Our worst can't bring out our best.
May 7, 2019
By: Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon
There is a usual angst when it comes to writing about public figures, especially when these figures are politicians who are caught in the eye of the storm. But it is funny that the dogs are out so soon to give life to the eerie omens of the immediate past.
As people continue to gawp at what is considered by some to be the logic-defying dynamism of the current administration and its comprehensible vision, I warned in my last piece that the new direction should beware of the silly season; which is the ultimate chatter of praise and the looming scenario of disenchantment; if the under- priced matter of escalating cost of living continues to limp along without change.
Yes; some good things are happening and several new government initiatives are welcome. But right now radical economic stimuli are needed beyond the all-consuming songs of adoration which is exhausting the minds of everyone.
So, if what I wrote in the last piece could be perceived in some quarters as criticism of the current administration, then you can understand my contention that we as a people, aside our ingrained tendency to posture in mindless partisanship, have problems accepting the truth, not to talk of letting go of our idiosyncrasies. Why are we a sentimentally hypocritic people?
That the broken record I’ve been playing since the Koroma administration, regarding the mindset of our society is still the sound track of our today, says much about our disposition to a better Sierra Leone.
I mean, I had to do a verbal eye-roll at some reactions to the article, in which I warned the current administration to be wary of the agama lizard syndrome and not to get carried away with its performance; especially with the increasing crescendo of what Dr Sama Banya described as “D gron dry” (the ground is dry-barren-lifeless) and which President Bio himself recently acceded to in an interview.
The erudite doctor might have attributed the lamentation to members of the opposition but there is no amount of spin that will wash the fact that devoid of the heavy inflows from corruption and unethical business practices of the immediate past, the diminishing economic pinch being felt by many of the ordinary citizens is a threat that will soon begin to see some of government’s efforts as a bed of nails, by the same people whose lives have been one of trauma and which the new direction says it is trying to ameliorate.
Believe me, nestled under the bridges of the populist welfare programmes of the government are thousands of people who represent the most extreme end of our economic realities. They, beyond the enigmatic smile and face of President Bio and the razzmatazz of the fight against corruption, are the most extreme and visible symptoms of our realities and the sharpest point at the top of the iceberg,
Whether you want to believe it or not, the key element in the economy is the individual consumer. That is the irreducible minimum that we need to focus on. Until the individual’s disposable income increases, thereby expanding his effective demand, we will be dancing on a roulette wheel.
The very basic preoccupation of government is security, job creation and overarching this is to ensure modicum of equity. In between all these, is the necessity to fashion appropriate dynamic mechanism of maximizing the socio-economic benefits accrued to a large number.
At the moment, our economy is neither fish nor fowl. Whether, it is as a result of the gross incompetence of the agenda for prosperity; or that of the new direction, pales into insignificance. It is merely a luminous symbol of our realities.
Addressing corruption for example, without understanding the political economy of corruption is very dangerous and is akin to sub-optimal theorisation of the practical down-to-earth role of this debilitating scourge in keeping the scope, structure and success of the economy in the near term.
Let’s be frank, if you eliminate corruption, many will starve and die irrespective of which political garb they adorn. To avoid this, is to, amidst other things, find a social safety net for those who depend on corruption on the secondary and tertiary level for survival and implement that simultaneously with the crackdown on corruption.
One of our major mistakes I believe is that we continue to focus on the economy, especially as it relates to the ordinary man, as an abstract entity. By such thinking, all economic policies devolve to the sustenance of government and its structures. It is a cartoon view of our existence that ignores the fact that many struggling under-privileged, sees that fact and the hype around it as something that go on and on like a seamless miasma, while their horrific lives continue to be blighted.
Despite our abundant resources, the perilously scorching bite of poverty has held us back and that is the huge gauntlet that was thrown on the floor of our future by the change of administration last year with the frictionless flow from the APC to the SLPP. Amidst their overwhelming desire for change, the people just want to feel the social and economic benefits of Mother Nature’s windfall to Sierra Leone.
Simply put, the current cost of living, which is now a sing song, is an albatross in a dysfunctional and dystopian society like ours where political gladiators from the ousted APC are doing their best to hold the nation hostage with their antics and are becoming a phenomenon that handicaps cohesive fight against transformation. Added to that is the incomprehensible behaviour of a government that is meant to be more focussed but which does everything to get bogged down with mundane issues that are doing it no favours but simply indicates that politicians will always be politicians.
Nevertheless, as the economy bites harder, should the new direction, after one year, still be dipping its toes in the water or continue to lean on the familiar crutch of the failure or otherwise of its predecessor? True; the government is defying the experts and critics. But one thing is largely responsible. That thing is the change in government from those who were reckless and profligate in abundance to a government who despite the lack, is managing and utilising lean resources efficiently.
