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VISION-SALONE Series

SIERRA LEONE'S ECONOMIC AWAKENING - A Way Forward! (Part 2)

October 1, 2019

After the Slave Trade, the shores of Sierra Leone were choicest to abandon free slaves and that ushered in some form of neo-civilisation which fueled certain colonial practices which subjected the superior practices of the fore fathers. The Slave traders came in with sheer brute and labelled our people primitive. For the records, the fore fathers farmed, fed and lived healthy lives, with no records of strange illnesses even though they were not as “sophisticated” as we are today.

Soon after independence, we still had the clout and governing leaders promulgated policies which made us performed well in education, agriculture, tourism, and yes! governance worked for us as a country, as we exported agro-based produce to countries like Malaysia, Singapore which are now economic giants, and Sierra Leone was West Africa’s premiere destination for education hence we acquired the slogan “Athens of West Africa” which was limiting in many ways in my view. For one thing, Sierra Leone is country and Athens a city, and both hold no moment for comparison.

Sierra Leone’s current per capita GDP is $480, and per capita GDP ratio is the best measurement of the standard of living of the average Sierra Leonean – it tells how prosperous we have made each citizen of this beloved country i.e. if we were to sell Salone, how much each citizen would pocket. Can $480 cater for the needs of a family of three for a month? You know the answer to that. As at the 2018 IMF records on per capita GDP, Qatar aced the list with a stunning $130,475, Singapore was 3rd with $100,345 and interestingly our super advisers, USA and UK were 10th and 26th respectively on that list, and these are the company our leaders we keep and cleave to and think they would offer counsel that would make Sierra Leone prosperous? I beg to differ…They would focus on their interests and promote their own – and so should we!

Building a prosperous economy and by extension, a prosperous nation isn’t a child’s play. It takes tremendous worthy sacrifices, smart work against seemingly insuperable odds (of people, policies, procedures and pressures), and the sheer political will to step on toes at national and international levels, and institute measures that would inspire true industrial awakening which would see a country produce its own food, process it and export to other countries in need – for starters, and produce other essential commodities for domestic use and export in gigantic scale which would put it on the international trading map, and make it a viable competitive force in global frontiers. Sierra Leone can become that country!

If Sierra Leone is to become a country like that, she must take the following short, medium and long term interventions which in my view and in the most obvious sense of economics 101 would lessen the fiscal stress on government, revamp our economy and other significant areas of our almost paralysing polity. Below are the short terms economic measures I propose, for us to stop Sierra Leone’s economic and fiscal bleeding.

SHORT TERM INTERVENTIONS

In the short term, the government of Sierra Leone should take the following measures, which by all reasonable economic estimations would reduce the pressure on its recurrent expenditure.

Detox the Wage Bill: After election results are called, year on year, within the electoral circle, government gets a list of its “loyalists” to whom it dishes positions within the new administration and more often than not, new positions are created in a bid to create space for everyone who in their eyes ‘‘suffered’’ for the political party which emerged victorious. The irksome thing about that is that, most of these appointments are not done on merit basis and or based on competence but on some mediocre yardsticks which in turn would make such MDAs perform badly.

For the records, It’s not the government’s principal duty to employ the entirety of its citizenry, its paramount function is to create the enabling environment for such to be done by the private sector, and when that is done it would maintain a healthy Wage Bill which would reduce its recurrent expenditure and give it more clout to carry out capital projects which would transform the country’s infrastructure and other essential areas that would enhance our collective prosperity.

Government’s employment purse should cater for the country’s intelligence sector, and other strategic portions of our essential services which cannot be handed to the private sector (an exposition in this area would inspire a whole new lecture), and maintain only strategic ministries which could supervise national operations jointly with Parliamentary Committees – which would inspire effective collaborations between the Executive and the Legislature and make the work of the latter more impactful to the people of Sierra Leone.

