10 December 2012

Liberia Begins Journey to 2030

Liberia is taking the first step this week in Gbarnga, Bong County to becoming a middle income country by 2030 behind the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Having visualized a nation rising from the ashes of conflict to a solid foundation of peace; from an economic collapse to a strong recovery where the lives of ordinary Liberians are gradually improving, the President has embarked on a mission that seeks to transform the country through a long-term national vision.

To drive the process of crafting a vision for long term economic growth and development for the country, President Sirleaf turned to then Planning and Economic Affairs Minister, Amara Konneh, whom she charged with the responsibility to lead the mammoth effort.

Minister Konneh accepted the challenge; put together a dynamic team of technocrats and quickly mobilized resources to begin the crafting of the national vision document.

He reached out to Dr. Amos Sawyer, Chairman of the Governance Commission to collaborate their efforts, since in fact the whole national vision exercise was part of the Commission's mandate.

The government team then set out to assemble some of Liberia's best that worked together with experts to undertake an evidence based approach to development planning that identified the major constraints to Liberia's growth and development by focusing on two dimensions of development: socio-political and economic to accelerate national development.

The Liberia RISING 2030 Vision aims to set Liberia on a trajectory to becoming an inclusive middle income country by the year 2030 and to drastically reduce poverty levels.

The Gbarnga Conference, being held under the theme: "Consolidating citizen-centered development," is one of the home-grown initiatives bringing together high government and private sector officials to chart the country's development path and assess realizations of the set goals.

It is believed that a two and half year's successful implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) actually sparked the President's dream that was conceived in early 2003 when the idea of conducting a national visioning exercise was put on the national agenda following the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

However, the whole idea of a national vision had been shelved with no hope of getting it done, but it was revisited in 2006 when Mrs. Sirleaf became President of Liberia in January.

Then in 2010, the discussions on formulating a long-term vision for Liberia received a new impetus when President Sirleaf, impressed by the implementation of the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) instructed Minister Konneh to revitalize the national vision process.

Minister Konneh led the Economic Dimension process while Dr. Sawyer led on the Socio-Politico Dimension. Both men underscore the need for a new national vision that would seek to address the socio-political ills in Liberia and stimulate inclusive and equitable economic growth and development in Liberia.

They emphasized that the current visioning exercise will transcend several administrations and require a pragmatic, comprehensive and inclusive strategy to ensure that the gains in economic, social, and political opportunities are shared by the population.

Both men believed that Liberia has a unique opportunity to transform from a low income to a middle income status by 2030. They also shared the belief that as the Liberian economy continues to show strength, the need to development a strategy that will arguably create jobs, improve the lives of citizens and provide social safety nets for Liberians could not be overemphasized.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sawyer and Minister Konneh led an aggressive campaign as they set these long term development goals of the Government of Liberia.

Through their respective agencies, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs and the Governance Commission, Dr. Sawyer and Minister Konneh began holding discussions about a long-term sustainable economic growth and development strategy for Liberia following President Sirleaf initial weeklong consultative tours across Liberia to gage citizens' views on how to make Liberia a better place for all.

During the consultative meetings with citizens, the GoL and citizens defined parameters - political, economic and social development - for building a reconciled and unified nation.

They also envisioned a Liberia where citizens would share a strong sense of national identity and community, commitment to ethical governance, and government partnership in pursuit of national development goals.

The vision for wealth creation dubbed as Liberia RISING 2030, is succeeds the previous development strategy known as Lift Liberia or the Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Similar to the Liberia's PRS, Liberia RISING 2030 embraces a strategy of broad participation and inclusive growth, allowing Liberia to build the human resource capacity needed while forging a stronger sense of citizenship, national cohesion and responsive governance.

The goal is also to develop and commit to a vision and strategy for reaching middle income status by 2030. The vision will serve as a roadmap for addressing the social, political and economic challenges that confront Liberia on its path towards economic growth and wealth creation.

The proposed 18-year development plan aims to among other things transform Liberia into a middle-income country by the year 2030 leaving no Liberian behind; make public institutions and governing systems efficient, responsive and accountable and ensure all Liberians have equal protection, under the law, regardless of ethnicity, affiliation or socio-economic background.

The Vision 2030 provides Liberia a unique opportunity for national course correction as the country primes for sustainable peace and development. The effort in formulating Vision 2030 applauds the aspirations pursued by previous initiatives and their drivers.

While learning from past attempts, Vision 2030 seeks to build Liberia anew for succeeding generations, recognizing fully the challenges and constraints imposed by the past, while taking advantage of the opportunities offered within current domestic and international space and the possibilities discernible for the future.

In building anew, the Vision 2030 seeks to strengthen the nexus among peace, democracy and development. To guide the process of formulating a national vision, this effort has adapted an approach created by the African Futures Institute for which AFI has become renowned. The technical support of the Africa Futures Institute (AFI), specifically of its head, Dr. Alioune Sall has been indispensable.

Process-wise, this national visioning exercise has involved the broad-based participation of Liberians at regional and local levels of governance and in the Diaspora. Participants in consultations included civil society organizations, community leaders, farmers, traditional leaders, trade unions, Liberia business entrepreneurs, students and professional groups, women and youth associations, Faith based organizations among others.

The consultation process was designed to yield meaningful, realistic and relevant inputs of the Liberian people. To accomplish this, two measures were taken: first, scientific knowledge was infused into the processes of consultations so as to ensure informed local opinion formation; second, the consultations were open, robust and frank.

Through these measures, the Liberian people's ownership of the ultimate product, the National Vision, is enhanced and with it, their sense of efficacy strengthened.

Thus, this National Vision, Liberia Rising 2030, like previous initiatives, embodies the aspirational but transcends previous initiatives by being methodologically grounded in scientific knowledge. Like previous initiatives, it is also inspired by our national leader; but unlike previous initiatives, it is owned by the Liberian people and its implementation will be driven by broad segments of the Liberian people serving as agents of change.

Sustainable Development, its medium term development strategy, and subsequent development plans which are now being implemented with considerable discipline and with broad (national) ownership.

The Vision 2030 will open up new vistas for Liberia to formulate policies and programs to advance reconciliation and entrench peace, attain economic growth and development, claim an inclusive cultural heritage, reshape its social institutions and deepen its processes of democratization. This is how Liberia can chart its own course to a desirable and attainable future.

In addition to consolidating peace, security and national reconciliation, increasing electricity generation is another major target in the Vision and Agenda for Transformation.

The Sirleaf administration has declare electricity as a national emergency due to high demand and low supply of of electricity with Liberia carrying the high cost of electricity in the world at $054 per kilowatt hour, but the remains confident on achieving this target. According to Minister Konneh, the electricity target will be achieved once all projects in the current action plan are accomplished.

For instance, he says about 100 megawatts will be generated over the next three years when the Mt. Coffee Hydro Power Plant is rehabilitated and 30 megawatts of thermal energy plants constructed.

"Frankly, speeding up our economic growth to achieve a middle income status can't be reached without cheap energy. That's why electricity becomes one of the major priorities and the government is directly involved and is investing in it to solve the issue, "said Konneh.

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