Government by Design

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The Government of Liberia is doing the country a major disservice. Why is the country still being run like an emergency situation? Did we not just celebrate ten years of peace? Is it that the poverty reduction strategies are designed for a future date and time? Is it that they are impractical for transitioning from the present to development? What exactly is the problem here? And when we say the Government of Liberia, we are not just talking about Cabinet Ministers. We are talking about civil servants, too.

There seems to be no comprehensive system in place for running the country. There may be internal processes in each individual Ministry and Agency. But by and large, the country seems to be disorganized. Is there a governmental agency responsible for ensuring that the country is well-run? Who is responsible for implementing checks and balances?    

Or is it perhaps that we are not succeeding because we are operating on a system that was designed for the 1900s but is no longer effective for today’s dispensation? 

And why is this government so averse to technology? The effective application of technological systems in government operations would do wonders for the smooth and efficient operation of the  country. Liberia is not a large country. What is so complicated here?

Perhaps government functionaries will answer that much of our development depends on the inflow of foreign aid; and that when said aid is slow to arrive, development projects are stalled. Well, this is the importance of having one’s own streams of revenue in a country as rich as Liberia. And we are not so naïve as to believe that Liberia makes absolutely no money. Shall we go down the list? Concession agreements, taxes, oil blocks, logging, diamonds, gold, iron ore. And lest we forget, Liberia has the largest ship registry in the world.  All of these should yield substantial revenues to keep the government running and steadily progressing. 

So again we ask, why do we need to be so dependent on foreign aid that we give the impression that we can’t do ANYTHING for ourselves without it? If there are problems we don't know about, let the GOL communicate them to the people so that we are not left to assume that government is simply mismanaging and/or squandering the country’s resources.

Here is an out-of-the-box thought: let us redesign government! First and foremost, why not strip down and run lean? The government’s payroll alone is debilitating. Let us go back to the drawing board, study today’s Liberia and design a system of government that will meet the needs of post-war Liberia. Let us set up a system of government that we can afford. Then as far as foreign aid is concerned, once we have determined what our needs are outside of our capacity, we can tell our foreign partners what we need if they would like to help.

Foreign aid should come in the form of projects, not money. For example, if we need six new hospitals and can only afford to build three, we can ask our development partners to build the other three, specifying our needs and quality expectations. We should not ask for US$18 million to build three hospitals. The development partners building the three hospitals will eliminate mismanagement problems as well ensure high quality.

Perhaps the President’s greatest responsibility and challenge is thought leadership; because development is a state of mind. The President should be leading the thought process into where we should be heading. She should be designing the concept, communicating it to her Cabinet and Agency heads and challenging them to make it a reality.

She should be leading her Cabinet and the citizenry in a dynamic way into her vision for Liberia’s future. Changing the way our people think will be half the development battle won because that will result in behavioral changes. That way, the government’s development efforts are not undermined by ignorance.

The whole effort, however, needs to systematic. Nations should not run on auto pilot. Government by system and by design is the challenge of the day and of the future. Technology will be the government’s most effective tool in accomplishing this goal.

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