County Social Development: Catalyst for Local Development or Source of Wealth for Locals

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By Ralph Jammeh

Mismanagement and inequitable distribution of the country’s natural resources was one of the key conflicting factors for the 14 years of civil conflict in Liberia owing to the fact that natural resources are essential assets for peace building and sustainable development.

The establishment of the County Social Development Funds (CSDF) was a positive reform measure in the Natural Resource Management (NRM) sector.

The measure was meant to leverage some of the funds earned through concessions operations, in order to practically contribute to the socioeconomic and infrastructural development activities across Liberia.

However, this has not happened in practice, largely due to several factors, including—poor oversight, rampant corruption, weak supporting institutions, and poor collaboration and coordination between stakeholders on one hand and government ministries and agencies on another hand.

As a result, many communities living in concession areas—especially those who are most affected and most aggrieved by the abuses in the NRM sector—have yet to feel the benefits and experience the real essence for the establishment of the CSDF.

Given the critical policy implications these findings have on the socioeconomic and infrastructural development of our society, a country struggling to emerge from the legacy of 14 years of civil crisis that was fueled largely by several factors, including mismanagement and inequitable distribution of proceeds of the country’s natural resources – this is coupled with the impact of the outbreak of the Ebola virus disease, LAVI-NRM Coalition has advanced several policy options and recommendations that are aimed at improving the management of the funds and increasing citizens’ involvement and participation.

Having consulted a wide spectrum of the society, the Coalition, a number of policy options are put forth to ensure that the CDF achieves its intended objectives:

Option 1: There is a need to revert to the original model, where the CDF and SDF operate under separate administrative and management frameworks because the merging of the funds has triggered an increase of political influence, especially from the County Legislative Caucuses, who used their roles as persons to allocate resource to determine where they will allot the funds squarely for political gains.

This, according to the Coalition, will substantially increase the roles of both the citizens and local government, as enshrined in both the Budget Law and the guideline.

Option 2: The LAVI-NRM Coalition also recommended the revision of section nine of the Budget Law to reflect a much clearer process of citizen and CSOs participation and their involvement in the decision making, allocation and utilization of the CSDF.

Owing to the fact that the County Development Agenda (CDA) remains the basis for determining a county’s development priorities, the Coalition has developed a policy brief to be presented to the 54th Legislature at a national stakeholders dialogue at the end of February 2018.

The National Stakeholders Dialogue is the NRM Coalition’s way of engaging lawmakers to an ongoing discussion for the reform of the laws governing the operations of the CSDF.

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