President Sirleaf (center) with members of her cabinet after a retreat
Liberia has a lot to learn from Tanzania especially under the administration of a patriot par excellence, President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli. The United Nations made no mistake to have named Magufuli as the best President on planet earth just in a period of 12 months of his presidency. This global and prestigious accolade came as a result of “Less Talking” and “More Action”. It came as a result of setting proactive public policies, people-centered priorities and achievable targets.
Upon Magufuli’s ascendancy in November 2015, he administered a divorce between PROMISE and PRETENSE. The ‘Bulldozer’ as he is affectionately called has done far more in just 1 year than most African leaders who have spent over a decade in power. As a leader of integrity, patriotism and humility, Magufuli has:
- Set-up 1,423 industries
- Diverted Independence Day funding to fight cholera and buy hospital beds
- Auctioned expensive cars of senior government officials and banned any future purchase of such vehicles
- Reduced government ministries from 30 to 19
- banned the purchase of first air tickets for ministers
- Ordered government meetings and conferences to be held in state buildings instead of expensive hotels
- Cut down the number of ministers and their deputies by nearly a half from 60
- Banned cabinet retreat in order to cut costs and this measure has saved Sh2 billion.
- Built new homes, roads, health centers, schools, etc.
Without having a single Cabinet Retreat, Magufuli has achieved a lot. Even though Retreat for cabinet members and heads of public agencies is a regular phenomenon in some countries, but its outcome must meet up with public demand(s). During this time, key stakeholders within the Executive Branch of government meet to review government’s overall performance with specific focus on sectorial successes and challenges. In addition, forecasting of achievable development targets and operational goals is done.
Unfortunately in Liberia, our cabinet ministers and heads of public agencies are best known for setting undoable targets and projecting unrealistic plans. This false impression is taking us nowhere. Deception only creates more harm for those who are at the very bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Liberia is a country of pseudo dreamers whose vision is driven by barren promises and pretense.
Every time they congregate at such meeting, most of them give fake progress reports that do not even reflect existing and practical realities. The major concern of some of them is how they will be retained. Instead of giving more attention to the essence of the retreat, they are found searching for unmerited favor by creating false impression about who they are, what they have done and what they intend to do. This is really sad and our leaders must graduate from this lowly and insincere plain!
Even though Liberia under President Sirleaf has had almost 11 cabinet retreats, but the impact of these gatherings are far less than the resources and energy applied/spent. Even after all these extravagant retreats, Liberia is still ranked as the fourth poorest country by Global Finance and eighth unhappiest country by the United Nations. The UN Habitat Report rated Monrovia as the least city with a City Prosperity Index (CPI) of -0.313. Sadly, 81.86% of Liberia’s population is poor while 83.76% live on US$1.25 a day according to UNDP 2015 Human Development Report. Have these ‘retreats’ really been Cabinet Retreats or Cabinet Recreations?
During each cabinet retreat of government officials in Liberia, a marriage between promise and pretense does exist. Everyone becomes concern about who stays or goes. What good does it make for ministers and heads of agencies to attend retreat every year when they make no big difference or impact after such an event is held? I thought occasion as this is intended to critically review the past and advance realistic strategies to improve the present and prepare for the future. It makes no sense to misuse thousands of tax-dollars to conduct an annual retreat that continues to bring fruitless and/or minimum outcome(s). It is just unwise to do one thing over and over without reaping any concrete result. A shift in paradigm through genuine and sustainable measures is crucial to ensuring an eternal divorce between PROMISE and PRETENSE. Where are the socio-economic dividends as a result of the many retreats this government has had? What can Liberians show after spending huge amount of US dollars on hosting Cabinet Retreats? Nothing substantive for Liberians, especially THE POOR, has come out of this occasion since its inception. This gathering in my mind is only meant to satisfy the socio-economic appetite of top government officials and deceive those who are unaware about their sinister agenda. Liberia does not need bunch of ‘copy and paste’ theories, but a genuine recovery plan that reflects public participation and national interest.
The people need action and not empty promises or plenty talks. They are weary with sweet words, long-winded speeches, attractive PowerPoint presentations and accurate pronunciations. Good governance goes far beyond rhetoric and until those who call themselves leaders can recognize this fact, our country’s developmental agenda shall forever shift downward. It is no longer about what you have learned and what your credentials are, but it is about what the people can benefit as a result of what you have learned. Impact and not impression!
The first precondition to national leadership is Patriotism. An unpatriotic educated President, Vice President, Minister or Director is the most dangerous citizen of any country. An unnationalistic educated Lawmaker or any public official for that matter is the most terrible steward any nation can have. I careless about how many degrees a person has, but care more about what impact those degrees can make to uplift ordinary lives out of acute poverty and abject adversity.
The meaning of cabinet retreat has lost its real essence or taste in Liberia as key State actors within the Executive Branch continue to misuse this medium to merry-make. Even though there has been series of such assembly, but nothing has really changed. Almost every sector of government remains weak today as a result of non-implementation and non-adherence to public policy(ies). The developmental objectives of Liberia are yet too far from realization due to policy failure and fiscal indiscipline. The two-day retreat that was recently held in Julijuah Town, Bomi County was not only a mere bluff, but another means for this regime to further expose its real image of deception and insincerity to the people. Nothing new was said that we have not heard since 2006. The same old story was told by unreliable voices. The solution to any national problem cannot come through rhetoric, but genuine deeds.
Liberians are anxiously waiting to benefit from the Poverty Reduction Strategy, Lift Liberia, Agenda for Transformation, Vision 2030 and other socio-economic plans of this government, but to no avail. Poverty is increasing daily as access to basic social services remains a serious challenge. The purchasing power, life-expectancy and food security of our people remain very low while the rate of unemployment and illiteracy remains high. Least to mention health and sanitation!
Our concern now is, “why must they continue to attend cabinet retreats when nothing is changing?” Are they not aware that Liberia is one of the four poorest countries on earth? We are tired with too many meetings and plenty promises that are not germinating concrete deliverables. The creation of more policies without implementation is a waste of time and resources. Policies can only become good and complete when policy-makers ensure they are fully implemented. What good does it make to develop a framework without achieving its targets? It is time for our leaders to rethink their strategy in order to liberate Liberia from its current status of poverty and misery. The pursuit and accomplishment of an aggressive pro-poor agenda would ensure economic expansion, political stability and social coherence throughout Liberia. The paradigm needs to change if Liberia must make genuine progress. It is time to put an end to the longstanding marriage between promise and pretense. The period to finally divorce deception from public service is now. The primitive relationship between deprivation and discrimination must cease to exist. It is time to bury greed and unpatriotism forever. For too long hypocrisy and conspiracy have slept in the same bed. For more than 11 years now, corruption and nepotism are still dinning on the same table together. After two successive democratic elections, elitism and sectarianism are marching hand in hand. We must do all we can to put a halt to bad governance. The chain of poverty and unemployment must be broken if Liberia must truly be considered THE SWEET LAND OF LIBERTY.
From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a NEW LIBERIA rising above the African Continent.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist who hails from central Liberia specifically Bong County. He is currently a student of the University of Liberia studying Economics and a Lux-In-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is also the West Africa Bureau Chief / Editor of Globe Afrique, a Global Columnist of The African Exponent and a contributor to dozens of media outlets locally and internationally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org