Five years on: the APC economics vs the bread and butter economics
Instead of being remembered for the change which ordinary people thought President Koroma could have made on their lives for the past five years, the people will better remember the President for all the flattery names and titles his apologists cum praise singers always shower on him – “transformational leader”; “best President in Africa”; “doctor without religious boundaries”; “the fibre optic president”; “Earnest Ernest Koroma” and at some point the apologists even foolishly tried to invoke the wrath of God by Comparing President Koroma to Jesus Christ. And so, as the President spoke of his five-year achievement last week and even in his almost four-hour and 40-page speech in parliament, did anyone notice that the President failed to highlight his achievement on the cost of living or the bread and butter economics? Well, his apologists will tell us that in Parliament under Agriculture the President said “Food import has dropped by 50%; and local food is now available in the market all year round” But what are the prices of the local food compared to 2007 His Excellency? In fact, the President went on “We have increased rice self-sufficiency from an inherited 61% to almost full self-sufficiency.” But what difference does that make Mr. President if in 2007 when rice self-sufficiency was at 61% yet ordinary people where able to buy a 50kg bag of rice at Le60,000 and now with rice-sufficiency at “almost full self-sufficiency” the vast majority could not afford or struggle to buy a 50kg bag of rice at Le200,000? Yet, the apologists and praise singers for the President said that these hardship-stricken people should still congratulate His Excellency because they pay less for 50kg bag of rice and a litre of petrol than people in London, USA , China etc.. You don’t need to be a trained economist to know such a comparison is at best disingenuous and at worst blind loyalty. (Photo: Yusuf K. Sandi, author)
Therefore, in this piece I just want to remind our people that five years ago the only standard of test which the APC operatives set themselves to measure their success in government was how effective their APC government was going to address what the Victor Fohs and Alpha Kanu then referred to as bread and butter economics or the cost of living.
During the 2007 campaigns whether it was radio or TV discussion between JJ Saffa (former Sec General, SLPP) and Victor Foh or between Victor Reider (then SLPP Publicity Secretary) and Alpha Kanu, the reason according to the Fohs and Kanus why the people should vote out the SLPP was clear to ordinary people. They said after 11 years in power the SLPP failed to address the bread and butter issue as the price of a 50kg was at Le60,000. In most of those radio or TV discussions, anytime those SLPP panelists mentioned that our GDP was growing at 6%, the Fohs and Kanus always dismissed the GDP figures saying that what really mattered to ordinary people was the prices in the market.
In fact, when JJ Saffa, Victor Reider and others used to argue that because of the SLPP effective economic management, Sierra Leone benefitted from substantial debt relief from IMF, World Bank and other multilateral creditors under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and Multi-lateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) which cancelled 90% of our debt worth around $1.6 billion, the Fohs, Khans and other APC operatives would dismiss the debt cancellation by asking how many people were sleeping on empty stomachs.
So five years on, you would have thought under President Koroma, no Sierra Leonean goes to bed on empty stomachs. And if after 11 years in power under the SLPP the price of a 50kg of rice was at Le 60,000, well the APC has only taken 5 years in power and the price of the same 50kg bag of rice has more than tripled to Le 200,000. What about if APC gets another 5 years….Le400,000? God forbids!
The President in his five-year anniversary speech said he has increased the salaries for teachers but like I mentioned in a previous article what difference would it make to primary school teacher who used to get Le150,000 in 2007 yet was able to buy a bag of rice at Le60,000 and still have some money for soup or “plasas”. In 2012, the same primary school teacher now receives Le200,000 which has been increased by Le50,000 yet that amount can only be able to buy him a 50kg bag of rice at Le200,000 leaving him with nothing, not even to buy butter and pepper to eat the cooked rice (empty res) let alone money for soup or “plasas”. Yes, the APC Economists will tell you that the primary school teacher is better off in 2012 than in 2007.
Equally, the President has been beating the drums for his achievement on the road construction. Whilst the road construction is a good thing for which former President Kabbah secured some of the funding, yet we cannot blame the disgruntled people who are now asking the question: how can we walk on the roads with empty stomachs; drive cars or ride their “okadas” on these roads when the price of a litre of petrol cost more than to feed a family of two.
Apparently, the only economic achievements of President Koroma are that the Sierra Leone economy is one of the fastest growing in the world as the President said in Parliament that IMF has predicted the economy to grow by 32% this year and that the World Bank Global Prospect Report calls our economy the second hottest in the world. But what does this “fastest growing economy” or “32% growth prediction” or “second hottest in the world” mean to the guy in his early thirties who sells second-hand clothes (Junks) for living and for the past years his business has been very rough? Now the second-hand clothes seller’s twin children have gone for interviews in their chosen secondary schools following their successful NPSE results but sadly their father could neither save nor raise enough money to meet the total cost for his children’s school charges, school uniforms, text books and other learning materials, school shoes, bags and the list goes on. You do not need to be an economist to know that this APC economics has failed this second-hand clothes or “junks” seller.
Similarly, last week when the IMF approved the disbursement of $6.9 million to the APC government, the praise singers told us that it was a confidence in President Koroma stewardship. Yet, according to a survey by the same IMF on the top 10 poorest countries in the world Sierra Leone under President Koroma was ranked as the 9th poorest country in the world. Was that another confidence in President Koroma’s stewardship? So, let me just remind the President’s praise singers that part of the functions of the IMF is to provide financing to its members in economic difficulties and also to work with developing nations to help them achieve macroeconomic stability and reduce poverty. Therefore, the IMF is just performing its role supporting a member country whose President has put his people through years of economic difficulties by making the country a basket case and as part of their function to help member state reduce poverty it seems obvious that the 72% of the population who live below the international poverty line of $1 a day under president Koroma would have been within the contemplation of the IMF $6.9 million disbursement. The only concern is that as it is now very unlikely that the President will be re-elected because of his woeful record on the bread and butter issue, we hope the $6.9 million will not be spent on the APC desperate re- election bid. Like in 2007 when the SLPP then finance minister, John Benjamin left for the newly elected APC government a cash balance of Le542 billion at the central bank and an external reserve of US$184 million plus the commercial banks having reasonable foreign exchange, we hope the APC government will not use all the cash at central bank and the external reserve plus the IMF’s $6.9 million to buy votes. Therefore, we also hope that President Koroma’s APC will leave some money in the coffers for the new SLPP government which will be headed by the younger and more dynamic President-in-waiting Rt. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and the development-oriented Vice President-in-waiting Dr Kadie Sesay both of whom will surely address the bread and butter issue of the ordinary people with the urgency it deserves as the APC economics has made the people HUNGRIER and POORER.
Like British PM, David Cameron told world leaders at the UN General Assembly this week “No-one of good conscience can turn a deaf ear to the voices of suffering“. Rt. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and Dr Kadie Sesay are people of good consciences so they would never turn deaf ears to the voices of six million suffering Sierra Leoneans.
By: Yusuf Keketoma Sandi B.A(Hons) LLB(Hons) London
SLPP UK Publicity and Media Committee
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