Salone suffering from bad leadership
In the last four years we have had to contend with poor leadership culminated with poor judgments, innovations and visions thereby causing the country to sink deeper into economic crisis.
The reason I say so is because it can be felt and seen everyday across the country as the unprecedented price increases take place daily and the lack of vision on the part of government to arrest this ugly situation. Price control will never solve such problem but reduction of taxes and attracting the right business investment that will make good use of our human resources and land to generate better economic benefits.
Addax Bio Energy is good but that is not what Sierra Leone needs right now. The country needs investors in rice, maze and if possible wheat production that will in a very short period brings in dividend and food to the country.
Presently the world’s rice production country – Thailand is suffering immense flooding, we have the land and labor to achieve such, but after all the travelings of the president, has he ever thought that a multinational rice company can turn our virgin fields into one of the biggest production rice fields; I doubt that?
Instead he has become a tourist in his own country. Ernest Koroma today is the most traveled African president in the world. At the time when most African leaders like Jacob Zuma of South Africa, Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, Armando Guebuza of Mozambique and Ian Khama of Botswana are frowning on excessive travel and have decided to cut down across the board, it is the time our own president is crisscrossing the world in search of God alone knows.
I am sure since Ernest came to power four years ago he and his government have spent more than a million dollars just on travel expenses, the corresponding benefits from such travels are not visible. Maybe when he was at RITCORP of as MP he didn’t have the opportunity to be travelling regularly, so this is the opportunity he was looking for and now he got it by being a tourist in his own country.
One of the most compelling features of post colonial economic history of Sierra Leone is the prevalence of bad governance leading to extreme poverty. Its intransigence is alarming given the fact that development has been the main item in the minds of the people since independence.
Donor agencies have devoted millions of dollars to the country to reduce poverty and enhance development, but the more money they spent the poorer the people of Sierra Leone becomes, why; because some of the money is spent on the technical and international staffs, some goes to corrupt officials within the country and the rest is spent in the project that has no value to the country.
Many wealthy nations have government departments devoted to the development of the country, and the amount of cash and in-kind transfers these countries have disbursed over the years is substantial, but we are still poor due to bad governance over the years.
Since independence we have been receiving financial aid, the success within has been scattered and slow, especially given the optimism that was so prevalent before independence. An average Sierra Leone cannot afford a dollar (Le4,500) of food a day. The monthly salary of the average Sierra Leone is about $35 or Le150,000.
What account for the pattern of long term failure to my opinion was the emergence of the ‘Washington consensus’, that good economic policy was essential to growth that only democratic nations will be able to grow rapidly, but how did China became so successful without democracy and the Washington principle.
The term governance emerged in the development community in the 80s to refer to the overall institutional and governing architecture of a country like Sierra Leone. Shortcomings in the governance are the only explanation of the country’s failure to develop after 50 years of external assistance.
During the 1990s usage of the term was stretched to encompass more overt political factors such as democracy and human rights. Governance has become a convenient basket term for a mix of factors. These include a government’s management of public funds – accountability and corruption; the transparency with which it conducts its business – openness and accountability to parliament; it’s legal and judicial framework – effective and fair application of the law; the quality of its representative institutions – elections and public participation and the behavior of its enforcement agencies – human rights.
Sierra Leoneis weak in all of these areas, because service delivery of provision of public services such as health and education are the main considerations of good governance. The aspects of governance can be quantify and measured, especially those relating directly to elections and public finance. Other aspects, relating to exclusion of social groups, are less quantified, but may be at least important.
The transparent use of State resources, including the absence of corruption in areas such as public works and procurement, are central issues in our governance. These areas have long been the concern of the donors in their assessments of fiscal and budgetary standards.
We always expect our government to comply with the laws, according to the constitution the president was wrong to appoint ministers who have contested and won seats in the parliament, but who cares. This is one possibility of making judgments if a good or bad governance especially when they control the parliament. They alter the law to suit their own political purposes.
