Paul Tasong: Conventional development administrator daring unconventional “Reconstruction”

COLUMN 14 Jul 2020
Paul Tasong: Conventional development  administrator daring unconventional “Reconstruction”

“No veritable reconstruction is possible without lasting and sustainable peace,” said Jean Atangana, CRTV editorialist and radio News Director on the Sunday news magazine “Dimanche Midi” last weekend. That is only an obvious causality outcome. But Paul Tasong thinks the reverse is possible, that reconstruction can lead to peace.
It is possible he knows more than he is saying about both conventional and unconventional ways he plans to make his 3Bs (Build Back Better) concept to happen. Tasong is one mold of a development administrator rare to find in this country. A product of ENAM and the prestigious University of Harvard in the United States, he sounds like he masters Cameroon’s development map like the back of his hand.
I discovered Tasong in the early 2000s when he won my admiration for the way he lectured in a seminar on Public Investment at the Yaounde Hilton. Next, I witnessed him lecture members of the National Assembly on Budget Tracking which to provide with the knowhow necessary for their duties as members of regional follow-up committees monitoring local investment projects. I found in him a man knowledgeable in his subject matter, great in interpersonal skills and pedagogic in his approach to imparting knowledge. He demonstrated mastery of public investment and regional development. When I got to know him more, I discovered from his academic profile I did not have to be surprised.
He served for over a decade as Permanent Secretary or chief administrative officer in the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT), after other duties as Director of Public Investment in the defunct Ministry of Economy and Finance and MINEPAT’s South West Regional Delegate. These were the icing on his cake after his Bachelors in Law from Yaounde and professional studies in ENAM, with his targeted studies with a Masters in Public Administration and Planning in Belgium and later at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the US, where he studied Executive Education and Public Finance Management. He is credited for his contributions to the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (GESP), the blueprint for Vision 2035, though some commentators say outright it is a Tasong Paper, implying it is entirely his brainchild.
Tasong was a rapporteur in the Reconstruction Committee during the “National Dialogue” held to seek solutions to the quest for the restoration of Ambazonia/Southern Cameroon independence in September-October 2019, where he presented the report of his committee with noted enthusiasm and optimism. He continues to speak enthusiastically about reconstruction now in his capacity as Coordinator of the Presidential Plan for Reconstruction of the Northwest and Southwest Regions. He may be giving hope to desperate masses devasted by the ongoing war. Add to that, Tasong’s deputy, Donatus Njong, former Kumbo mayor who demonstrated sterling qualities and was hailed across the political aisle, and you bet leadership of the reconstruction committee is not one of its major weaknesses.
But it is hard to understand how the outreach campaign Tasong carried out preceding his implementation of his 3Bs, makes sense to educated observers.
Pictures of the tour suggested Tasong’s suit was bulging with a bulletproof vest inside, suggesting he did not feel totally safe simply touring relatively safe areas of Buea and Bamenda. The question arises: how would he supervise reconstruction projects and how would projects even be executed with bullets flying all around? The nightmarish Babadjou-Bamenda stretch of road along the Bafoussam-Bamenda highway, stalled because of threats from armed groups and the vandalisation of heavy-duty construction equipment, should warn Tasong against his childlike, naive enthusiasm. He might have to listen to Public Works Minister Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi and CRTV’s Jean Atangana that development cannot be possible without peace.
But Tasong is intelligent and experienced to understand this better than I. His critics may simply not understand what he means when he says reconstruction can lead to peace. Maybe a chunk of the “reconstruction” fund is actually a secret fund to “buy” peace. There are already “leaks” from the ranks of some frontline Ambazonia actors that many of those gesticulating to be radical hardliners are already compromised as they receive generous dole outs from Yaounde. The said reconstruction to bring peace could actually be bribing Ambazonia actors and warlords to lay down their arms. Call that the veritable Tasong 3Bs or 4Bs: Bribe, Bring, Burn Bazookas.

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