’s rice importation regime so that profits made from rice importation are reinvested to increased agricultural production.

The outgoing Finance Minister disclosed that government’s contribution to the entire Agenda for Transformation budget was 48% while the international community, mainly the United States, World Bank and the European Union contributed 52%.  He said that to achieve middle income status, Liberia needed to prioritize agricultural development, and improve on health and education programs.

The National Development Summit was graced by members of the Legislature, the diplomatic corps, UN family, and ordinary Liberians representing all fifteen counties of Liberia.

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