The Joe Boakai Plan
Liberia has come a long way since the restoration of democratic governance and the beginning of a new era of peace in 2005. The intervening years have held much hope and promise, as well as uncertainties. While much of the immediate post-war period laid the foundation for rebuilding the country and setting it on a developmental path, recent years have not only eroded many of the gains that were made but have been laden with despair because of an inexorable economic decline, social crisis, and insecurity among others. Citizens of the country have never fallen on such hard times since the war period.
The country, therefore, clearly faces two possible futures. There is a “business as usual” future as we see unfolding before us today; a future burdened with unequal growth, corruption, poverty, disease, ignorance, despair, and hopelessness; and another future that holds the promise of a transformed Liberia with its full potential unleashed for the good of all its citizens – including millions of young people – regardless of ethnicity, social status, class, age, and gender. The latter future is Joe Boakai’s vision for which he is running for president of Liberia.
Joe Boakai’s plan is not a high-sounding political slogan but one based on system-wide knowledge generated over time about the particularities of the country’s problems, and how to address them so that the benefits of economic growth and social development are not just for a privileged few but for every man, woman, and child in the country.
The plan, substantially elaborated in the Unity Party’s platform defines the core values that will guide its relationship – as a future Unity Party government – with the people and the work it endeavors to undertake when the good people of Liberia trust Joe Boakai with the mandate to serve them. It defines hopes and aspirations for the people of Liberia, and offers and proposes national programs aimed at maintaining the nation’s hard-won peace, reinvigorating shared economic growth and development, and moving the country forward over the next six years (2024-2029).
The plan is defined principally by 5 pillars as summed in the following:
PILLAR ONE: MACROECONOMIC STABILITY AND INFRASTRUCTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Developing the economy and related infrastructure for growth is a centerpiece of the Joe Boakai plan. Ensuring efficient management of the economy to restore its growth potential, engaging in prudent fiscal management to ensure efficient utilization of meager budgetary resources, and restoring confidence in our monetary and financial sector management system is a principal goals aimed at the following:
- Improving Economic and Financial Governance to Spur Economic Growth and Development
- Promoting Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Development to Support Wealth Creation
- Promoting sustainable Job Creation and Ensure Job Security for the Employed
- Improving Commerce and Industry to Support Indigenous Wealth Creation
- Developing Road & Bridge Infrastructures to Support Actors’ Participation in Economic Activities
- Developing Transportation Networks and Air and Sea Ports
- Improving Nationwide Access to Information Communication Technology
- Prioritizing Energy Sector Development to Drive Economic Activities
- Improving Mineral and Natural Resource Management
- Promoting Culture and Tourism to Support Job Creation and Income Generation
PILLAR TWO: HEALTH, WASH, THE ENVIRONMENT & CLIMATE CHANGE
Rebuilding a robust people-centered health sector; improving sanitation; leveraging the country’s natural potential for a clean environment for its people, and contributing to the global effort on climate change undergird the plan to ensure Liberians and residents enjoy quality health. Recognizing the correlation between healthy people and economic development, the plan is aimed at substantially investing in the following broad areas:
- Healthcare Delivery System
- Mental Healthcare Service
- Water and Sanitation Service Provision
- Development of a Healthy Environment
- Climate Change Mitigation Initiatives
PILLAR THREE: HUMAN CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT
Human capacity development is essential for empowering the citizens of the country to contribute more meaningfully to economic growth and social development. Doing this ensures that a large number of Liberians, particularly the youth, are included and deeply involved in the development of society. Depriving citizens of the requisite human skills needed through education and training has an adverse effect on the functioning of our institutions and private sector development. Broadly, the plan seeks to:
- Strengthen National Education System to Improve Education Outcome
- Diversify and Promote Technical and Vocational Education Training
- Improve Educational Systems Management and Governance
PILLAR FOUR: GOVERNANCE AND RULE OF LAW
The Liberian crisis has been described by some as a crisis of governance. This means good governance, including the rule of law and access to service delivery, is foundational to addressing questions of human and fundamental rights, accountability and transparency, public trust in national institutions, and public participation in decision-making and all legitimate democratic processes that mitigate historical marginalization and fissures in society. Fostering good governance and the rule of law will also earn the country credible democratic credentials and respectability among the nations of the world and attract confident investment partners. Joe Boakai’s plan for improved governance addresses the following:
- Strengthened National Security to Ensure Access to Security for all Residents
- Improved the Rule of Law and Ensured Access to Justice for all Residents
- Strengthened Integrity Institutions and Ensured Accountability in Public Service
- Public sector Development
- Strengthened Election Governance to Ensure Transparency and Integrity in the Electoral Process
- Legitimate Democratic Processes and Human Rights
- Peace and National Reconciliation to Create and Maintain a Harmonious Society
- National Decentralization Process for Equitable Development
- Engagement with the National Legislature with a Clearly Defined Legislative Agenda to Secure the Interest of our People
- Improved Foreign Relations and Strengthened Global Engagement
PILLAR FIVE: GENDER, YOUTH, CHILDREN & SOCIAL PROTECTION
During the previous administration, Liberia made good progress in reducing disparities in gender participation in many sectors of society. The country legislated laws to protect women and girls against domestic violence and crimes such as rape and other sexual-based violence. Other efforts also resulted in the legislation of child protection laws. There were also initiatives to develop programs to advance youth development. However, recent years have seen increased risks of inequality and vulnerability across society, especially for vulnerable population segments such as children and disadvantaged youth. The rights of women and girls have come under increasing threats of violation as the gender inequality gap continues to increase in our society. According to the UNDP 2020 Human Development Report, Liberia had a gender inequality index (GII) value of 0.650, ranking it 156 out of 162 countries in 2019, compared to 154 out of 162 countries in 2023. While this indicates a slight improvement in Liberia’s strides toward achieving gender equality, the country needs to make greater efforts to further reduce gender inequality.
