Liberia’s development depends on rebuilding public institutions
- Report cites brain drain, low morale and
unmet basic needs as factors in civil-sector paralysis


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 29, 2006


Monrovia, Monday, 25 August 2006: Fourteen years of violent conflict have decimated Liberia’s capacity to run effective public institutions. That capacity must be rebuilt as a first step toward sustainable development, according to a new UNDP led independent report released in the capital, Monrovia, today.

Massive brain drain caused by continuing instability, a shortage of basic work supplies and the absence of reliable power and water systems have largely paralysed the country’s daily operations. The remaining Liberian labour force, facing wages in arrears and a rising cost of living, suffers from deteriorating morale.

Entitled “Mobilizing Capacity for Reconstruction and Development,” the post-conflict National Human Development Report 2006 is the first since the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last year. It gauges the toll of violent conflict on human development, and advances practical solutions on how the new government can meet its immediate and long-term development needs.

“Capacity building must claim priority of the country’s scarce resources,” say the Report’s authors. For this to be sustainable, it must “proceed not only from an assessment of needs but also from an assessment of existing capabilities among the Liberian society, including its social capital that has contributed to human survival in conditions of profound misery and continues to offer prospects for the future.”

The Report notes some bright spots. In a bid to rebuild its institutions, Liberia’s new government has taken wide-ranging measures to boost the effectiveness of the public sector, including the civil service. Some early ‘wins’: revising the civil-service code, a clean-up of the procurement process, introduction of internal controls and overhaul of financial-management procedures as well as measures aimed at fighting corruption.

Another promising government measure discussed in the Report is TOKTEN--“Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals”--in which qualified Liberian professionals
EMBARGOED until 10am GMT, Friday 25th August 2006

living overseas are brought back for short visits to share the skills they have acquired abroad.

Still, Liberia’s civil service, the Report says, is virtually an empty shell due to the flight of qualified staff. As it now stands, the public service is not only ill-equipped to deliver essential services to the people, but is also unable to steer much-needed reforms.

Shortages exist at all levels of employment. A dearth of expertise and training is accompanied by low pay—and, not surprisingly, flagging morale. “It is difficult to enforce work ethics such as punctuality and the importance of meeting schedules and standards; the system tends to discourage meritocracy and instead promotes patronage and rent-seeking,” according to the Report’s authors.

Indeed, the Government confirms that the entire public service is critically short of capacity. As such, a new cadre of top public servants properly trained, well motivated and adequately compensated is urgently needed. The Report says this cannot be achieved within the confines of the present civil-service structure.

Faced with this reality, innovative measures are underway to address the country’s immediate needs. Transitional salary supplements, for one, are being offered to key officials in positions with the greatest impact on service delivery and wider government reform efforts.

Part of the Liberia Emergency Capacity Building Project, the initiative is designed “to help the government create powerful teams of people whose employment in high-profile positions will reinvigorate the public sector, bringing new ideas, experiences and professionalism to support the reform process,” notes the Report.

© 2006 by The Perspective

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