MONROVIA: The acclaimed Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI), a collaboration of nearly 300 country and regional experts from leading universities and think tanks worldwide, in its Transformation Index 2022 report on Liberia indicates poor exercises of Liberian Legislators’ functions as it relates to the execution of their oversight responsibilities.
BTI: “Nonetheless, Liberia’s legislators are among Africa’s best-paid, and contrasts in income between the tiny privileged class and the masses are stark. This is a reflection of the destruction occasioned by the civil war and a natural resource-based enclave economy in which foreign investors repatriate rather than reinvest profits,” the report further asserted.
According to BTI’s latest report on Liberia, Legislators interest in private gains often takes precedence over national or political party considerations.
In the 2020/21 National Budget, the Legislature reportedly appropriated US$44.6 million to themselves with Senators and Representatives taking home US$30,000 each for salary, expenses and the costs of running their offices, according to first “Legislative Digest” released by a local pro-democracy group, NAYMOTE. Apart, in the 2022/23 Budget, the Liberian Lawmakers allotted US$64 to themselves including funds for items such as US$4.6 million for “New vehicles” and US$3 million fuel for those cars, although it was reported that the lawmakers had 30% pay cut in 2019.
Currently, West Africa biggest economy, Nigeria, that country lawmakers earned US$180,000 per annual, which would amount to US$15,000 per month.
Accordingly, the report said “A lack of expertise constitutes another obstacle to rational policy formulation. The parliament (Legislature) is effective in that the President must ensure significant elite support to pass decisions.”
BTI, in its report, explained how the performances of democratic institutions have been undermined by what it calls “the progressive decline in state capacities.”
The report asserted that the past 15 years have seen an accumulation of wealth by Liberian elites and the emergence of a small middle class, leading to growing inequality.
It mentioned that the Executive Branch of Government dominates the political sphere and that such dominance is increasingly driven by short-term concerns.
According to BTI, in the post-civil war period, the three branches of the Liberian government including the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary have been able to establish a significant degree of autonomy, although the Executive is dominant.
“The Legislature and Judiciary have repeatedly disregarded decisions of the Executive Branch. However, corrupt practices strongly influence parliamentary and judicial decisions and partly render the institutions dysfunctional,” the report added.
On socio-economic development, it said Liberia consistently ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world.
“It was ranked at 175th place out of 189 countries in the 2019 Human Development Index (HDI), two positions lower than the previous year. About 76% of the population lives on less than $3.10 per day. An estimated 85% of the workforce is active in the informal sector, including subsistence agriculture,” the report further asserted.
Liberia is one of the most urbanized countries in the region, with approximately half of the population living in urban areas and about one-third in the capital city.
This is partly the legacy of the civil war when the cities were comparatively safe and attracted internal refugees.
It is also a consequence of the lack of opportunities in the rural economy, which has meant that urbanization has continued unabated.
Access to education is a major challenge. In the hinterland, schools are often barely functional.
The difficulties for poor rural youths who wish to climb the social ladder are immense and opportunities for slum dwellers of the cities are often not much better.
Going forward, the report indicated that the Prices for Liberia’s export goods rose above predictions toward the end of 2020 and is expected to recover moderately over the next two years, which may give the government some respite.
According to the report, in the medium run, Liberia and the international community face a choice between expanding the mineral resource and agricultural sectors and preserving one of the largest forest areas on the African continent.
The group further asserted that the size of Liberia’s national budget has declined over the past five years as revenue has decreased and repeated crises have caused the national economy to contract.
“The budget shrank from $570 million (2018 – 2019) to a recast $518 million (2019 – 2020), rising again to $570 million in fiscal year 2020 – 2021 again. Over the same period, the fiscal deficit rose from 3% of GDP to more than 5.7%, and then fell again to an estimated 3.2%,” the report stressed.
Meanwhile, the research-based group pointed to what it characterized as “very high Levels of corruption in national government,” noting how “corrupt officials have little to fear with regard to consequences for misconduct.”
“Allegations of corruption may affect the reputation of officials only marginally, provided they transfer some benefits to their constituencies,” the report noted.
“Against the background of the economic crisis, dissatisfaction with government has risen, which has in turn translated into greater criticism of government corruption,” added the report.
Report: “The broader issue is that under the Weah administration, central control and oversight over state officials has steadily eroded, increasing opportunities for corruption. These opportunities in turn are often exploited.”
“The president himself has engaged in several building projects that appear disproportional to his official earnings, and he must entertain a vast patronage network that includes youthful party members and established elites,” the report disclosed.
According to the BTI Transformation Index 2022, during the reporting period, the national U.N. office and a diplomatic initiative including the United States and Germany complained about misuse of donor funds.
The BTI is the result of the collaboration of nearly 300 country and regional experts from leading universities and think tanks world.
The project analyzes and compares transformation processes towards democracy and inclusive market economy world-wide.
It aims to identify successful strategies for steering change.