Another point of good governance is whether in reality the principle of rights and freedoms are adequately observed by those acting in the name of the State and whether those who abuse human rights are adequately pursued and punished. The use of violence with impunity by the police is the main concern, directed against journalists, opposition members and the population in the country in general.
These are mostly politically motivated because it was the same police force that was operating under the SLPP and their excesses were controlled as the SLPP has never used violence to pursue their political goals. So when the APC won the last general elections, violence and crime rate increase rapidly throughout the country.
Good governance consists of government representing and acting on behalf of the population as a whole. This includes formal democracy, which can partly be measured by analysis of the overall electoral processes, although observing elections only on the day often yields little insight. At least the Kailahun court Barry phenomenon has laid to rest as we look forward to 2012.
Formal democracy has two important consequences: legitimacy and restraint. If a government’s electoral legitimacy is contested, rather than its policies or actions, the institutions of State are thereby contested, making both corruption and violent insurrection more likely. A government is restrained in its actions and may be held to account if it fears electoral approbation, and may be better motivated to provide public goods to the population as a whole.
While necessary, multiparty democracy is not an adequate guarantee of inclusion. As formal democratic processes have become the norm over the last ten years, informal exclusion is now arguably the biggest challenge to our governance. Parts of the country’s population may be excluded from the distribution of State resources, and from the actual decision making processes, especially in our case when the winner-takes-all.
This may be simply a question of distribution of State spending, or it may take on more serious political aspects, such as the use of xenophobia to legitimize the exclusion of a social group from the benefits of state power. The past government spent most of their resources in the north for political gains, but they ended up as losers in the north and the elections as a whole. Presently, I can’t tell where this government is concentrating its own effort, whether in their political stronghold of the north or the south and east. Politics in Sierra Leone is about contesting between different social groups for the control of resources and social recognition. Although it does not allow for neat and easy measurement, the exclusion of groups from the political game has real and serious consequences, exacerbated the country’s poverty, and is a major threat to stability.
With such varied components it is inevitably difficult to come up with clear judgments on the overall quality of governance in the country and harder still to attempt comparative judgments. The country has a very poor standard of public financial management, only the lively free press that is keeping them on their toes. Since we were promised the Freedom of Information Bill, we are yet to see it come to fruition because the government is scared of its frivolous spending. If we had the Bill in place we would have known how much money the president spends on every travel.
If donors make judgments on overly technical and inflexible criteria, the danger is that savvy politicians will learn how to tick the boxes by setting up the anti-corruption commission while business as usual continues behind the scenes.
The current president was in the opposition for 10 years and I was expecting him to have vast knowledge of the problems within the country and he should not have told us to give him 36 months before he can be judged. No serious president will tell his people to give him 36 months. The new president of Zambia told his people that after 90 days they should start judging him if he will be successful.
President Obama who was in the Senate for eight years knew America’s problem and immediately he took over the Oval office, he started putting his plans into actions and Americans started to judge him, they would not wait for three of four years to give their opinions. A leader of a state should have sufficient information and solutions to his or her country’s problems before contesting and winning an election.
The current state of affairs in the country shows that the country is not improving economically, socially or educationally. Today the most upsetting story coming out of Africa is the suspension of university exams due to lack of paper. What did the president do? – Nothing, I’m sure he was not even in the country when such an embarrassing story broke out. Today it seems that this government is breeding more drop outs by increasing tuition costs, strikes and poor salaries to educational workers.
The responsibility of delivering better governance to the public by this government looks bleak and dim. How long are we going to be fed by the West when we have deposits of natural resources in abundance? Even if this government had a vision of extending our quay port to make it the biggest in the sub-region and then use it as transshipment point would be of immense economic and social gain to this small but ‘rich’ country.
Instead we are now talking of Agenda for Change to Agenda for Growth. This I will deal with in another article, but let us know that the report will soon be out to assess if our darling Ernest Koroma succeeded in alleviating poverty or increases it the people will tell, The less travels president makes the better it will be for the country.
Austin Thomas, China
Austin Thomas is the Editor of Awoko Newspaper in Sierra Leone and is currently studying in China
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