Saturday, August 05, 2006

Police Evicting Peddlers

The reporter on this story doesn't seem to know much about the scope of the problem, so maybe I shouldn't pass judgement. But when unemployment is so high, it seems a little cruel (and potentially dangerous to the public) to be evicting street peddlers and confiscating their wares without the government first offering some sort of alternative arrangement: designated selling areas, skills training, even make-work programs. My cynical side makes me think that this is just a moneymaking scheme for an underfunded police force, because it sure doesn't seem like sound public policy. I can't imagine that the order is coming from very high up.

Or maybe the government is over a barrel and is trying to send a message, to slow the rate of flight from the countryside into Monrovia. Social scientists have collected plenty of testimony from rural young people who say they'd much rather be pushing a wheelbarrow full of plastic sandals in the Capital than living a life of coerced field labor for Secret Society bosses in the bush.

Liberia's rate of urbanization is slightly higher than its neighbors', partly because the civil war was mostly a rural phenomenon, so it made sense to leave the counties. The real tragedy of urbanization is that Liberia is greatly in need of rural agricultural development, in the name of food security. Land reform is one big part of the answer, reapportionment and the utilization of unoccupied spaces. The government does have plenty of land to parcel out, or even sell, if the will exists. All in time, I guess.


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