APC’s Infrastructural Development “Confronting the Future”
Before completing the first 36 words here, I must asseverate my political lining, which is that I am not a supporter of the present day APC and I am not sold on its populist agenda even though I am a “Makeni Man” through and through.
Nevertheless, credit must be served to whom and where it is deserved. The nation should extol the current APC government for being absorptive to the concept of “Continuity of Governance”. The world has seen the Ernest Koroma administration rightfully absorbing the Tejan Kabbah reconstruction and infrastructural development plan en masse. Even though many APC stalwarts along with “Baghdad Bob” (IB “Big Ben”) will not affirm the Kabbah administration’s significant leg work on “supposedly” (amnesiac APC says Kabbah did nothing on infrastructure in the post-conflict 4 years of his rule from 2003 to 2007) existing intercity roadways, credit must be dished out for what seems to be quite temerarious and unusual in the present day APC, to acknowledge the existence of infrastructure projects it inherited. In the president’s address on October 10, 2008 on the occasion of the state opening of Parliament, he said “Mr. Speaker, on our assumption of office last year, we were very concerned about the slow pace of implementation of many reconstruction and rehabilitation projects”.
The president went further to state his government’s rehabilitation and reconstruction plan for 2009 to include the rehabilitation of the Makeni-Matotoka and the Bo-Kenema roads, the Freetown-Monrovia highway, the Kenama-Koindu road, the Port Loko-Lungi road, the Freetown-Conakry road, the Freetown Hill Side Bye Pass road and the Tokeh-Lumley road. Suffice to say that the APC has been in power for three years counting and no one person in the entire government can lay claim to any fact that any of these road construction projects are being implemented at a faster pace than the “slow pace of implementation” His Excellency claimed to have inherited.
Absorbing and openly embracing Tejan Kabbah endeavoured programs is just “un-APC” and the world should never expect this APC government to show (overtly) an iota of recognition of the hard and behind the scene work the previous government performed for this nation towards the development of our roadways, waterways and airways. The above-mentioned speech to the Parliamentarians serves as a testimony to the world that contrary to the government’s muteness and total disregard towards the tremendous points scored by the Kabbah administration in the area of national infrastructure rehabilitation and development, this current government, albeit in certain quarters, is cognizant of that fact. Further, I will direct readers to the government’s Annual Statement of Public Accounts for 2006 and see payments (principal and interest under the Kabbah administration) made to external creditors that had provided the financing for these projects (example, Tokeh-Lumley and the Hill Side Bye Pass roads).
Now, enough on APC’s double-sided view on reality and its demonstrative “induced” ignorance towards the significant strides by the Kabbah led SLPP administration towards infrastructural development in this decade and let me get to the crux of this piece, which is the future cost of Ernest Koroma’s attempt at extending Kabbah’s reconstruction and infrastructural development programs. The average man in the street or the woman at the “luma” in Kambia or the welder in Kroo Bay should know that the process of getting international moneys or aid to construct roads and dams by any measurement can be protracted and long for developing countries such as Sierra Leone.
The international funding (approximately $46 million) for the construction of almost all the inter-city roads being currently mentioned in the political discourse was secured between 2002 and 2007 under the Kabbah-SLPP government. In fact, let me try to reflect on the 2007 Presidential elections, whereas Berewa was asking the electorate to allow them to continue the work his government had embarked on. That work today is being done by the Koroma administration as a continuation from the past immediate government. Looking at the slow pace of implementation of these projects, it is highly unlikely that the APC government can complete them before the 2012 elections and if so, like Berewa, would Ernest Koroma ask the electorate to allow his government to continue the projects he had started? In the world of this present day APC, the answer should be a very big NO since its vocabulary does not capture the term “continuation of governance”.
All the same, I am convinced that the APC government will tread this line. However, the electorate must know that if the APC is not elected in the coming 2012 elections that will not represent the end of these donor funded road projects in Sierra Leone. It is highly likely that the winning party of the elections will continue with the implementation of these projects.
Most of these projects with the exception of the Masiaka-Bo road and the Bo-Kenema rehabilitation (completed) are in the planning and mobilization stages of implementation across the country. The funding sources for all of these road projects are a combination of multilateral donor agencies and counterpart funding from the government. I would like to note that without the foreign component of the funding sources, it is virtually impossible for any government in Sierra Leone to undertake such herculean economic task that could easily attract roughly 2% of the GDP of the nation and over 30% of the government’s financial budget.
