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Our failed and vulnerable economy

Our failed and vulnerable economy

Sierra Leone’s economic tragedy is not that we are poor; the tragedy is that we lack a ruling class that is committed to overcoming our state of poverty.  Real politics here has little to do with social and economic reconstruction.  The observation of the assassinated South African writer Ruth First in her book; “The Barrel of a Gun”, published in 1970, remains valid today.  (Photo: H E President Ernest Bai Korom)

There has been eloquent, inexhaustible talk about politics, side by side with the gaping poverty of political thought.  Down there on the ground in Sierra Leone, you can smother in the small talk of politics.  Mostly it is about politicking – rarely about policies.

Politicians are men who compete with each other for power, not men who use power to confront their country’s problems.  Since 2007 – with a change of government, decision-making on problematic areas, such as the economy, have become submerged in uncountable controversies.

The government is under-performing.  It has woefully failed immeasurably; where it has sidelined the needs and aspirations of majority of the population, who for no palpable reason have to grapple with about eight more months of deception, and public display of wealth by government officials.

There has been too much rhetoric, counter-accusations, lies and commentaries based on nothing but political mudslinging and tittle-tattle.  This has become the hallmark of the Koroma administration – pettiness and mediocrity.

The government has started to generate revenue from iron ore exports by African Minerals and London mining, but there is little practical impact on the economy.

Sierra Leoneans need to rethink hard about voting in November to change the direction of the country. Our history is no different to what is happening today.  The APC government of Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh destroyed Sierra Leone.

In 1980, the Leone was in parity with the dollar.  Today it is Le4,500 in exchange to the dollar.  It was under an APC administration that we started to witness long queues in desperation for basic consumer commodities.  Bank liquidity became so poor as to warrant the rationing of cash withdrawn from banks.  But yet, we seem to have forgotten that history.

When President Koroma won the elections in 2007, after Tejan Kabbah’s success in ending the war and stabilizing the economy, all Ernest Koroma had to do was to steer a steady and prudent course. This, he has failed to do.

With such a poor economic record, one wonders why the president is so confident of winning the forthcoming elections in November 2012.  Many in Sierra Leone believe that he is prepared to use violence and rig the ballots, as has been the policy and politics of the APC party.

Last week the president was reported to have happily commissioned 40 new buses at the national stadium. The government said that the buses were purchased using revenue generated internally – not donor funds.

But if those buses were bought using public funds, why should the public for whose benefit they were purchased, be asked by the president ‘to show gratitude’ to the government?

What President Koroma should be doing is to use public funds as leverage for private investments in improving the country’s air, rail and road transport networks and systems.

His party – the APC, is responsible for destroying the country’s national airline and trains – out of personal greed and corruption.

New challenges are emerging in Sierra Leone.  The government’s response has been poor. The mismanagement of the country’s economy is a product of the deficient leadership and bad governance.

The government’s policy approach in stimulating economic growth has been largely driven by its support for the regeneration of the diamond, gold, rutile and ore mining industries.  But it is obvious that the government’s industrial policy is straddled by a ‘beggar-thy-neighbour’ attitude.

Sierra Leone lacks strong leadership, and unless that changes, the country’s poor economic management, and recent debacle of foreign aid, mismanagement of donor funds and increased borrowing, would remain a disincentive for rapid economic growth, as domestic output decreases.

The president’s desire to protect his political appointees, cronies and party interests appears to be seriously influencing his politics, policies and judgement.

Recent unsolved scandals and allegations of corruption by senior government officials, the vice president, the Mayor of Freetown, the Director of the 50 Years Independence Celebrations Committee, do not bode well for the country’s development.

Inevitably, it is the people who are suffering from the perception that President Koroma and his government lack the ability to govern, as genuine foreign investors stay away.

The constant engagement in self-deception and uttering of sweeping statements by government officials, which the president of a country does not condemn, are not only shocking and demeaning, but helping to define how far Sierra Leone’s democracy is deteriorating gradually.

Bad governance cannot foster development, and it is imperative the government begins to design and implement development strategies geared toward individual needs and circumstances, while ensuring improvement in the government machinery.