The Ministries of Foreign Affairs & International Corporation; Finance & Economic Planning; Education, Agriculture; Health & Sanitation; Energy and Power; Mines & Mineral Resources (including our aquatic resources); Information, Communications & National Orientation; Science, Technology, Research & Development; Environment & Country Planning; Human Capital Enrichment; Trade & Industry; Youth, Creativity & Sports; Labour & Social Security; and Defense & National Security would be my pick for any administration that is serious on taking Sierra Leone to the next level.

The above are the most essential and in my thinking they would serve us well and propel the “land that we love” into a strategic global competitive space and carve our country’s name in stone. Please note, they are but 15 in number. We do not need an over-blotted cabinet or government. Government must be run in a slim, efficient and effective manner!

Halt and or Reverse Duplicity in Government Parastatals & Functions: The meager resources the government realises from the revenue generating strides of the NRA should be deployed effectively to areas that would yield the greatest impact, and they should ensure that such is used efficiently, to get value for money and achieve the greatest impact, for all to benefit.

For instance, it was unnecessary for administrations past and present to have created certain Ministries and also create Commissions with overlapping functions, no need for nomenclature here because a true patriot would get this point and the crop of MDAs it refers to. The ministries and commissions so created receive subvention from the consolidated fund for performing one and the same functions which smacks off inefficiency and we do not see nor feel their impact and yet government coffers bleed from funding them. We can merge some of these entities, consolidate their functions, and save the country’s time and financial resources.

Remove the moratorium on the Mining and Timber Logging Sectors: It is important that the country trade, and more so in positive ways. Therefore it would be a wise decision for the government of Sierra Leone to lift the ban it laid on the logging and export of timber, so that we can sell to other countries and earn substantial income from that and the Ministry responsible for the environment & our forest and the EPA should ensure that they embark on massive afforestation efforts, so that our forest is replenished and we do not run into some man-made natural disaster because of the continuous falling down of trees for export purposes.

The government should also lift the moratorium it placed on the operation of certain mining companies, so that their work can continue, and the country could benefit from proceeds from such, whether from taxes and or from the gains it realises from the export of our mineral resources.

These mining companies should be regulated with the highest standards and their relationship with the country and people of Sierra Leone should have a win-win spec, and they should be advised strictly to own-up to their responsibilities as regards paying taxes, community land ownership dues and other essential CSR duties – The people of Sierra Leone and their interest should come first in strategic cases!

If the government of Sierra Leone take these short term measures, I believe the economy of our darling country will stabilise, our currency would regain its value and its exchange rate in all markets (official and other markets) would appreciate, which will give meaning to the meager salary the average Sierra Leonean receive and enhance the purchasing power of the average man out there.

I would take a pause here and before I bow, to focus on other parts in this series, let me just hasten to state here that I heard our venerable Minister of Finance, the Hon. Jacob Jusu Saffa, saying during a recent interview that the Bank of Sierra Leone and his ministry plan to “pump more dollar into the economy” as an immediate term response to the epileptic exchange rate – sir, that will give the so-called dollar boys and their Agbagbas the opportunity to hoard the USD in grand scale, create more artificial scarcity and raise the exchange rate higher than it is at the moment. It would be prudent to note, sir, that the same action taken few months back led to the way the Leone slumped in value, and it’s amongst reasons we are where we are now, in terms of the value of the Leone, it performance against the dollar and the current inflation rate we are bamboozled with as a country.

I would advise that the Ministry of Finance and Bank of Sierra Leone refrain from doing such, as it would only fuel inflation and further dwarf the value of the Leone.

VisionSalone #Constituency123 #GlobalCompetitiveness #MountAureolTerrace #iPLET #LeadersCollege

Paul Jibateh F.IDPM, M.TEEN

He is the Chief Executive and Strategic Lead of the Institute of Political, Legal and Economic Transformation (iPLET). iPLET work towards achieving a Sierra Leone with a transformed political and legal systems, and the country with the leading economy in Africa and 5th in the world by December, 2050.

Paul is also Registrar at Leaders’ College, Sierra Leone’s foremost TVET institution, which is empowering young Sierra Leoneans to become socio-economically reliant to lead excellent and exemplary lives.

He is a polymath and he writes from Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Tel: +23276717854 Email: paul.jibateh@gmail.com