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Random musing: The amphitheatre of contradictions

Random musing: The amphitheatre of contradictions

In ‘Candy Floss Economy’ (9/8/2010), I wrote: “…….. a country whose political leaders inexcusably shilly-shally and ignore the greater aspects of internal human and socio-economic development as well as innovation; or rush to expend stupendous amounts on ultimately fragile, populist, half-baked projects, ill-conceived and ill-planned and orchestrated by ‘unknown soldiers’ to the sound of sycophantic slobbering, is simply playing tennis with wooden rackets.

Bluntly put, blistering the paint off the wall with promises is meaningless as a plan does not equal to reality. Economic growth, at whatever percentage, does not amount to economic development. Period.

So for us as a nation, the morning is gradually giving way to the afternoon and the day is ebbing away. Reducing vital governance leadership to the profanity of sloganeering is like putting the cart before the horse.

It is not so much an indictment of those in power as much as it is a clarion call for deep reflection, caution and the need for real restructuring of the nation’s economic engine. The propaganda and brain washing about a private-foreign sector led economic recovery, is replacing rigour of thought and critical analysis; as well as basic appreciation of raw facts which may come back to haunt us.

The reported growth of the past two and a half years has turned out to be an illusion because it was buoyed by the massive financial assistance to the new administration and massive Diaspora remittances before the global economic meltdown and not as a result of real economic growth occasioned by deliberate government policies.

As we survey the wreckage of a once-glorious Sierra Leone, the inconvenient truth is that our bleeding economic cut continues to fester and we remain perpetually stranded at the bus stop of underdevelopment with our leaders continuing to gaze in forlorn hope at the skies and yonder shores; while the buses speed by.

Contrary to the make-believe world on display, the cloak of infrastructural development has failed to cover the worrying symptoms of declining, stagnated or non-existent commercial and industrial system that will incubate and propel growth.

Despite international experts foisting economic policies that only seem to pauperise us and which our leaders have swallowed hook, line and sinker, the truth is that we can’t fix our current economic problems by simply handing our nation out to be used as an empty womb.

As a result of this IVF; foreign and local cartels as well as other corrupt activities and downright incompetence, continue to weaken and erode the fundamentals of good governance and accountability; which in turn gives rise to loss of resources needed for the development of a country’s economy.

In addition, the government has recoursed to historical economic inferiority complex and we have continued to alleviate the balance of payment positions of many advanced countries and the pockets of individuals…..” (RANDOM MUSING-9/8/2010)

Earlier, in ‘The Truth of the Matter’ written 26/06/09, I wrote inter alia:

“…….The danger of our indifference to our present travail is that it may get to a time when all kinds of remedies can no longer work.

Despite the enormous resources at our disposal, many of our compatriots live below the poverty line. As far as I am concerned, there is no justification for it. Our resources are enough to meet our basic needs such as access roads, potable water, steady electricity, jobs, functional education, sufficient food and security, primary health care as well as decent accommodation and a humane society.

The absence of these amenities has made life unbearable for the masses and this is not anti-government but a fact.

The problem of Sierra Leone is not poverty of purse but poverty of purpose and action. Is it not one of the responsibilities of government to make life easier for the people? Why then must the ordinary Sierra Leonean be made to bear the brunt of the inefficiency of successive governments? Why must they be made to be grateful for every crumb that is periodically dropped from the tables of our servants turned masters?…….” (RANDOM MUSING -26//6/09)

For both articles, and in fact most of my write-ups, I was denounced as an opposition, anti-government rabble rouser who saw nothing good in the strenuous efforts of the Ernest Bai Koroma administration. Others thought I was an upstart with nothing new to offer-as if every solution in life is a new brainwave from heaven.

But as I have stated to those who care to listen, as far as I am concerned, where the country’s existence is an issue; when the general state of the nation –where the nation is, and where it ought to go – is to be discussed, partisanship should always be relegated to the background,

All things being equal and in any serious society aiming for development, the state of the nation in a democratic political environment, is supposed to continuously evolve positively, and tangibly impact the lives of the electorates measurably. That’s SMART.

To achieve this, even the government and opposition ensure that a large percentage of their different political scripts and agenda are harmonised, to always find a common ground, for the common good of the country. Sadly that’s far away from our own experience.

Sometimes, it is not about finger pointing or blame pinning. It’s simply about acknowledging the fundamental truth and recognising the reality on the ground instead of attempting to gloss over it or to invent a different scenario.

The lack of robust political gumption to handle the intricate web of intrigues and self-interests of several local and international actors in our development, is why twice within a short space of time, President Koroma has had to publicly intervene in the socio-economic turn of events in Sierra Leone.

I am aware that the buck stops at his desk but believe me for now; he cuts a pitiable figure of a lonely, forlorn one man show, as he tries to salvage any credibility for his faltering administration.

