Somaliland President Muse Bihi Abdi’s development agenda has been consistent from his campaign trail pronouncements in 2017 to his tenancy at Presidency Palace. The President frequently and consistently stated that his administration would prioritize the country’s security, good governance, economic growth (through agriculture, livestock, and fishing sectors), and youth empowerment through employment- generation programs.
A keen examination of his developmental proposals leads you to conclude that his approach to the country’s socio-economic development shares some similarities with third world luminaries who propelled their countries towards economic growth and prosperity and emancipated their citizens from the throes of poverty. Those leaders include but are not limited to Lee Kuan Yew (the former Prime Minister of Singapore), Mao Zedong (the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad (former Prime Minister of Malaysia) and Males Zenawi ((Ex-prime minister of Ethiopia).
Setting up a clear vision for your country’s development is the first and key pillar of any development process. However, the most important and difficult task is the ability to translate vision into actions. Despite the fact that the above-mentioned leaders were different in terms of their personalities and leadership styles, we can discern three similarities they had which enabled them to accomplish their transformational aspirations.
First, being conscious that they held the highest office in the land and that they were expected to grapple with various national issues, they established committees/agencies as independent advisory bodies responsible for designing roadmaps for national development with the objective of realizing their visions and campaign manifestos. These advisory agencies did not rest on their laurels. They were always on their toes undertaking studies, assessing countries’ short-term, medium-term and long-term economic prospects, and designing socio-economic development strategies. Such agencies include the China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU).
Secondly, these leaders applied the concept of “scientific development.” This implies that their strategies were based on the development approach known as “Evidence and results-based development.” Peter Druker, a prominent scholar in the field of management said, “If you cannot measure your progress, you cannot make a change.” China, for instance, is among developing countries that employ this approach and is currently implementing its 13th five-year plan based on the scientific development approach. On the other hand, Ethiopia adheres to a development framework document known as “Growth and Transformational Plan (GTP)” which guides and consolidates the country’s development strategies.
In the case of Somaliland, it is noteworthy that there is a development framework entitled “National Development Plan II” which is based on the principles of the scientific development approach. However, there is concern that it might not help to realize significant development milestones just as the previous national plan which was titled “Somaliland National Development Plan phase I.” Somaliland should examine the lessons learned from the previous plan with the objective of understanding why it had not brought about desired results; how it is aligned with the national budget; if there is a need to make necessary structural adjustments to align it with the national development plan and establish an effective full-time advisory body that coordinates its implementation. The advisory body should be tasked with monitoring the achievements against the set targets.
Thirdly, the leaders believed that implementation capacity is the key driving force in the development process and therefore established a system of government that facilitated the development process. They addressed existing structural and institutional problems in their respective countries while engineering structural reforms that drove their development agendas and eliminated unnecessary institutions.
A distinguished leadership researcher, Jim Collins, said, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” Similarly, these great leaders engaged efficient human resources equipped with the skills required across the government institutions to spearhead their development agendas. They designed national projects, policies, and strategies aimed to enhance the skills of the public servants to sustain the country’s implementation capacity at all levels, both nationally and locally. Additionally, they synergized the efforts of governmental institutions through establishing inter-agency collaboration mechanisms in order to promote the efficiency and effectiveness of the development process.
In the last four years, the Somaliland government has been undertaking major reforms aimed at enhancing the performance capacity of public institutions. One of the key initiatives geared towards the realization of this objective is the Somaliland Civil Service Reform Project. The World Bank-funded Somaliland Civil Service Reform Project development objective is to strengthen basic functions for payroll, human resources, and policy management in selected central government agencies and line ministries. Due to these reforms, public institutions have registered a rapid improvement in performance.
While these efforts and reforms resulted in performance improvement, still the capacity of Somaliland’s public institutions seems to be a major obstacle to the development and implementation of national plans. For example, since the establishment of Somaliland as a country, public institutions have been operating independently —there has not been an inter-agency collaboration framework in place. Each ministry and agency has been working without understanding the mandate and interventions of other ministries. Sometimes role conflict among ministries can be observed. A statement from a Somaliland national development situational analysis describes this situation aptly:
“The limited capacity of public institutions is a major obstacle that stands in the way of implementing the national development plan and the realization of Vision 2030. The national capacity in terms of the effectiveness of institutions and the quality of human resources available is low and must be addressed strategically. The strategy must aim at building the capacity of central government institutions, local governments, private sector enterprises, and community organizations. There have been many capacity-building projects supported by international organizations over the years. Unfortunately, these have been fragmented, ineffective, and often not aligned with national development priorities.”
Thus, in order to realize the 2030 vision, the government of Somaliland must address the above-stated challenges. It will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the President’s vision if solutions to these challenges are not found.
Finally, it is critical to keep in mind that transformational strategies are a long-term goal that might not be achieved in five or 10 years. In the last four years, the reforms that the Somaliland government has been undertaking to enhance the capacity of public institutions have improved their performance levels to some extent. These reforms include reforming the civil service, engaging young skilled people at the ministerial level, and youth-focused employment interventions.
However, this just the beginning of a long journey. The government needs to conduct a systematic review of the roles and responsibilities of governmental institutions; establish an independent agency to monitor the achievements made in the realization of the vision, strengthen efforts to realize good governance, intensify efforts and come up with long-term and immediate transformational plans; enhance the capacity of the civil service; combat corruption, strengthen transparency and accountability through strong policies, procedures and ensure the supremacy of the law as articulated by the President. Only then will Somaliland be deemed to be on the path towards socio-economic transformation.
By: Ahmedyasin Muhumed Adde