From the Editor’s Keyboard

17 things to help develop Sierra Leone (part 2 of 3)

20 October 2008 at 20:39 | 786 views

By Amadu Massally, Guest Writer, USA.

In part 2 of this article we talk in more detail about those 17 things that will help Sierra Leone develop, and the selection process of the MCC. Specifically we address what the indicators are, what they measure, and how are we meeting them as a nation in broad terms or not, is the focus of the rest of the article?

But before we get to all that, we have to put things in perspective and act accordingly. First of all, we have to understand that every year in the month of November the Millennium Corporation Challenge (MCC) Board of Directors meets to select countries that are eligible to develop a proposal for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) assistance. We need to get in front of them with a letter or a request to engage, ASAP!

Delineated directly below are the steps any given country will go through. Then we would look at the indicators at a high level and analyze Sierra Leone’s 2008 results against them. We should be also aware that a new scorecard is on the verge of being released in November and this analysis will be superseded by the latest scorecard.

Process to Select Eligible Candidates

Step 1: Identify Candidate Countries

Fortunately, Sierra Leone is not disqualified and falls within the “candidate countries” category. We fall in the low-income countries range with a gross national income (GNI) equal to or less that $1,785. The World Bank set these income levels. Sierra Leone is at number 52 out of 64 in the alphabetic listing of the candidate countries - those that can become eligible to “run” for MCC assistance.

Step 2: Publish Country Selection Criteria and Methodology
The country selection criteria and methodology are the rules and measures by which the Board of Directors determines a country’s eligibility. This is the area were those much talked about 17 things come into play. Be mindful however, that there is a difference between “candidate” country and “eligible” country. Some countries are candidate countries but not necessarily eligible due to restrictions.
For FY09, the selection process and its methodology stay the same as in 2008. In determining country eligibility, the Board considers 3 things:

1. A country’s performance on the indicators of their overall performance in relation to their income-level peers in three broad policy categories-Ruling Justly, Encouraging Economic Freedom, and Investing in People.

2. The opportunity to reduce poverty and generate economic growth within a country.

3. Availability of funds.

Step 3: Issue Country Scorecards

In the annual Scorebook, produced by the MCC, are scorecards on those 17 things. Each “candidate countries” scorecard includes information about how each have performed on 17 independent and transparent indicators of policy performance; and that is what the MCC uses to determine eligibility for its assistance programs.

They measure countries’ demonstrated commitment to policies that promote political and economic freedom, investments in education and health care, control of corruption, and respect for civil liberties and the rule of law.

Step 4: Select Compact Eligible Countries

Using the 3 criteria identified in step 2 above (performance indicators, opportunity to reduce poverty and availability of MCC funds), the Board of Directors selects countries to be eligible for MCC program assistance. The determination of eligible countries is at least in theory, supposed to be based primarily on objective and quantifiable indicators of a country’s commitment to these principles. Once Sierra Leone is selected, if they agree to participate, we will be eligible to submit a Compact Proposal.

But to be able to even submit a proposal we would have to demonstrate competencies in certain areas of development centered on the 17 things.

Analyzing the 17 Indicators specifically as they relate to Sierra Leone.

As we have clearly shown, albeit at a very high level, Sierra Leone has to go through a rigorous process to become eligible for compact assistance form the MCC. However, regardless of the fact the country may or may not eventually win an award in either the Threshold or Compact programs, adhering to these indicators alone to the extent possible, will mean we would have taken steps towards sustainable national development. We will now venture into the policy categories, the individual indicators within them and the analysis as to how our nation stack up against them.

I. Ruling Justly
II. Investing In People
III. Economic Freedom

Now which of these do we think is the most important? No, I want you to tell me! In the mean time let us take a closer look at the indicators and their relation to “Swit Salone”.

