Jumpstarting Liberia’s Development Needs: Can Decentralization Provide Structural Reform & Change?

By Francis W. Nyepon


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
December 29, 2005


The result of the recent elections has given Liberians an opportunity to repair a country broken by ethnic hatred, class struggle, factional politics and civil wars. This is an opportunity for Liberians to come together in unity as a collective to reconcile these challenges and strive to put the country back on track. The needs of our country are too urgent not to immediately present a constructive development agenda. An innovative dialogue regarding decentralization should now be brought forward to Liberians of all political, social and ethnic persuasion. It should include the rank and file and range from clergy to entrepreneurs, entertainers to market women, and ex-combatants to war-affected communities, students to cultural clubs, and community leaders to youth groups.

To do this, a trend must immediately be set for the country to become a beacon of hope in resolving its historic challenges. Liberians are aware that these challenges have kept the population backward and perpetuated chronic poverty for generation. However, they would have to be challenged to engage each other constructively and in a direction which will puts the country first and move it forward in harmony with development needs. In this respect, each Liberian will have to take on the added responsibility of helping to build a prosperous society. But, attempting to build such a society would require placing a premium on national priorities and being straight forward and honest with the people.

To jumpstart the country’s development needs, substantial action needs to be taken right now in order to decentralize a balanced development. Every region of the country should benefit directly from resources and developmental activities, which will encourages the population to return to their respective home county, instead of coming to Monrovia for everything such as government payroll checks, consumer products, postal delivery, electricity and improved health and educational services. Other areas needed to accomplish this task includes the development of effective national policy such as adequate budgetary allocation to counties; homeownership through a structural mortgage program; education and training to increase employment; rehabilitation of ex-combatants and renovation of market campuses and safe water and sanitation.

This is a tall order, but to accomplish it, policy should immediately be formulated to build long-term sustained effort where every Liberian can participate in and contribute to sustain development through decentralization. The new political climate, which currently exists, is an excellent opportunity to jumpstart the nation’s development needs. It should provide a culture that reorganizes a progressive local government system and move the national system towards decentralization. This new culture must promote democratic governance and participatory approaches towards development, service delivery and poverty reduction.

Decentralization must become the key strategy to promoting good governance, pluralism, accountability, fiscal reforms, transparency, and structural reform. Its strength must focus on reducing the workload of the central government to manageable proportion, and account for greater efficiency, coordination and effectiveness in public service delivery. It must propel the elected government to adopt political and administrative changes through the deregulation of economic and political responsibilities. And conversely, it should encourage and strengthen both citizen participation and local government involvement in the decision-making process while harnessing local knowledge, resources and expertise at the county, district, township and village levels.