So, the tower is still perilously standing on a solid foundation. Serious efforts are in place to avoid tremors but unless the new direction appreciates the fact that without an urgent attention to the economy which is affecting all aspects of business, gradually the murmurs will start. It is not a criticism. It is an observation. The dots need connecting. The truth is that one part needs to connect to the other to work…
Yes, the APC government made a mess of the economy by its primitive plundering and despoliation of the treasury but the current administration cannot continue to whine and blame the inertia of the economy on that and still expect not to dash the hopes of the people who are gradually streaming towards disillusionment and currently experiencing one of the toughest times in history with the cost of living reaching an all-time high.
If in doubt, take a trip to the nearest market. Prices of goods and services, including, pathetically, so-called home-grown goods, have nosed up and typical of our economics; have refused to respond to the latter day knee-jerk measures of the government.
Apart from the high level of greed, one of the reasons for the exit of the Koroma administration was the economic situation. Therefore if nothing has changed, then let’s start calling a spade a spade. The only thing worse than collective amnesia, is wilful selective amnesia – it is a potent high concentrated brew of sheer hypocrisy, genetic mediocrity and downright amorality. Our worst can’t bring out our best, obviously one would think.
People are not interested in just tales of who’s corrupt. It’s clear to every citizen that the level of corruption in the country is disturbing, even now. Beyond that however, majority are hurting and hungry. The extent people go because of poverty is sometimes alarming… I totally agree that no matter what structures are put on ground by our government, our lack of empathy and loss of moral compass will not make it work….
But what’s going to happen in the short, medium and long term that will assuage the pains that the people have to endure in the marathon to a new Sierra Leone? That is the question.
We are still locked into the high value-low volume mindset in approaching the rebuilding of the economy, I sincerely believe. And our attempts at mass empowerment are, to be polite, forming. Allocation is not a solution; we should focus on utilisation and impact target attainment. Money on its own cannot solve our problems and we don’t begin to have nearly enough of it any way.
I do not know any magic wand which the government can wave to moderate the expected quick desire of a people pauperised by years of neglect and indifference to their plight but whatever way it can muster, it has to, in a fast manner, set the visible and concrete tone that will show the way of translation from poverty, while expecting the people to be patient.
The people are trusting, even at the risk of becoming highly gullible and despite the wide spread apprehension, disillusion and anger; they are still desperate to follow any Star to National discovery and recovery. But if the government which inherited a deficit economy want us to be patient with it, the people will listen so long as they and their family members live modestly and embark on projects, which identify with the plight of the poor aside the most populist ones.
Yes, transparent projects not suspicious of any financial inducements to them and their cronies as well as which will benefit the poor masses on the long term is the sine qua non. This much is clear.
It is essential that it quickly puts in place, some programmes which are of short term benefits as a relief and reprieve. The new direction cannot embark on selective generosity to any segment of the populace who it thinks it must please in order to remain popular or acceptable; or to people who it thinks can blackmail them or make life difficult for them.
We are in this for a while. Remember when I said it’s going to be a long dance? Once you get to the bottom of a pit, you need double energy and a good vision to climb out.
We can sing praises and write all the epistles we want to write till thy kingdom come, the mind of a hungry man is a deposit for anger and indifferent attitudes to reading and political carrots. A hungry man has zero thirsts for credible information dissemination. This is the prevailing situation in our society today. We are fast losing our value systems. While it must be reordered, the once glorious Athens of West Africa stained by the needless blood of many is now bowed as a result of the pains of uncertainty.
Meanwhile, another year and another national birthday celebration went with tempers flaying because the government failed to indulge the people in the old mindset of jollification. But what is there to rejoice about when a once glorious nation has been reduced to one with a begging bowl and is ravaged by the festering wounds of political intolerance, tribalism, corruption, nepotism and the after-effect of the rape of its natural and human resources.
When under what is supposed to be a new direction, they are preaching justice after roofing their reign with shining sheets of inequality and have invented ingenious political and social arguments with a snide at history, as the new anthem for justice, fairness and national cohesion where only those very close to the SLPP kitchen, gets a full meal.
I am a terminal optimist; ‘a believer’ in Sierra Leone’s future greatness. We are yet to live the dreams of our founding fathers. Though we are close to the bottom, but believe me, Salone shall rise again. However, nothing will be salvaged until we stop state and party-sponsored divisiveness and just see each other as citizens with different contributions to make. Just saying.
Tomorrow is not too far. The one who slaps his mistress immediately after a sizzling bedroom act would soon have another erection.