Ruling Justly Category

The six indicators in this category measure just and democratic governance by assessing, inter alia, a country’s demonstrated commitment to promote political pluralism, equality, and the rule of law; respect human and civil rights, including the rights of people with disabilities; protect private property rights; encourage transparency and accountability of government; and combat corruption.

Political Rights - This indicator measures country performance on the quality of the electoral process, political pluralism and participation, government corruption and transparency, and fair political treatment of ethnic groups. Sierra Leone is scoring 23 out of a possible 40 points and is above the median of 20 by 3 points. We are passing here and with the results of the peaceful elections last year it should positively reflect in the 2009 country scorecard barring any major setback(s).

Civil Liberties - This indicator measures country performance on freedom of expression and belief, association and organizational rights, rule of law and human rights, personal autonomy, individual and economic rights, and the independence of the judiciary. Sierra Leone is passing this indicator with a score of 37 that is 7 points above the median. How well have we functioned in this area over the past year?

Control of Corruption - This indicator measures country performance on the frequency of “additional payments to get things done,” the effects of corruption on the business environment, “grand corruption” in the political arena, and the tendency of elites to engage in “state capture.” Sierra Leone with a score of -0.45 on a scale from -2 to 2, is about half a point below the median of 0.00 (zero) and failing this category. But the most revealing indication is that we are on a consistent downward trend since 2002 in this area. In the light of the recent report from Transparency International showing an increase in corruption from the previous year, we have our work cut out.

Government Effectiveness - This indicator measures how countries perform on the quality of public service provision, civil service competency and independence from political pressures, and the government’s ability to plan and implement sound policies. We are failing this indicator not surprisingly with a score -0.23 but there has been an upward growth since 2002. That sure is encouraging... So how effective is the new government of Sierra Leone? Read the 2009 scorecard on this particular issue.

Rule of Law - This indicator measures country performance on the extent to which the public has confidence in and abides by rules of society, incidence of violent and nonviolent crime, effectiveness and predictability of the judiciary, and the enforceability of contracts. Using a similar scale as government effectiveness above, we are failing with a -0.33 on a median of 0.00 (zero). There is an upward trend since 2002 and the median is not too far away. We just need to improve on the things it measures.

Voice and Accountability - This indicator measures country performance on the ability of institutions to protect civil liberties, the extent to which citizens of a country are able to participate in the selection of governments, and the independence of the media. Last but not least in this category is the voice and accountability area. Sierra Leone is passing with a score of 0.27 above the median of 0.00 (zero). There has been an upward or growth trend for this indicator since 2002.

That sums up the high level summary analysis of the first policy category listed on the 2008 scorecard. Again we restate that the 2009 numbers should probably be more relevant given that the MCC;s fiscal year starts in a few weeks.

Author’s General Comments on Part 2

The numbers and how they are gathered is not rocket science and more detail analyses can be provided but for our purposes here to just raise the awareness and inform the general public about the MCC, this level of depth suffices. The most important thing we will have to pay attention to is that for all of these polls and surveys and other activities that roll up on to the scorecard, it is imperative to know what is on them, where do the data originate from to its end result, how are they being compiled, who are they being sent to, and so forth...? This will help us get a full and complete understanding of the process. Only then can we take action to maximize our potential to qualify.

That is why we urge the different facets of citizenry and government: civil society, the private sector, ordinary citizens and government to start regular consultation with the indicator institutions regarding their performance, to identify opportunities for reform and to raise questions about the data. Also we urge these same groups to begin the public consultation process. This is one thing that all Sierra Leoneans can rally around.

The author, Amadu Massally, is president of the Sierra Leone Network. He considers himself an advocate for social responsibility and sustainable development in Sierra Leone and hopes that his country men and women can participate more as ordinary citizens of Sierra Leone in the development of their native land. He is the President of the Sierra Leone Network, a civil society advocacy group that focuses on national issues.

He can be reached at the following email addresses: amadu.massally@slgha.org and amadu.massally@gmail.com for any questions or comments.

Photo: Number 2 beach, a few miles from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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