My Understanding of the Issues. May I…?

The real purpose and intent of my blog was actually to provoke controversies and discussions of the critical issues that confront our country with the hope that incoming policy actors as well as those interested in the issues would appreciate the challenges and therefore calibrate policy prescriptions and expectations.

It is easy to begin the process by attempting to criticize me because one would say but if you knew of these things why didn’t you solve those problems? That will be a fair criticism but also a fair defense is that within the constraints, we did our best. I am sure no one believed that we would have solved all of the country’s problems within the time frame that we served. This would be an unreasonable expectation!

Additionally, I believe that as you begin to understand the width, the breath, and the depth of the challenges that confront our country, maybe, only maybe, would you then begin to appreciate the efforts that have been made and then recalibrate your expectations.

Before now, it would have been difficult for me to provide any reasonable explanation of the challenges we faced without it coming out as an “excuse.” Now I believe that communicating my experiences and the challenges that confront our country might be able to help the new policy actors.

I want you to consider for a second that even if we didn’t solve all the problems, its possible we gleaned some valuable insights that might be worth something, however little. It is against this backdrop that I want to provide my appreciation of the challenges which confront our country. May I?

And yes, I will take time to compile these into a coherent essay that will tell a story and provide an account, one of many accounts, that policy actors can use to glean some insights or at least my personal perspective.

In these blogposts, I am not making attempts to provide excuses as to why those problems were not solved. In fact, I am arguing that substantial efforts were made but the gravity of the challenges made it appear as though much wasn’t done. By providing, in my understanding, how complex the challenges are, maybe we can begin to appreciate the efforts and try to find way to see how we can help even as private citizens.

FOR EXAMPLE: Let’s look at the situation of pipe-borne water

I am not an expert in this area by any definition but because of my role in the planning function of government, I was able to sit and listen to the technocrats in those areas as they sought financing for various projects.

When you take your time and listen to the technical people then you will really appreciate the width, breath and depth of the challenges we are faced with.

I am sure that we all know that our water infrastructure has two (2) major components: (1) water production and treatment; and (2) transmission and distribution.

What most of us may not know is that the transmission and distribution infrastructure is in a terrible state and requires major investment to restore. Our transmission and distribution infrastructure was built nearly 60 years ago and it was engineered to serve a city of about 500,000 people. At the time, the folks used galvanized pipes to run those lines.

After 60 years and with a population of about 4 times the maximum intended population, you can agree with the assessment that the current infrastructure will require massive re-investment. All of the galvanized pipes have out lived their useful lives and are in need of total replacement. This will cost nothing less than US$150 million to replace those pipes and bring them up to standard and also create the distribution network to serve the nearly 2 million inhabitants of the City of Monrovia.

Now I am just talking about “water.” In fact, just the distribution and transmission aspect of water. I have not ventured into the sewage. I am sure we are aware that the drinking water system and the sewage system don’t use the same infrastructure for transmission.

I haven’t mentioned the production and treatment of water because we have been able to do some work in that area. With support from the African Development Bank, the White Plains Water treatment plant was fully rehabilitated. I believe they are now able to pump approximately 16 million gallons per day but whether that amount of water is making it to the City and in the homes of people is another question. The reason I say it is another question is beacuse the infrastructure to transmit the water is in a terrible state: nearly all the pipes are broken and there are always leaks along the transmission line. The technicians are always only repairing the broken pipes. In fact, finding out where the next leak is, is very difficult. The truth is that the pipes need to be replace.

It is easy to say “but why hasn’t the Government replace them yet?” Well, water, you will agree is not the only challenge the Government has to deal with. There are similar problems of greater magnitude in nearly every area of our economic and social systems.

For a country with a US$ 2 billion GDP that can borrow no more than 5% in a given year but up to 60% of GDP over time, you can appreciate how inadequate the fiscal space is to deal with the number of issues that confront us. Maybe, we need to take time to read the African Infrastructure Country Diagnostic (AICD 2010: A World Bank on Liberia’s Infrastructure deficit  https://ppiaf.org/documents/3149) in order to fully appreciate the extent of the infrastructure deficit we are confronted with and how we need to stabilize it.

The challenges we are confronted with are enormous and its seems that everything is urgent, critical and important. Fixing them all at once is close to impossible. But which one to fix first and which one will come last is the biggest question that no one might ever be able to get right especially if those asking the questions have already decided that you have failed.

In these blogposts, I am not intending to give excuses or argue that there are no solutions for the problems; I am only trying to share light on how complex the problems are and that within the constraints, only so much can be done.

watch out for my next piece…

 

 

 

 

 

Author: JAMES F. KOLLIE

I am a Liberian professional with passion for pro poor economic development and grassroot political organizing. I have read public policy, corporate finance and accounting at various levels. I have worked in government, private sector and non-profit sector.

3 thoughts on “My Understanding of the Issues. May I…?”

  1. With such an enormous challenges facing government,it might seems that nothing has actually been done to attempt to solve some but again This can be trigger down to the core issues of prioritization. Well ,the journey of a thousand mile begins with the first step..

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  2. I raised a similar point via Facebook a week ago. Jimmy, besides governance being difficult, providing governance in this part of the world is more than difficult.
    During a study tour of vocational programs bundled with other formal education tracts, I visited a school in Harwich, Massachusetts (Cape Cod Regional Technical High School) to look at their programs and assess their training curriculum for use by our planned integrated system. I asked about about enrollment and the school’s budget and was left stranded for words after the response of the principal. “ Enrollment is under 600 right now and the budget to run this school is around US$12 million”, he averred.
    When I compared that to what we had to deal with a youth and/young cohort of students of 2.1 million people with a training budget of under US$500,000.00, it fully explained the size of our problem. We may have the solutions stored but our capacity to meet them leaves us in midair. Unfortunately, nobody is interested in hearing you out in Liberia when it is a known fact that God stopped commanding thousands of years ago “ let there be money and money was available “.

    Today, I’m proud of what we achieved as a team when I read the PAPD document. Even as aspirational the document is, the authors ensured that they listed things achieved here over the last decade. Am I claiming all was rosy, nope! Did we fully exhaust everything within our means? Nope! Could some things been done a lot better? Yes! But did we perform here under the circumstances? Yes!

    It is high time the current managers relooked at some of the contours. Our problems are huge. Our challenges are humongous!

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