Monrovia — In the eyes of government critics, the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to head Liberia's postwar pilot government is the worst thing that ever happened to Liberia perhaps since the force labor and slavery scandal of the 1930s. For them, there is no question that Liberia is headed downhill to the point of needing emergency governance surgery. But those who perform objective comparative governance studies and surveys across the globe think the opposite is the truth. Using various updated indicators, they found that Liberia is soaring rather plummeting. Amongst these objective analysts is the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), which projects Liberia as leader of the “biggest governance improvers in Africa”. Critics may see the report as far from reality, but the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism (MICAT) has no doubt it has vindicated the Sirleaf Administration, which had told Liberians from time to time that the nation was slowly outgrowing its socio-economic and political woes. “But what supports the IIAG's rave review at a time government's vocal critics are demanding the resignation of the Sirleaf Administration?” is the question many are asking. The Analyst, reports.
The 2013 report of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance has found that Liberia leads the African Table of “Biggest Governance Improvers” and “Largest Improvements in Safety and Rule of Law”.
The report is based on four categories - the Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity, and Human Development.
“Since 2000, Liberia has shown its biggest improvement in the category of Safety & Rule of Law (a category in which many other African countries have seen recent deteriorations),” the report said.
Interestingly, the Safety and Rule of Law category measures judicial functions, accountability, transparency and corruption, property rights, personal safety and national security, among others. Incidentally, it is in this category that government critics are convinced the Sirleaf Administration has recorded its worst performance since coming to power in 2006.
The IIAG finding, which shocked government critics and aroused the curiosity of observers, came in the wake of recent demonstrations in Monrovia and similar other aborted actions planned for the United Nations in New York, was distributed across the globe yesterday.
The report noted moreover that all five top improved countries in 2013 are, in that order, Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Burundi.
It conceded however that despite vast improvements since 2000, Liberia's governance score remains below the continental average for Africa as well as the regional average for West Africa.
“The 2013 IIAG shows that 94% of Africans live in a country that has experienced overall governance improvement since 2000. The 6% of people living in a country that has experienced governance deterioration since 2000 are based in Madagascar, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia, Libya, and Mali,” the report revealed further.
In this latest governance performance, the report said, Liberia ranks 29th, overall, amongst 52 African countries and scored 50.3 out of 100, lower than the African average of 51.6.
“Liberia has gained 24.8 points since 2000, and ranks 10th amongst 16 ECOWAS countries. [Liberia also] ranks its highest in the category Participation & Human Rights, [ranking it] 9th out of 52 countries,” the report said.
Liberia, the report noted further, however recorded its lowest rank in the Sustainable Economic Opportunity category, in which it ranks 38th out of 52 and 46th out of 52 in the Health sub-category.
The country ranked 22nd in the safety and rule of law sub-category; 11th in the accountability sub-category, 25th in the national security sub-category; 19th in the participation sub-category; and 20th in the civil and human rights sub-category.
It came 39th in the gender equity sub-category, 38th in the Sustainable Economic Opportunity sub-category, 32nd and 39th, respectively, in the Public Management and Business Environment. In addition, it ranked 37th, 45th, and 34th, respectively, in the Rural Sector, Human Development, and welfare sub-category.
Also, Liberia came, in that order, 39th, 22nd, and 46th, in the Welfare, Education, and Health sub-categories.
The report moreover revealed that a survey of the same categories and sub-categories covering four regions of Africa shows that West Africa ranks third out of 5 regions at the overall governance level.
“This has been the case every year since 2000, except in 2011 when it ranked 2nd. Seven out of the 16 countries in West Africa score above the continental average (51.6),” the report said. “Three West African countries (Cape Verde, Ghana, and Senegal) rank in the top ten in 2012.
Two countries (Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau) rank in the bottom ten.”
The report said not only has West Africa's overall score increased by more than 5.6 points since 2000 but that it has shown improvements in all four categories.
