By Hassan Gbassay Koroma
President Julius Maada Bio has promised that together with his Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), they will work tirelessly to ensure that by the end of the next five years, no family will go to bed hungry and also ensure that every child has access to quality education.
He made the promise in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone during the launch of the SLPP elections manifesto titled ‘New Direction: Consolidating Gains and Accelerating Transformation.”
“The plans we have laid out for the next five years, promised to tackle the most pressing challenges in the country. The SLPP and its supporters will not rest until they make sure that no family goes to bed hungry. We will not rest until we make sure that every child has access to free quality education. We will not rest until every youth seeking job get meaningful employment. I promise to work until food security is achieved in the country and we will ensure there is sanitation and safe drinking water in every part of the country,” he promised.
According to President Bio, the five pillars of the 2023 manifesto includes feed salone which is an initiative to boost agricultural productivity to ensure food security, inclusive economic growth relies on skilled and educated human capital, a presidential initiative to create 500,000 jobs for the youth in five years, efficiency and professionalism and pathways for sustained economic growth.
He said five years ago in Port Loko he launched his New Direction manifesto which enhanced the trust of the people that elected him into the office of the presidency, noting that the new direction agenda journey they embarked on five years ago has been a remarkable journey of transformation in every aspect of the lives of the citizens.
President Bio said they have touched the lives of millions of citizens from the young to the old, Muslims, Christians, males and females, beginning in the south, east, north and western part of the country.
He said their developmental programmes are not determined by age, religion, region ethnicity or political affiliation, and that is because they believe in the words of ‘one country one people.’
He said when he took office in 2018, the country was facing many challenges and the economy was in shamble, corruption was everywhere and the people had little trust in government and the country’s infrastructure was crumbling and the human capital space was slow.
“When I took oath of office in 2018, I promised all sierra Leoneans that I will work tirelessly to bring about fair change and sustainable transformation in the country which my government has deliver on that promise,” he said.
He said they took up the big challenges and succeeds in addressing them under a very challenging situation, and that they treated human capital development as a catalyst of sustainable development and social progress hence the free quality education as a flagship program.
He said his government development projects are tangible and their results are laudable and almost every indicator in education form access.
He said literacy and numeracy rate gender parity and transition rate is better today than five years ago and it gives him great pleasure and hope that children in the country can afford the opportunity for a fit for purpose education, to allow them to grow to achieve their full potentials and become productive citizens.
He said Sierra Leone has improved and performed better in health indicators than most regional countries in the past five years, with a 60% reduction in maternal mortality rate and few women now die while giving birth and more children grow and see their fifth birthdays than in five years ago.
He said because he appreciated and recognised the critical role of the women in the society, he has been deliberate in promoting the rights of women and girls and his government has been trying to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men in every aspect of life, as he continues to empower them through the Gender Empowerment Act that was enacted recently.
He further noted that the Hands-Off Our Girls Initiative by the First Lady has kept girls in schools longer and protected them from early pregnancy and marriage.
He said through the Monafa Fund, they have supported thousands of women and showed strong faith in small, micro and medium enterprises which are the bedrock of the country’s economy.
He said they have reached many vulnerable people in deprived communities through their social protection programs, noting that in the last five years his government has given a facelift to the country’s infrastructure including the construction of the Lungi International Airport which is the first international of the country since independence and they have constructed bridges, roads and more.
He said his government has been the most aggressive in tackling corruption in the country and their effort has been noticed and rewarded by several reputable international institutions across the world, including Millennium Challenge Cooperation and Transparency International ranking his government amongst the most corrupt free in the region.
He said his government had removed the death penalty from the law books and given the press more freedom, and for 55 years where other governments promised and failed to repeal the seditious libel law he did it.
He said the hardest challenge in the country is the rising cost of living resulting from the multiple global shocks that started from the COVID-19 pandemic in less than two years of his government and that they have worked very hard to ensure to save the people from the effect by ensuring that essential commodities are made available in the country.
He said they have heavily invested in boosting local production for people to feed their families.
He said to sustain livelihood they have increased the salaries of teachers, lecturers, nurses, police and the military and they have consistently paid salaries on time and that they have increased the minimum wage and also increased pension for retirees and created jobs in the public sector and provided the enabling environment for job creation in the private sector.
He said the 2023 manifesto is to continue the work they have started five years ago, noting that the manifesto gives full account of the stewardship in the last five years and also outlines their plans for the next five years and represents a new social contract between the SLPP and the people of Sierra Leone.