Liberia’s ability to develop is being severely undermined as a result of bad policies, the lack of policies, and policies inconsistencies. Although the civil war was a major factor that significantly damaged the country, its adverse impact is not as powerful as the series of bad policies that the country has been consistently subjected to by her leaders.
The results of these ill policies are expressed in the context of weak infrastructure, a weak economy, a poor health care delivery system, a weak educational system, etc. Although many critics will attributes these weaknesses to the war, the war in itself is a product of these ill policies. Therefore, this article will treat the war as an outlier or isolated case that will not be used as an argument to justify the country’s ill-development.
Evidence of these ill policies
The evidence of development in Liberia before the civil war proves the primitivity of the country as a result of these ill policies. For example, after 142 years of independence, Monrovia and other parts of the country lacked a postal system that facilitated the proper distribution of mails to households around the country. Instead, mail recipients had to travel to the post office to pick up their mails. This practice still exists in Liberia and may continue to exist for a long time because of bad postal service policies that are being perpetuated by successive governments of the country.
Additionally, Liberia is one of the least educated countries in the world with an illiteracy rate of more than 50 percent. Furthermore, more than 50 percent of all literate Liberians lack college degree, while more than 70 percent of the literate Liberians lacks the requisite modern technological and technical education that is driving successful economic growth in countries like the USA and China. These approximated statistics are positively correlated with the consistencies of bad policies and the lack of policies on the part of successive Liberian governments to build very strong schools and universities around the country that provide the requisite amount of education that strengthens the capacities of the Liberian people to function and compete in the global economy.
These ill policies are continuously reducing the life expectancy of Liberians as a result of poverty, disease, and the hard laborious jobs they secure with companies like Firestone and, perhaps, Mittal Steel to come. Let us face it, a 30 years old uneducated Flomo who resides in a village of Bong County is less healthy than a 30 years old educated Nimely who resides in Monrovia, while a 30 years old educated American is much much more healthier and stands to live longer than members of his age grouping found in Liberia. The lower life expectancy of the country is an example of these continuous ill policies that are killing Liberians before they can grow.
Another evidence of these ill policies is the lack of infrastructural development in the country. After approximately 200 years of existence, Liberia still chronically lacks sanitational infrastructure, thus coercing her citizens to live among feces; she dismally lacks functioning road networks that facilitate the movements of people and goods and services. Consequently, the economy is weak because there are no markets for some goods and services since the infrastructure that brings buyers and sellers together are lacking. These are the prime examples of bad policies, lack of policies, and policies inconsistencies. For example, Liberia’s policy to build and maintain her road network is to fill the highways with dirty that is washed away during the rainy season. The country completely lacks policies to build, connect, and maintain its road infrastructure as can be seen by the lack of such infrastructure for the past 200 years, and counting.
Liberia’s lack of basic infrastructure development is chronically exacerbated by continuous policies inconsistencies since the country’s development agenda depends on the political platform of a sitting government. These leaders come to power with unhindered power that allow them to unilaterally decide when the country must be developed, when such development must occur, where such development must occur, and how such development is implemented.
A major problem with such a bad policy is that the development agenda of the country is highly discontinuous, meaning that the development agenda, as designed by a sitting government, will cease to exist when that government ceases to exist because the incoming government does not feel compelled to implement a development agenda of the previous government since it is a plan based on the vision of that past government and not the new government. While most countries have established short and long term national development plans that all governments or presidents of the country must implement when they take power, Liberia is still continuing a very bad policy of leaving the country development agenda with leaders that have not demonstrated the abilities and desires to holistically develop the country. These bad policies could be stopped by a proposal that I made calling for a law that establishes a national development plan for Liberia that transcends all presidents. I am currently lobbying the Liberian legislature to pass this proposal into law.
One of the most troubling bad policies of the country that is being perpetuated by past and present governments is the private sector development policy. This policy is solely intended to attract foreign investors into the country, thus completely neglecting the need for the government to develop a private sector that focuses on strengthening the investment capacities of domestic investors. Honestly, this policy is the worst policy in the country, and should be declared public enemy number one (1) because it is responsible for the high levels of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, disunity, political instability, emigration, war, and other negative events of our country.
This policy is considered a bad policy because it is built on faulty assumptions and illogical analyses. For example, Liberian policy makers assume that tax breaks and other incentives allotted to foreign investors will encourage them to invest in the country. This assumption is flawed because tax abatement is one of the least strategies that are used to attract foreign investors. The key variables that attract foreign investments are the quality and quantity of highly skilled workers in a country, as in the case of China, which is currently lacking in Liberia; the quality and availability of the social infrastructure of the country, which is lacking in Liberia; the stable geo-political structure of the country or region in which the country is located; the strength of the judiciary system with the ability to adequately protect the property rights of the investors, which is also lacking in the country.
The lack of understanding of these variables has given our leaders false hopes that they will be able to attract investors. Such false hopes are manifested in the ongoing private sector conferences that are being organized in the United States. The major successes of this defective policy is the attraction of few foreign companies and investors into the country who are mostly providing low quality and low paying jobs that are very labor intensive. These kinds of jobs are reducing the life expectancy of the country because they are backbreaking. Additionally, these kinds of jobs are increasing the illiteracy rates of the country because there are no educational incentive to acquiring such jobs since no one needs a high school or college education to tap rubber trees or do heavy lifting.
Jobs creation or significant jobs creation are insignificantly responsive to these bad private development policies. That is, as government increase the intensity at which these policies are pursued, only very smaller and smaller amounts of jobs are created, a situation that is highly responsible for the high unemployment rates of the country since the size of the workforce of the country is outnumbered by the quantity of jobs that are created by foreign investors as a result of these bad policies.
President Sirleaf success may be a failure for Liberia
President Sirleaf may succeed as a president but Liberia may remain underdeveloped during her tenure. The successes of past Liberian presidents did not translate into successes for the country. For example, most of the leaders before Madam Sirleaf were very powerful in their own rights. They traveled the world; they networked with very highly influential leaders of other countries; they built one or two schools or clinics here and there; they beg and brought in a few investors into the; they celebrated their birthday parties around the country; they spoke at the United Nations; they fought corruption; they hired and fired employees; they built mansions for themselves in their home counties; and they built attractive political platforms that laid out how the country was supposed to be developed. However, after approximately 200 years of existence, Liberia remains deplorably underdeveloped.
Liberia’s underdevelopment during past administrations is a direct result of bad policies, lack of policies, and policies inconsistencies. The policies and visions of those leaders for the development of the country were largely self aggrandizing without any mechanism to connect future, past, and present developmental goals of the country. As a result, the policies and visions of those leaders to develop the country were usually abandoned, discontinued, or significantly altered in favor of the policies, visions, and platforms of the new president.
The same practices currently exist under the Sirleaf administration. Just like past leaders, President Sirleaf is yet to establish a national development plan that makes short and long term projections as to how the country is to be developed under her administration and other administrations to come. Besides, most policies of the president do not have any prospect for developing the country beyond her administration because they are not designed to be implemented by future leaders. These are the major reasons why Liberia has being deplorably underdeveloped for the past 200. And these are the same reasons why the personal successes of a Sirleaf government may not translate into the development of Liberia.
About the author:
Rufus N. Darkortey holds a Master degree in economics. He works for a major bank in Cleveland, Ohio. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2007 by The Perspective
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