By Alfred Koroma
President Julius Maada Bio has yesterday 10th May opened the last session of the Fifth Parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone, highlighting a number of achievements the New Direction administration has made since he took over State House in 2018, and discloses key legislative plans the government intends to table in Parliament.
The President highlighted the government achievements and plans in the area of human capital development, economy, climate change, infrastructure, and youth and women empowerment.
The president acknowledges the economic challenges brought by the COVID19 pandemic, but stated that his government remain focused on economic and inclusive growth, building the country and improving human capital development, adding that Le500 billion Special Credit Facility provided by the Bank of Sierra Leone supported production, importation, and distribution of essential commodities in the country and deferral of taxes due to the importation of essential commodities by the National Revenue Authority helped maintain the availability of essential commodities in the country.
Delivering his speech which was overshadowed by political under-tones mainly from MPs and supported of the ruling party crowded at the upper gallery of the House, the President disclosed that the country’s economy is in recovery and projected to grow by 5.0 percent this year despite the sharp contraction in 2020.
Speaking on the Government’s key priority, he said investments in human capital development, especially in the education and agriculture sectors, continue to be complemented by investments in infrastructure.
In 2021, over 600,000 additional children, especially girls, accessed schools; with over 5,000 additional qualified teachers recruited and given PIN codes. We recorded a higher success rate in public examinations at all levels and Government and introduce the best teacher award and new national policies on Radical Inclusion; School Feeding, Integrated Early Childhood Education, School Catchment Areas, and guidelines on the approval and use of school subsidies, the President told the Crowded House.
Highlighting efforts government has made in promoting education in the country, President told the House that gains of education may not seem immediately apparent to some, indirectly referring to his critics.
On health, he said government is working towards making the Sierra Leone Social Health Insurance Scheme (SLeSHI) operational, saying that government has promoted social dialogue with stakeholders in the health sector, provided health insurance for all healthcare workers, regularised and strengthened the national drug distribution system, and expanded free healthcare services to school-going children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
Government has strengthened disease surveillance and emergency systems. The Surveillance Directorate has been embedded in NaCOVERC throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and effective network of ambulances have also been operationalized right across all district hospitals in the country, he said. Government will also focus on strengthening primary health care services, disease diagnostics, and also establishing pharmaceutical production in this country.
The New Direction Government will also strengthen the legislative and institutional frameworks for effective land governance that will improve gender sensitive access to land resources and streamline access to land for 17 17 foreign investors as National Land Commission Bill and a Customary Land Rights Bill have already been brought before Parliament.
And the government has secured a commitment of a $40 USD million grant from the World Bank to finance the development of an integrated GIS-based Land Management Information System (LMIS) that will allow the transition from registration of Instruments to Land Title Registration System.