Forum For Societal Change

Welcome & Introductory Remarks

Please permit me to sincerely thank all of you present here tonight who have taken off time which could be used to do other things of interest, or just relax in the comfort of your home, but rather, you have chosen to honour our invitation with your presence. Your presence here tonight is a manifestation of your patriotism, your love of country, your desire to from a part or our efforts to explore new strategies for accelerating our pace of development in our country (Liberia), to see our country (Liberia) achieve its own great leap Forward. Let me make it quite clear that holding this exercise should not be misconstrued as an attempt to criticize past or present governments, as we are appreciative of whatsoever changes that have taken place for the better but we are saying that it is time to change the development gear to a higher level, thereby accelerating our pace of development. To accomplish this, we must put aside the old ways of doing things, which can be described as slow or delayed when compared to those of other countries in the sub-region or beyond. We must shear those negative attitudes and behaviors that make governance less responsive to the National needs. We must put aside the business as usual approach to governance. Business as usual leads to the same old same old results, which retard our progress as a nation and people.

We must embrace new ideas, new principles and practices, of governance to accelerate our development initiatives. The Forum, plans to host various topical discussions on governance throughout the year and beyond and to disseminate the salient points, recommendations, and findings to all levels of society and throughout the government with the expectation that the relevant government ministries or agencies will see reason to implement these ideas and views expressed for the good of the nation specifically, one of the end results expected from the discourse this evening will be the establishment of a watchdog group whose responsibility will be to track the budgetary process from start to finish, conducting relevant analysis throughout the various stages, disseminating factual information to the general public and ensuring that the budget adequately captures the needs of the Liberian people and reflects National priorities.

We must understand and accept the fact that the initial cost for development must be borne by each country. Each country must demonstrate its commitment to development by capturing funding for those basic initiatives in the national budget; then, international partners will likely be more responsive and motivated to give generously to its development efforts, especially if aid is transparently utilized and meet development objectives. For example, if you allocate a percentage in the budget according to best practice in development norms for education, international partners will be more likely to give more in foreign aid to education, more to health in the budget, likely more in foreign aid for health, more in the budget for agriculture, likely more in foreign aid to agriculture and so on. This can best be described as taking the lead and being responsible and in control of your development initiatives. This is a demonstration that you as a nation and people are prepared to bite the bullet or tighten your belts with everyone contributing his/her fair quota to achieving our own great leap forward. We are here this evening to explore ways in which we can influence our National budget decision-making so that it is no longer largely dominated by salary and benefits and to transition to a budget which captures our national vision, embraces our development agenda and incorporates the needs of the Liberian people.

My fellow Liberians and guests, I hope at the end of this session this evening, we will leave here with renew vigor and commitment to carry on the struggle for making the National Budget more relevant to our national needs, development and progress.