We have heard plenty of “vuvuzelas” on Ernest Koroma’s achievements in his first 36 months in office and one of the most significant of these achievements is his government’s infrastructural development program through the “Agenda for Change” strategy. Suffice to note that in the last 36 months, the nation has not seen the completion and opening of any new inter-city roads other than the Masiaka-Bo road “pull nar do” few months back by His Excellency the President. The current government in its wisdom, may have realized that the unsuspecting public is getting closer to the bottom of the “truth barrel” on the true architect (the past immediate SLPP government) for most of these inter-city roads projects and has taken the decision to undertake roads projects it could lay total claim on as far as the project life cycle (fund, plan, design and implement) and projects with no contributions from the SLPP.
The government is planning to solely fund (roughly $33 million) the construction of several intra-city and suburban roads across Freetown, Bo, Makeni and Kenema. The road user fund is to contribute 45% of the roughly $33 million dollars budgeted (fiscal period 2010) for this effort with the remaining funding being appropriated through the domestic capital budget. The APC government had all the time to have factored the financial requirements for this extension to the original SLPP infrastructural development effort it inherited in 2007 and source the related funding through our development partners. However, it is likely that by the time the government realized the need for this extended roads program, it was already too late to go to the likes of EU or IDA or the Arab Development Bank to apply for aid or the requisite financing, as that process could stretch out pass December 31 of 2012. This means that the APC could not showcase the related outputs in time for galvanizing votes in the 2012 election. In the interim, the government has to look elsewhere for the financing of these proposed projects.
Nevertheless, the intention to improve our urban and suburban road network is a plausible one and we must extend courage to EBK’s government on this move. However, it seems that the government is undertaking this effort for the sole purpose of using it as a political instrument and propaganda tool for votes. The mode of financing being employed runs the risk of significantly impacting the socio-economic fabric of this poor nation for many years to come. The government is not fiscally fit to undertake the extended roads program and has been spending moneys that it does not have and by so, has relied heavily on various forms of domestic debt instruments (our trained economists should start looking into the government’s “cut here put here” approach with the central bank and the treasury for financing its roads projects) to finance its so-called infrastructure projects across the country.
On a side note, the $10 million purportedly being diverted from the NASSIT fund to finance the rehabilitation of the Bintumani Conference Centre (which serves as a reminder of the 1980 OAU summit and the beginning of the various shades of economic strife Sierra Leone has seen) could very well be another matter that will confront our poor nation in the future.
At this government’s current rate of spending the people’s money on these poorly managed projects, the consolidated fund will continue to run dry months before the end of the fiscal year. The country should be bracing for the imminent and present danger of the government’s inability to honour many other payment obligations such as salaries for teachers and medical practitioners across the country (remember those good old days under Momoh). The people of Sierra Leone should examine keenly the costs and benefits of these projects (including the short-term electricity programs in 2007) along with the related opportunity costs. Should the nation undergo such financial strains just to garner additional votes for a government that has shown no strategy for combating the steady inflation we have seen in the last 22 months with the existing stock of Leones steadily depreciating in value?
This raining season in Freetown, we have seen the deplorable conditions of the roads and the lack of maintenance in covering pot holes on Hill Cut, Wilkinson and Spur roads. These road conditions are directly connected to the government’s “happy-go-lucky” spending spree on roads construction. The Roads Fund that was managed by SLRA has now been diverted to the treasury for the financing of these APC roads projects for votes. In the past, SLRA controlled this fund and was able to maintain the city roads and rural roads in the course of the raining season. Now, that fund it seems is no longer controlled by the SLRA and as a result could not muster the spending needed to fix these roads. That fund is possibly under the guidance and supervision of the treasury and it is being directed towards APC’s unrestrained infrastructural development projects.
It has been 30 long years since Siaka Stevens hosted the OAU summit in Sierra Leone and the people of this country continue to harvest the fruits of the seeds of economic strife sown as a result of the unrestrained financial undertaking or spending by the then government. The fiscal policy of this current government if not put in check could ruin this nation’s economy and push it down to a level that could take this nation many years to recover. We as a nation must not encourage our government to mismanage our country’s meagre financial resources for banal electoral votes today that could have malign effect on our society for many years to come.
I cannot close this penning with closing with this quote from the famous educator, Roger Babson, “Let him who would enjoy a good future waste none of his present”. Now my people, let us wake up to the financial implications of APC’s spending on its so-called infrastructure projects and the reality on the ground before it is too late to correct.
By Martin Koroma
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