At the close of 2013 the Executive Mansion issued two press releases broadly quoting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on several significant issues.
The first quoted her as telling the Council of Traditional Chiefs exactly what she thought they wanted to hear—that the government’s focus in the New Year, 2014, would be on issues that matter most to the people upcountry—agriculture, roads, power and water.
In the second release, she was quoted as reemphasizing infrastructural development, and getting agricultural concessions back to work. She also made passing references to such cross-cutting issues as youth unemployment and gender equality.
We are not asking for emulating the past, but we definitely believe that the people, on the auspicious occasion of ushering in the New Year, deserve to hear more directly from their President. During the Tubman era the President held an Annual Reception on New Year’s Day for the Diplomatic Corps. There were two speeches on that occasion, the first by the President and the second by the Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps, responding to the President. The President’s speech covered in general national and world issues, and the Doyen responded in kind.
President Sirleaf, meanwhile, has her own style. She prefers to hold an open house on New Year’s Day where anyone, nationals and foreigners alike, may walk in, greet and have a chat with her, partake of some food and drink and fraternizing with other guests.
But presidential entertainment history aside, the purpose of this editorial is to bring back to national discussion Vision 2030 and all that comes with it. For there is fear that once the declarations were made in Gbarnga a year ago, not much has since been heard about the subject. Yet there are many of our social fundamentals are at stake: issues of identity, integrity, unity, legitimacy, social inclusiveness (we continue to think, speak, and act as a divided people), and the plight of the broad masses of our people (set against obscene salaries for legislators and some in the Executive).
Within the framework of Vision 2030 (“One People, one nation, united for sustainable peace and development.”), which was climaxed in Gbarnga, the nation purportedly resolved to place such intangible but critical issues front and center on the national reform agenda. Since the Gbarnga Declaration of December 2012, however, there has been little visible movement regarding implementation of the Vision.
Though we hear rumblings of projects such as the National History Project, the National Symbols Project as a complement to the Constitution review process, many of these projects have yet to take off, some due to budgetary constraints, we are told. Might there be a financial way where there is political will?
Even well-funded byproducts of Vision 2030 such as the Reconciliation Roadmap and the Agenda for Transformation are raising a multitude of questions when one considers that between Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee and Ambassador George Weah there is no visible sign of the pursuit of national reconciliation. In addition, budgetary and monetary challenges leave askance the new economic (growth?) development plan.
And yet we continue to aspire to a middle-income country come 2030. What will be the social foundation of such a country?
We believe the time is at hand for this administration to pause and to recollect itself as regards its original governance agenda, and then to think and act on at least two things. The first is to focus on committed implementation of Vision 2030 and its essential byproducts. The second is to give fresh consideration to doing those things that will make sustainable and irreversible the fundamental programs and policies of the Johnson Sirleaf administration. There is too much at risk for the future of this country otherwise.
The Vision 2030 process, which gave people in all parts of the country to a chance to be heard, has raised so much hope that things can get better for all Liberians. Let us never permit those hopes to be dashed. We do so at our own national peril.
But nobody wants that! So let us get on with placing these matters once again at the center of our national discussion; and finding the money for implementation.