The Pro Poor Agenda: The Way I Knew it Then

By Dr. James F. Kollie, Jr. |

Dr. James F. Kollie, Jr.

Today, I hear everyone starting every sentence with “pro-poor” and some even try to make fun out of it simply because they may not understand what it means. There are others who genuinely want to understand and implement it. At this point, I think it would be unfair for me to not weigh into this debate since I have considered myself one of the founding “ideologues” of the grassroots political revolution.

When we started the grassroots political revolution in 2004 and my colleague, DTweah, and I spend many hours trying to give policy and ideological underpinning for the raison d’etre of the Liberia National Congress (turned CDC) onto the political landscape, we reasoned that putting the poor at the center of the policy debate was probably the most important aspect of our struggle and that Ambassador Weah’s life story epitomizes our storyline and reinforces the pro poor argument as an entry point.

At that time we were young and radical but our thought process that Liberia’s growth had been far removed from the poorest of the poor was something we believed in very strongly. For many, the words pro poor sound new and seemingly paradoxical. The less sophisticated minds are asking why would a Government or group of people be advocating for poverty? In the minds of simpleton, pro poor means an agenda that favors poverty.

But again like I said, when we started talking about pro poor policies and pro poor agenda, our position was that policies should be deliberately and intentionally geared toward improving the conditions of the poor. Then, again I say then, we posited that pro poor policies should disproportionately favor the poor even at the expense of the wealthy. In our thought process, “equity” was “unfair.”

The major litmus test for any policy in the pro poor agenda is how does it improve the conditions of the poorest of the poor? If in the process of improving the conditions of the poor, the wealthy benefits then that is fine but the focus MUST remain the poor. In the pro poor agenda, our thought was that we should not hope and pray for “trickle” down effects. The faith of the poor should not be left to the benevolence of the wealthy: it should the deliberate and purposeful actions of the Government to improve the conditions of the poor.

Again, I don’t know what it is today but when I checked my files and reviewed my notes, I see that we spend many hours debating and deliberating the issue of the pro poor agenda.

Like I told some of my colleagues a few days ago, pro poor did not just slip into the lexicon of the of the grassroots political revolution. It has been around for as long as the revolution has been. The only thing that has changed is that the proponents of the pro poor agenda now have the “megaphone” and the “bully pulpit.”

I know its not going to be easy but I trust their abilities to deliver on the agenda.

Salutation my dear brother, Mr. Pro Poor!

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