Boakai’s plan aims at prioritizing and addressing risks of all forms of inequality and vulnerability across our society to ensure that everyone, especially those in vulnerable populations, has an improved life outcome. This plan will develop the necessary programs and structures, enacts laws, and formulate policies that ensure the empowerment of women, girls, youth, children, and persons with special needs, including the elderly. Specific areas to be addressed include the following:
- Gender and Women Empowerment
- Support for the Physically Challenged and Provision of Social Protection for People with Special Needs
- Support for Child Protection Initiatives to Create a Safe Child Development Environment
- Promotion of Sports and Recreation to Develop the Talents of Young People
- Promotion of Youth Development to Create Opportunities for Young People
Operationalizing the Boakai Plan
The Boakai plan, enumerated as target policies in the pillar-focused areas, will have to be translated into operational activities as immediate interventions for a quick impact turnaround of the national development situation. AREST is, therefore, Joe Boakai’s priority investment focus aligned with the plan to quickly improve livelihoods. A – Agricultur; R – Roads; E – Education; S – Sanitation; T – Tourism; Time to use Agriculture, Roads, Education, Sanitation, and Tourism to “arrest” Poverty, Disease, and Ignorance in Liberia.
Agriculture is the foundation of Liberia’s economy and plays a critical role not just in the national food economy but also serves as the main driver of economic development and a source of employment for a large proportion of the Country’s labor force. In one of his public addresses a few years ago, Joe Boakai underscored this fact when he said, “… I hold the strong opinion that Agriculture, more than any other sphere of national development endeavor, makes for the most critical to the lifeblood of an agro-based economy such as ours.” Agriculture is a key source of foreign exchange earnings to drive growth and serves as the main source of food security and poverty reduction. The country has a comparative advantage in agricultural production with arable land comprising about 41 percent of the total land area. In addition to its rich freshwater resources, the county enjoys abundant rainfall that naturally supports two production seasons. Its primary agroecological zones are characterized by coastal plains and upper highlands, and lower tropical forests that make it suitable for both food and cash crop production. As a strategy, Liberia’s great agricultural potential will be utilized to transform the economy, lift the people out of poverty, and develop the country.
Roads remain critical infrastructure for the development of our country. The lack of good roads and related infrastructure is a major cause of rural neglect. The availability of quality paved roads and railroads will unlock the potential of both our agriculture and tourism industries, spur commerce and industry, and improve livelihoods across the country. The investment focus on this stems from the relationship between road infrastructure and economic growth, as roads will directly ensure the provision of the services needed for the country’s productive activities such as agricultural production and industry. In addition, as experience and studies have proved around the world, the more road infrastructure spurs growth, the more growth increases infrastructure development.
Education is critical for the development of any nation, but our educational system is replete with many challenges that affect not just access, educational quality, and outcomes, but economic growth and the quality of life of Liberians. Substantial investment will be made in the education sector in areas such as training, and other manpower development programs to ensure increased job opportunities or employment, and an entrepreneurial culture to promote productivity and innovation. As part of the plan to develop a knowledge-based economy, an investment emphasis will be on technological training.
Sanitation remains a critical area for human capital development. But our healthcare service delivery system continues to face various systemic challenges that affect efficient healthcare delivery and the provision of basic water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services. The majority of our people continue to lack access to safely managed drinking water and sanitation services and remain exposed to poor hygiene practices, which negatively impact their overall health, especially for our children who most often get sick and have to leave school. Because Joe Boakai believes that “… plans and strategies for economic recovery must go in sync with the strengthening of our health care delivery services,” he will commit to investing in sanitation and health to ensure that all Liberians, irrespective of their geographical location, age, gender, socio-economic or political status have access to good sanitation and high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective healthcare services.
Tourism remains largely underdeveloped despite the fact that Liberia is endowed with natural habitats, scenic ecosystems, and other destinations of historical and cultural significance that potentially make the country a suitable tourist designation and an attraction in the global tourism industry. Investing in tourism, including conserving the country’s fauna and flora biodiversity, and cleaning and protecting the environment, will help increase economic growth by triggering a chain of businesses in the cottage industry that will create jobs for thousands of Liberians and increase economic productivity.