The over-arching objective of political and social
reform in a country is to foster economic, social
and political advancement, reduce economic, social
and political inequalities, and promote inclusive
and legitimate government in order to achieve these
goals, and in post-conflict nations like Liberia,
avoid and prevent national conflicts going into the
Reform is extraordinarily difficult and is fraught
with challenges. A major problem is the size and flow
of the reform agenda. Often, there is little guidance
about what is essential, what should come first and
what should follow and what is feasible. It is important
that reform take account of the pre-existing social
and institutional structures in the country.
Particularly in a democracy, politics, and thus reform,
involves competing interests and ideologies, power
struggles, conflict and competition. Moreover, and
importantly, reform is a continuing work-in-process;
it would be a mistake to think that there is ever
a point when one can say political and social “reform”
has been achieved.
After nearly 160 years of state failure, the political
and social reforms that are required in Liberia are
voluminous, as well as complex and multi-dimensional.
Building states that are both effective and accountable
to their citizens is a centuries-long process. But
small beginnings can set in motion progressively more
Political and social reform ought therefore to be
guided by principles. Some paradigms that ought to
drive reform in Liberia are:
1) The determinants and impacts of good governance
and the relationship of good governance to national
2) Institutionalizing transparent and accountable
3) Rationally improving governance capacities and
4) Designing, implementing; monitoring and assessing
the progress of national development programs and
Within the framework of these paradigms, several core
areas for reform that one might consider in respect
to Liberia are:
· Political Systems: governing institutions
and the environment of governance.
· Governance: government performance, the quality
of national institutions and people’s perceptions
· Service Delivery: how public services are
distributed and their impact on people.
· Safety Security and Access to Justice: safety
from violence and intimidation, security of personal
property, and equality of access to justice.
· Public Financial Management and Accountability:
government capacity to raise revenues, set spending
priorities, prevent corruption, allocate resources
and to effectively manage the delivery of those resources.
· Land Reform: ownership, tenure, use, legal
status and their relationships to economic activities
and poverty reduction.
· Decentralization: giving voice to people
throughout the country and ensure the efficient provision
of basic services for all and allowing more direct
participation at local levels.
· Institutional Development: identifying and
developing core competence.
· Economic Development: sustainable economic
growth and poverty reduction.
In reforming Liberian state institutions, getting
the right fit requires facing the realities on the
ground. Efforts to strengthen administrative and accountability
systems in the country will have to fit Liberia-specific
structures and ought to be directed to realizing the
country’s political, social, and economic best
A special word on corruption: Experts state that the
roots of corruption lie in dysfunctional state institutions.
There is general agreement that poor governance and
corruption are major factors that undermine a country’s
economic and social progress. Corruption not only
stifles economic growth in society as a whole but
also tends to affect the poor disproportionately by
increasing the price for public services and restricting
poor people’s access to essential services such
as water, education, and health care.
Importantly, because of the state of Liberia’s
bureaucratic and institutional capabilities, comprehensive
reforms may not be the answer. It may be preferable
to focus on more modest, viable initiatives, especially
those for which results are observable. For example,
if you can’t fix the whole government, getting
local schools throughout the country to work may spearhead
more reforms down the road.
Finally, I offer you my wish list of eventual desirable
outcomes of reforms in Liberia:
(1) I wish for national institutions that act faster
and only in the interest of the governed;
(2) I wish a highly productive society;
(3) I wish a government that is smarter and cleverer,
attracting the best and brightest to public service,
but always working in the interest of the people;
(4) I wish systems that expedite industry and commerce;
(5) I wish political leadership without the attitude
that rulers are better than anybody else, leadership
that is more trusting and sharing, because there are
only a few genuine needs for government secrecy, and
one that realizes that there is absolutely no need
for human rights abuses;
(6) I wish a bureaucracy that is proactive and futuristic;
(7) I wish instituted standardized, but yet fair ways
of dealing with citizens;
(8) I wish a robust and constantly expanding civil
(9) I wish equitable access to land ownership and
(10) I wish a nation ruled by law.
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