My thoughts – The Questions All Sierra Leoneans Must Answer
Has Sierra Leone Any Repayment Plans for Its Huge Debts from the World Bank and IMF?
If we lavish praises on the current APC Government for being able to take additional loans from the World Bank and the IMF, we are completely missing the point or setting a blind eye on the socio-economic and political failings that are pushing our various Governments to keep accumulating debts that we have not been able to take us out of abject poverty and the culture of begging from developed nations.
After the advent of independence, the country’s First Prime Minister, Sir Milton Margai received loans from both the IMF and the World Bank that ran into tens of millions of dollars that have never been repaid. His half brother, Sir Albert Margai who succeeded him in 1964 also took loans that doubled what his predecessor had taken. The debts taken by the two first leaders were never repaid.
Sad still, President Siaka Stevens who ruled the country for 17 years took more loans than than the two first leaders that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, and to make an already bad situation worse, President Stevens devalued our national currency, the Leone in 1979 as part of the IMF and World Band Conditionalities for the disbursement of further loans to the Government of Sierra Leone.
President Siaka Stevens considered hosting the OUA as a life time dream for his personal ego and ambition. So, he chose to mortgage his country’s economy and the welfare of his people just to make his dream come true.
Decades after the demise of President Stevens, our Government is still craving for more loans from the World Bank, the IMF, the Chinese and all other banks that are willing to lend out money on loan on any conditions. Today, Sierra Leone owes numerous debts to almost every international financial institution.
The questions that we as responsible citizens of Sierra Leone that want a stable and prosperous economy for our children and generations that will come after them are:
- Has the Government elaborated any repayment plans for these huge loans that run well over USD 5 billion?
- In which sectors of development have these loans been invested to make repayment possible?
If as the head of a family you take loans to settle some unforeseen emergencies, and you are not able to settle the initial problems for the first loan, and you are obliged to ask for further loans and you keep asking for more and more loans as your only coping mechanism, you are doomed with no hope of recovering. You face the risk of drowning into a river of debts.
It is an open secret that Sierra Leone is a bad debtor. The country has not refunded a single cent from its huge loans and has chosen to build the backbone of its economy on IMF and World Bank loans.
Though I am not a doomsayer and I wish the best for my country and its people, the fact goes without saying that our past and present Governments have created a vicious cycle of poverty and misery even for the unborn generations that will inherit an avalanche of debts they will have to manage.
We have mortgaged the happiness of generations that will come after us through years of bad governance, endemic corruption, greed, stone age tribal and partisan politics, among other numerous evil practices.
If we want to change the situation in our country, the Government through an Act of Parliament, can ban the taking of further loans and adopt a resolution for the acceptance of technical aid in the forms of machines, equipment and training of personnel for sustainable development.
Sierra Leone urgently needs technical cooperation in the sectors of agriculture, education, construction, health, water and electricity. Why do we continue to import rice instead of importing the technology that has allowed countries like China, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, among others, to yield high productions that enable them to export rice to other countries?
Why do we have to import the Chinese to construct our roads instead of trying to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills needed so that we can rely on ourselves? Relying on others is the greatest form of poverty. Our situation is so desperate that, we beg the Chinese to even rehabilitate and repaint the Youyi Building and the national stadium they constructed for us on loan. What a nation of dependency and begging.
We do not need to be begging for fish everyday. What we need is for us to be taught how to fish so that we can no longer depend on others for our daily fish consumption.
I want honest opinions from my fellow citizens: Has the Government of Sierra Leone elaborated any repayment plans for all the loans we have been taking since independence?
Has the economy not been worsening with all these numerous debts to the point that the Government adopted austerity measures last year that have still not been lifted? Is the Government not still struggling to pay starvation allowances that we have decided to style as salaries? Are workers not going for months without their salaries? Are our diplomatic missions and staff not the poorest in the world? Some even go for months without getting their salaries.
Some of our leaders do justify the abysmal state in which we find ourselves by saying the government cannot do business to explain why we have failed in every human endeavour. Kenya Airways is owned by the Government of Kenya, just like Ethiopean Airways. The Rwandan Government now operates 16 aircraft while the Government of Qatar has taken over the airwaves with 150 planes flying across the globe.
Our Government does not own a flying object. Tiny Gambia has a presidential jet in which the president travels across the globe with Gambia captains and crew. Our President travels on chattered flights. Our air force and navy exist only in name. Corruption has destroyed every sector of development. We are fortunate not have rogue neighbors. They could easily annex our country and exercise political rule over us.
Sierra Leone is the weakest link of the MRU states. Guinea single handedly dealt with the combine forces of Sierra Leonean and Liberian rebels without asking for any international military assistance. The Sierra Leone Army had only its teeth to fight apart from stone age “chakabulas.”
We cannot even manage ordinary public buses and we used to beg Col. Khadafy to send us buses for free, and when this could no longer happen after his demise, we turned to the Chinese to take a bad loan for which the government has for repayment plans. Most of the buses are now parked in garages for want of spares and repairs.
‘Salone man too tiff.’ Today, our only hope is to flee to The Gambia for those who can’t make it to Europe or to the States. The most vulnerable groups prefer to go into slavery in Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries. What a nation.
By Idrissa Conteh (Atomic Pen)
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