Gambling like a casino veteran, the government had deluded itself with the notion that the civil society would capitulate to an underhand increase in petroleum products, especially amidst the euphoria of the golden jubilee celebration. That idea collapsed like a flat-pack furniture and he had to face-savingly appear like a knight in shining armour.

Then, after four years of trying to convince the nation that deliverance was here, the harsh global economic realities which we had pretended to be immune to, last week, forced the government to admit what has been the chorus of those who have been at the end of the death-by-a-thousand-cuts rhythm of the music of change –that things are not only tough, they are excruciatingly painful.

Those in the Diaspora and those living in their fantasy world of corrupt enrichment or political patronage as well as lickspittles and grovellers can continue to steam-off as they read this harsh truth but the government is gradually squandering the goodwill and affection that heralded its early days. Luckily however, there is no suitor in sight to snatch the beautiful bride.

But, back to the issue at hand. The economy is one area that needs serious attention. The real sector, on which a great majority of the citizens survive, is comatose while unemployment is on a record high.

Power supply, which drives every modern economy, may have improved to some extent, but it is still nowhere near what a nation that used to enjoy uninterrupted supply deserves or needs for exponential growth; neither is it what the people expect from the huge financial input into that sector, from the days of Income Electrix. While electricity is not an end by itself; it is the tool for enhancing the productivity of people.

Even the enormous commitment to key public infrastructure has so far yielded a very poor return and this is why things appear to be either stagnant or going backwards. And talking about infrastructural development, my first reaction to the construction work on Wilkinson road was to ask “Are the Chinese doing us a favour or is it that we have been sucked up their backside so much that no one can look them directly in the face and say that the work being done is crap”. Give that road two years after completion and see what happens. Even right now, its shortcomings are very apparent to discerning eyes.

The President cannot continue to tread softly in other not to step on some sensitive toes or cross paths with some group of people, even in the face of the present incendiary economic situation. Leadership is about getting things done, getting results and improving performances.

Sierra Leoneans do not deserve to live in poverty, darkness, insecurity, stress, complexity, confusion and frustration or unemployment. I am not saying things can change overnight; but four years down the line, the psychological and physical needs for their survival, pursuit of happiness and the best quality of life should no longer be a small shaft of light amidst almost total darkness of economic gloom.

One of the reasons we are in the doldrums right now and why efforts so far by the present administration has not yielded the desired results is that the government itself is failing to understand the dynamics of the economy and is instead focussing on ethno-parochial political interests. But hunger poses a greater danger and threat to our development than any other considerations..

This is why like the Asian Tigers, we must make sacrifices to conquer our foreign dependency and conquer our insufficiencies. Infrastructural development is necessary but it needs to be balanced with social and economic necessities. There is no need having good roads if the vehicles going to ply them are the ambulances and hearse carrying the remains of those who were meant to benefit.

Education is of critical importance, an uneducated person is an unproductive person just as an unhealthy person is also an unproductive person. Both are critical ways forward. Right now, it is a woeful failure on both counts and an apparent clueless policy on the way forward.

Of course, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs. The government has got to create an economy that can provide jobs to millions and millions of people. I believe that the centre of our economic policy should be job creation. So much is allegedly being spent on infrastructural development, yet it does not translate to any tangible reduction in unemployment. Obviously there is something wrong somewhere.

Simple explanation: most of our investors, contractors etc are simply taking away instead of planting for our harvest. But, we do not need any expert to tell us the adverse consequences of a large pool of vibrant, hardworking, illiterate or educated and intelligent workforce, who wake up daily and have no idea of what to do or where to go.

Again, the huge internal and external budgetary provisions and deficits for tackling our myriad of problems have hardly translated to any meaningful impact due to the endemic issue of corruption in our public life. This cankerworm has eaten so deep into the fabrics of our socio-economic life that our growth as a nation has appeared ineffectual over time because of the lip service to its eradication or minimization.

Oh yes; a couple of so-called bigwigs have fallen. But has that translated into any deterrent?  Of course not.  Because, they ended up a notch on the popularity scale instead of the gutter of shame.  And what else can you say of the endemic corruption in the house of gold – the very heart of government?

As I’ve said umpteenth times, my personal view about the economic meltdown, particularly when it is cited as the reason for our problems, is that it is a convenient excuse to explain away our ineptitude, our incompetence and the paucity of leadership in the management of our abundant human and natural resources to enhance the quality of life of our people. The truth is, we were already melted before the global economic meltdown

So it is an ironic production in the amphitheatre, that a businessman who promised to run the country like a business has discovered that in the making of real life drama, bold statements have a nasty habit of boomeranging. It’s a lesson worth learning.

By: Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

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