Sierra Leone is on life-support, against the backdrop of failed promises and trivialities that represent a mockery of the government and its paid commentators, who have disengaged their attention from “bread and butter” issues.

Many developing and post-war countries such as Rwanda are enjoying good governance, which is promoting rapid economic growth. This is because of their governments’ positive engagement with the citizenry, and innovative policy interventions.

This has been the bane of Sierra Leone’s post-independence experience. There is a serious absence of a genuine driving force for good economic management, as the government continuously fails to recognize that there is a correlation between development, poverty and poor governance.

The demand for fresh thinking and change is legitimate, partly moved by the fact that the people have been short-changed and micro-managed by deception. It is important the people learn and work toward change, and good governance.

The people of Sierra Leone are slowly but increasingly realising that; power lies in their hands, and that with such power they can determine which direction the nation takes, through the ballot box.

The 17th of November elections, will give the electorate an opportunity to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with president Koroma’s lackluster leadership and inept governance.

But the opposition SLPP must now unveil its alternative economic development and social policies, which will uplift the people from poverty and under-development.  

Austin Thomas

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  • Joseph Bangura, the above article that you described as well crafted is too political. I won’t exchange words with you. let us just re-visit the index report that have been posted about Sierra Leone since President Koroma took up the leadership. Compare and contrast, starting from human rights reports, development, health, education etc.etc. Did you really read Austin article well. President koroma has never encouraged nor condoned violence, he is always preaching aginst violence. Of course it is far from it for him to use state security to intimidate his opppnents, that is not his style of politics. He is a clean Guy,a true born christian and since his childhood days he is always kind-hearted and disciplined. Mr. Bangura, Love our Prezo and you will ever remain to give thanks to God for the good change in your life. This is not politics, this is for real. no wahala yah.

    16th February 2012
  • Babson Kolleh, when would people like you become civilise? This guy has written a well crafted article and you have jumped all over him with insult. Some of you are still backward. You know how much money Ernest and his APC have mismanaged? Some of us are independent, we don’t belong to any party. We only love our country. Ernest is not perfect, he has done so many wrong things. At least during SLPP regime, we did not hear of the kind of violence that is going on now. This whole thing has to do with the leadership. During SLPP regime, some rogue politicians wanted to silence Emmerson because of the songs he was singing against them, the then president, Tejan Kabbah said no. He said Emmerson can sing whatever song he want to sing. That is what we call leadership.Ernest can over see violence only to come out later to condemn the violence. He knows everything that is going on. He know the use of thurgs this time around will not go down well with the international community, so they are planning to effectively use the state security to intimidate their opponents. I only hope they are not trying to reverse the gain people have made in terms of peace. If they mistake and do anything stupid to retain power, that will slide back into another crises. We want free and fair election in our country.

    15th February 2012
  • Austin Thomas, keep quite and stop your stupid politics about Sierra Leone. Where were you when your SLpp Government were messing our country’s finance and development programmes left by the able builders(APC).The APC Party are the construction force of Sierra leone true or false?. What infrastructural development can your party boast of in mama Sa.lone? None,if you can point or show me just one I will offer you and your SEM Contributors $10,000 for proving the development contributions they have rendered our country. not even a playing field for juniors. You must be ashame of yourself condemninig our hard working President just to get the SLpp back to power.In your dreams. Sometimes, I imagine you to be a lunatic by claiming and even thinking of President Ernest Bai Koroma applying violence or rigging the 2012 elections. Of course, You don’t the know the great man himself. so I give you the benefit of the doubt. Your rubbish article about failed and vulnerable economy is a disgrace to your knowledge and your party propagandists. Check yourself first before condemning another person. Think first of what the former President Kabba and his team did in squndering our economy and the Global financial aids given to Sierra leone after the rebel war stage managed by ……. will never be forgiven, even children yet unborn will never forgive the SLpp party. Look at Angola, we had the same rebel wars and the same amount of aids were handed over to both Governments but President Dos Santos and his team’s love for their country used all aids within for his country and people and now rated one of the most developed african state and you are here blaming a four and half years old government. SHAME ON YOU ALL.

    14th February 2012

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