It is a social phenomenon that we take visions in our everyday life, something Li Ka-shing mentions as being perhaps our greatest strength… it has kept us alive to power and continuity of thought through the centuries, it makes us peer into the future and lends shape to the unknown.
Whatever way it appears, securing a future depends on the actions we take today. When thinking of an entire society, it can be viewed from a more compressive lens that synchronizes various aspects of the society which can be fitted in a broader context of sustainable development.
In this paper, broader contextualization of systemic instruments which spur growth and development are mapped outlining public policies associated with Liberia’s Vision 2030. Key assumptions signify that major structures poised to ignite and sustain the path to Liberia rising by 2030 remain hollowed on the basis that preconditions for moving toward a middle income are either mismatched or in shady existence.
Whenever Liberians commemorate July 26, the beauty of sovereignty is celebrated. So after sovereignty, what sustains the sovereign people? One of the recent milestones to advance the livelihoods answering the former was finalized on December 12, 2012, at the close of a three-day National Vision 2030 National Conference, held in Liberia’s central city, Gbarnga. The conference brought together more than 500 delegates from all 15 counties, youth organizations, civil society and non-governmental organizations etc. (Emansion.org)
The overarching goal is to see Liberia reach a middle income status by 2030. By definition Middle-Income Countries (MICs) are nations with a per-capita gross national income (GNI) between $1,036 and $12,615 (Investopedia.com).
As of 2012, there were 103 MICs, further subdivided into 48 lower-middle-income economies (GNI between $1,036 and $4,085) and 55 upper-middle-income economies (GNI between $4,086 and $12,615. GNI per capital is the dollar value of a country’s final income in a year, divided by its population. Liberia is currently ranked 193 on the Scale of 197 countries with the GNI around 380 USD – available GNI per capita, Atlas method current us$ The World Bank).
The vision is first phased in the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) having four pillars: Peace, security and rule of law; Economic Transformation; Human Development and Governance; and public institutions including the cross cutting issues.
Liberia’s Vision 2030 has been viewed with both skepticism and optimism. From a baseline of 2012, it can be agreed that the very onset of the process was quite favorable but with a short span due to natural and social conditions which have made continued progress shady, thereby demanding increased efforts if Liberia must achieve a middle-income status by 2030.
Before the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic, 61% of births were attended by skilled health workers in 2013, as compared with 46% in 2007, while Liberia’s infant mortality rate declined from 71 to 54 per 1000 live births by 2013. There was economic progress with GDP growth annually averaged over 7 % in 2014.
But the story has since changed with drastic decline due to the EVD and market constraints especially in prices of key commodities like iron ore and rubber.
To further understand, two broad dimensions can be established: socio cultural and economic outlooks, which can be traced to policy statements of the President and the AfT pillars.
They include outsourcing to civil society organizations the dozen or more scientific background papers prepared for Vision 2030, to have them produced, published and made available to institutions across the country; setting up a small ad hoc committee from civil society to conclude a study and draft appropriate legislation(s) on the country’s National Symbols, including National Awards; mandating the Ministry of Education to undertake, in close collaboration with a relevant civil society organization, a comprehensive National Curriculum Review to include issues of a National Language.
The above have been dented with either under implementation or with no action taken in some aspects.
For instance, not much can be pointed to as scientific evidence sure cashing collaboration between the government and the civil society on the cutting edges of the country. This is very essential as the role of civil society swells in the 21st Century. Grassroots participation has been noted as major source of social political change (Willets 2008) and a valuable instrument that smoothes democratization process in the developing world (IDS 2008).
The major objectives are far from reach, for example, general economic opportunities focusing on rural areas and women is not on course while increased access to education, especially in rural areas, is still very low – eerily so that conflict prone South Sudan has a higher access to primary education according to a UNICEF report; that Liberia has the highest proportion of children missing out on primary school education with nearly two- thirds of its children not stepping in a classroom.
From the lens of the economy, a pace can be set from a time line that marks conflict from 1989 to 2003; recovery and reconstruction from 2003 to 2012; inclusive growth from 2012 – 2030. The inclusive growth factors have significant marriages with national security considering that only stable environments give rise to economic development.
This is also viewed under strategy 2 of the Economic Stabilization Recovery Plan (ESRP), which is an enhancement to the AfT post Ebola. It asserts on strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability by ensuring adequate investment in the Liberian security sector to ensure the capacity necessary to maintain security and rule law following UNMIL draw down. You will realize that substantial increment has not been done for the sector with the 2016/17 Budget allotting less than hundred million for the same.
The issue of external threat may be at the minimum with unforeseeable external aggression, premised on greater integration and collaboration in the Mano River Union (MRU). However, the internal aspects are largely fragile with the relative small size of security forces and logistical constraints. On this basis, the aspect of national security remains shady.
From the actual economic outlook, the ESRP mentions that factors not leading to inclusive sustainable development remain high as over half a million citizens will enter prime working age in this decade, but not prepared for participation in the labor market. Compounded by that, to achieve commitments of 1.2 billion earmarked for infrastructure projects to help the country out of poverty is a burden for government.
To implement government’s fiscal priority of increasing the fiscal space for critical investment to facilitate broad-based private sector led growth are largely without enabling conditions like electricity, transportation, subsidies to farmers and adequate opportunities for loans and other forms of starting capitals for investments.
Politics still overweighs empirical policy making and implementation evident to the fact that Liberia has no budget for research and development in this age of human existence.
Rapid expansion of mining output, front loaded investment in infrastructure, and improved government efficiency may bring rapid growth further underscoring the importance of allocative and operational efficiency of public spending as studies have proven.
Conclusion and recommendations
The paper explore Liberia’s Vision 2030 policy framework by identifying what is a middle income status that the policy aspires. Despite an inception of the Vision that began favorably as engendered in the AfT, the current indicators prove otherwise.
Hence, the realization is that existing challenges appear overwhelming; and only recalibrated endeavors will accelerate desired changes for the achievement of the vision by 2030.
For example, the population of Liberia, put at little over 4 million, can easily be transformed with rapid human development. This precipitates employment and subsequent individual income generations similar to a finding from Sabastein Dessus and others in their World Bank Policy Research Paper titled “Liberia
Policy Options for Medium Term Growth and Development” that balancing government spending on infrastructure and human development will complement each other in facing different constraints across sectors.