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Too little and a little late?

Too little and a little late?

I have to admit that my distinguished nephew is at last making some progress and in the right direction.  Firstly he appears to acknowledge that the buck stops right at his desk, or is it at your feet dear nephew?  (Photo: Dr Sama Banya, author)

While everyone was shouting and even some of the most ardent praise singers were whimpering that the cost of living had spiralled almost out of control, one of his ministers was busy telling us that the government was not responsible for importing petroleum products, nor was it responsible for importing rice.  In short that the government had no control over these matters which were really controlled by market forces.  I am not sure whether that is what my primitive economists refer to as “all man for himself, God for we all.” We are all aware of the dire consequences of such position in other countries and that although our people were wary of any civil unrest, yet it took the national youth coalition to issue an ultimatum, “Reduce those prices or else!”  Well, the message did get there all right. His Excellency very prudently called an emergency meeting of stakeholders including representatives of the youth coalition, the Labour congress, the coalition of civil societies (I prayed that my friend Charles Mambu was away in Segbwema doing PR job for the Korean ISU contractors) the importers of petroleum products, the marketers and the motor drivers union to discuss what was on the verge of becoming a national crisis.  Although I was weary of the effectiveness of committees, yet in the words of his Excellency, they had produced results and very quickly too.  According to the Holy Scripture the first sign of repentance is an acknowledgment of transgression which is the same as confession. His Excellency himself confessed that things had gone so bad for the ordinary Jack and Jill that he too was personally pained by the unacceptable situation.

We are aware of the remedial steps.  The pump price of petrol, kerosene and diesel has been reduced from five thousand Leones per litre to four thousand five hundred Leones that is a reduction of five hundred Leones. The question is, is that nearly enough, taking the circumstances of the wage earner, the unemployed youth, the commuter and Makuta or uncle Joe and mama Kema who have to travel to and from Kaffu Bullom or Moyamba to buy his/her market?  Isn’t that too little a reduction?  The import duty of ten percent on imported rice has been temporarily suspended.  But why did that privileged importer receive a duty waiver of ONE MILLION United States dollars in the first place on rice that they had obtained AT A CONCESSIONARY PRICE from the government of India?  

I am sorry, but I was not taken in by his Excellency’s explanation of what the government could have done with the revenue that would have accrued from the removal of subsidies, such as constructing a similar road to the one from Kenema to Pendembu every year without donor support.  I sincerely pray that it would not have been undertaken by the Korean ISU construction company who would have turned up, with the SLRA turning a blind eye, three years after being awarded the contract that the original feasibility studies with its designs and specifications were wrong and that they were going back to the drawing board.  But all that was only a hypothetical proposition from my nephew, never mind that he is running the country like a business, some business at that.  Government has the option of imposing higher taxes on luxury consumer goods; Samura Kamara and Shamsideen Sesey, (Finance and Bank of Sierra Leone) could produce such a list without batting their eyelids.

In conclusion then, this old man who through the Grace of God refuses to retire or drop dead, this dinosaur believes that his Excellency’s package does not nearly go far enough and has come a little late, though not too late.  There is much room for improvement.

Incidentally anyone who cares may seek confirmation that the only annual budget which did NOT increase or raise new taxes ever was presented to Parliament in 1981 by, Guess Who! Ha ha. 

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