President Bio declares
April 30, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
President Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio has in his maiden independence speech stated that given the current economic and financial crisis his government inherited, there is a moratorium on budgetary allocation to fund independence celebration activities across the country until the economy is given a new lease of life.
Last Friday, 27th April, Sierra Leone celebrated her 57th Independence Anniversary in a quiet manner, unlike in past years when the state hosted lavish banquets and sponsored masquerade parades across the country in honour of the country’s birthday.
In his speech to the nation, President Bio said the celebration of the country’s 57thanniversary was a momentous one that had seen the country walk through the tragedy of the floods and mudslide in August 2017.
He said independence gave a new opportunity as a nation to collectively and individually work together to take the country forward, to develop and transform Sierra Leone into a model that everyone could be proud of.
President Bio said that during his swearing-in on 4th April, 2018, he noted that his election and his new administration signified the dawn of a new era to change and transform Sierra Leone, adding that as a nation everyone must resolve to use that opportunity to change and transform the country.
“We have to resolve as a nation to lay the strong and credible foundation for our children and our grandchildren. This is the only way to create the conditions for a united, peaceful, confident, enterprising, dynamic and progressive country,” he said.
He said that as the country celebrates 57 years of independence, people have to acknowledge the fact that the country was at a crossroad, faced with the stark choice between corruption and indiscipline business as usual status quo or a change in the New Direction where every Sierra Leonean is given the ladder of opportunity to climb and achieve their greatest potential.
He urged his compatriots to ask themselves that after 57 years of independence, what have we to show for as a nation, adding that the country has made great strides in laying some of the critical foundations for socio-economic and political development.
“Today, we can confidently say that we have now laid the foundation to consolidate our nascent democracy after holding five successive democratic elections that have seen the transfer of power from one civilian administration to another,” he said.
However, he maintained that after 57 years of political independence, the country was still faced with some of the most critical problems and challenges of development and social progress.
President Bio continued that the country at 57 years was unable to pay for the basic and essential services as a nation without depending on external development assistance and that it had not provided effective political and economic management of natural resources for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
“We are still classified as one of the poorest countries and the most corrupt countries in the world. The country has changed from the international recognition as the ‘Athens of West Africa’ to a country where 3 in every 5 Sierra Leoneans cannot read and write and the country is today a divided nation along ethnic, regional and sectional lines with very negative impact on the professionalism and functioning of our state governing institutions.”
He said that those depressing social and development challenges have to change, adding that he has been given the mandate to change and transform the country and that he would provide the disciplined leadership needed to take the country forward.
“I have therefore directed that given the current economic and financial crisis that we have inherited, there should be no budgetary allocation from the Ministry of Finance to fund independence celebration activities across the country,” he ordered.
He said his government would only fund future independence celebrations across the country when, as a nation, the country is able to pay for its critical and basic services without relying on any external development aid.
He said his government would only approve future funding for independence celebration activities when the country’s domestic revenue collection makes up 20% of the Gross Domestic Product.
He stated that as a government, they were determined to lay a solid foundation for change and transformation in Sierra Leone and that already, the signs and achievements of his New Direction revolution were visible everywhere.
He revealed that due to the Executive Order No. 1 issued on 9th April, 2018 on ‘Domestic Revenue Mobilisation’ and Executive Order No. 2 issued on 25th April, 2018 on ‘Fiscal Control Measures’, his new administration was able to pay salaries for the first time without using Bank Overdraft facility.
He added that those domestic revenue mobilisation efforts by his new administration clearly indicate that change was possible in the country.
“We all want change but we must also be prepared to work for change and accept the challenges that change will bring. This is the price that we have to pay as a nation, to change and transform our beloved Sierra Leone,” he said.
He acknowledged that expectations were high and that rightly so the people wanted to see immediate and visible change in their lives, but that they could only achieve change and transformation in the country if everybody worked together to build national cohesion and end the culture of indiscipline, lawlessness and corruption.
The president continued that his administration would attract and tap into the best brains and expertise that the country has to offer to drive their New Direction of inclusive development, inclusive economic growth, inclusive politics and inclusive governance programmes,which he said was the only way to develop and transform Sierra Leone.
He concluded that his government recognises and appreciates the important contribution made by development partners and called on them to join and support his New Direction policies and programmes to change and transform Sierra Leone into a country that will not be dependent on aid.