Meanwhile, the report has confirmed that overall governance continues to improve at the continental level.
“The countries that have experienced overall governance improvement since 2000 are today home to 94% of people living on the continent,” it emphasized.
But then it noted quickly, “the Safety & Rule of Law category has declined worryingly, showing year-on-year declines since 2010. The IIAG shows a growing diversity in governance results on the continent. There is a widening span in performance between the best and worst governed countries; increasingly noticeable differences between the performance across different categories; and conflicting trends within the categories.”
The report did not attempt to give reasons for its observation, but it quoted the chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Mo Ibrahim, as noting that neither pessimism nor optimism about development would do justice to modern Africa.
“This is now the age of Afro-realism - an honest outlook on our continent. It's about a celebration of its achievements but also a pragmatic acknowledgement of the challenges that lie ahead,” Ibrahim reportedly said.
He might surprise critics who think that is meaningless to celebrate achievements amidst growing poverty and unemployment in countries believed to be making progress, but he is not along. The surveyors themselves have admitted that their findings are too complex to be interpreted one way or the other.
“The challenge is how to secure sustainable progress. More than ever, equitable allocation of resources must be a priority for policy and decision-making. Commitment to, and balance in each of the four IIAG categories - Safety & Rule of Law, Participation & Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development, is critical to secure improvement in the long-term,” they say, reminding observers in Liberia that in-country reflection on the 2013 IIAG report is crucial to its interpretation and application.
“Some government administrators might decide to rest on their haunches on account of the favorable comparative rankings and ratings; this is dangerous for a country like Liberia that has an economic and development history in which statistics is a mortal enemy of developmental landmarks,” one political observer told this paper yesterday.
The chair of the Ibrahim Prize Committee might not disagree, but he believes the focus should rather be on consolidating African expertise.
‘“The widening range of the governance results, especially within some sub-regions, stresses the growing need for more cohesion and solidarity. This will be critical to African unity',” the report quoted him as saying.
Report vindicates government
A MICAT press release issued on Tuesday, October 15, 2013, barely 24 hours after the release of the report in Liberia, said the government of Liberia has welcomed the 2013 Ibrahim Index of African Governance Report.
“Acting Minister, Robert Kpadeh who welcomes report says when an impartial body like the Mo Ibrahim Foundation presents such a positive report in the face of local criticism, it points at the real measurement of progress, and validates claims made by the government that it is working towards the greater good of the Liberian people,” the release said.
MICAT said this observation could only have been made from effective service delivery and response to international best practice in the designated fields.
Meanwhile, Acting Minister, Robert Kpadeh has announced a Panel Discussion for Thursday, October 17, 2013.
The MICAT release said panelists for the discussion were Dr. Amos C.
Sawyer of the Governance Commission, Cllr. Augustine Toe of the Liberia Anti-Corruption commission, Mr. Thomas Doe Nah of CENTAL, and Mr. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., an economist.
The release says MICAT expects the panelists to give their perspectives of what the report means for Liberia during the ministry's regular Thursday Press Briefing that begins 11:00 am at the Charles Gbeyon Conference Hall.
“Leading Liberian journalist, Mr. Frank Sainworla will serve as moderator,” the release signed by Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Atty. Isaac W. Jackson, Jr., said.
About IIAG The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG) Established in 2007, the IIAG is the most comprehensive collection of quantitative data on governance in Africa. Compiled in partnership with experts from a number of the continent's institutions, it provides an annual assessment of governance in fifty-two African countries.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which compiles the IIAG, was established in 2006 with a focus on the critical importance of leadership and governance in Africa. By providing tools to support advancements in leadership and governance, the Foundation aims to bring about meaningful change on the continent.
The Foundation, which is a non-grant making organization, helps to define, assess, and enhance governance and leadership in Africa using the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, the Ibrahim Forum, and the Ibrahim Fellowships and Scholarships.