InfoQuest Liberia Ends One- Day Legislative, Stakeholders Dialogue By: Julius Konton

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InfoQuest Liberia, a civil society organization, continues its effort in  championing the advocacy campaign for an accelerated effort towards the passage into law of the  Local Government Ministry bill including the  adoption of the revenue sharing act regulation.  As part of continuing campaign, the civil society organization as one of the lead campaigners of said initiative ended a one day insightful Legislative and Stakeholders Dialogue in Monrovia.  Presenting his opening statement at the Dialogue meeting, the Executive Director of InfoQuest Liberia Matthias Yeanay underscored the need and importance for the passage of the Local Government Ministry’s bill into law as well as the full adoption and subsequent implementation of the revenue sharing act regulation.  Amongst other things, he stated that the Ministry of Local Government when enacted into law by members of the National Legislature will give power back to the people and will also help create jobs and capacity development for the locals . He assured the gathering that InfoQuest Liberia remains committed to advocating as well as engaging all stakeholders and partners especially the national Legislature in order to ensure that such national campaign is achieved to the core. As one of the support arms to the Dialgoe Meeting, UNDP through its Resident Representative Louis Kuupen making special statement at the opening ceremony commended Liberia for making significant progress with decentralization regulations. He at the same time pointed out that it is time for the Country to build on the gains made by accelerating the passage of the Ministry of Local Government as well as  validating the revenue sharing act regulation.  Explaining some benefits , he stated that such will help strengthen citizens participation, service delivery, fiscal decentralization, financial autonomy of local government thus leading to efficient and efficient social service delivery to the citizens while faciliting legislation and policies to help sustain decentralization.  According to him, decentralization has never been successful without the required  Legislative support, political- will, financial resources to empower sub national structures in enhancing service provision and local government administration, which he added are very critical to the process. Mr. Kuupen speaking about revenue sharing indicated that it presents a unique opportunity for decentralization and sustainability while strengthening inclusive governance and social cohesion at sub-national levels. At the same time he said the revenue sharing act regulation will serve as a catalyst for the successful implementation of revenue sharing act of 2021. ” The bill prescribed how natural and non natural resources and revenue will be share between central government and local government as well as between local government and sub local government respectively”, he added. He called on stakeholders to exert collective effort and energy as well as political- will to ensure that such is achieved.  The UNDP’s Resident Representative also thanked the Swedish and Irish Governments, the EU and other development partners for their support to the process. He maintained that fostering and accelerating  decentralization is the surest way, the National cake can be equitably share, it is also the surest way to develop Liberia , leaving no one behind, he noted.  Additionally, Mr. Kuupen stated that decentralization is the surest way that the County council set up and the local government structures can be effective in order to provide development  at the local level.  The local government Ministry bill which he stated is critical to accelerating decentralization in Liberia when passed will play a very pivotal role in accelerating development across the length and breathe of Liberia.  He noted that the implementation of the National policy on decentralization and local governance will help to expand local participation in the affairs of government, provide equal opportunities for the citizens in development processes. “It will also support the strategic role map for peace building, national healing and reconciliation “, he noted. Also speaking at the opening ceremony was Swedish Embassy Program officer Nikolina Stalhand who stated that following the successful election process in Liberia, the world now wants to see a democracy in Liberia that will deliver and such can be done through decentralization which she pointed out is key.  “In order for Liberia to be developed further, it is key that the Country looks beyond Monrovia, the people should be able to access basic services, see and feel development despite their location “, he re-emphasized. The Swedish Embassy Program officer highlighting the importance of decentralization stated that it is also important for Economic development and to help build the social contract between the citizens and the state. She mentioned further that in order for decentralization to succeed, there is a need for national ownership and collaboration between different Stakeholders while pointing out sustainability as a key factor to be taken into serious consideration by the government in the absence of donor support.  “We don’t want to see the service centers seized to exist when there is no donor funding and that is why we welcome and support fiscal decentralization which if effectively implemented can help drive the sustainability component of the program while  revenue sharing is key to ensure that resources will be kept at the local level to assist such efforts “, she added.  Madam Stalhand also stressed the importance of collaboration with Stakeholders namely: The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Liberia Revenue Authority among others, which she said will help such process. As one of the Legislative champions on Decentralization, Sinoe County District two Representative, Samson Wiah lauded InfoQuest Liberia for such milestone initiative.  Like his other colleagues, Representative Wiah pledged his commitment to surport the bill and to ensure that the necessary advocacy and Legislative support will be given for its speedy passage especially looking at the document as squarely people centered which they represent to the letter. His statement was reechoed by Assistant Minister of Internal Affairs D. Emmanuel Whenyou who was quick to clarified that the new Ministry once formed will in no way take away jobs from people.

In fact he disclosed that it will help create additional jobs as well as building the capacity of the locals. ” As a result of the Ministry of Local Government, You will have full participation in the decision making processes including development initiatives “, he further explained.  As for the policy arm of Government, the Governance Commission through its Chair, Dr. Alaric Tokpah wants decentralization to now be a focus of the Country and should be supported and encouraged by all. He said the making of laws that takes these policies into effect through implementation is key. Moreover, he stated that the training of local appointed and selected officials in order to ensure that they provide effective and efficient services to the people is also pivotal. “Let’s now get involved as a Country to see concrete action and change for the betterment of the society “, he added. Meanwhile, the Chair of the National Civil Society Council Of Liberia Loretta Pop Kai rallied members of the National Legislature support for the speedy passage into law of the Ministry of Local Government which she emphasized is a direct way of giving back power to the people.  She said the need to promote and support local administration is key. Madam Kai also reemphasized that Civil society will continue to remain engaged as they are key partners to the process.  The Chair of the National Civil Society Council stressed that effective policies and laws that facilitates broader participation enhanced local accountability and improve development planning which are also essential she noted. The day long Legislative and Stakeholders Dialogue organized by InfoQuest Liberia with funding from the UNDP and other partners are expected to continue with different other programs and activities including engagements all geared towards the advocacy campaign for the speedy passage of the Local Government Ministry bill and the adoption of the revenue sharing act regulation.

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