The calamity of an APC government stewardship of the Sierra Leone economy – post 2018 elections

John Mannah

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 July 2017

One of the prime reasons why citizens of democratic sovereign states enter into ‘social contract’ with their elected government, and entrust their sovereignty, individual liberty and freedom to the ruling political party is for that government to in turn promise to promote and protect their physical and economic well-being, property, as well as their civil rights and liberties.

Government, according to Locke, when elected into office should work hard to deliver on that promise; to promote the “public good,” thereby protecting property and encourage, and promote commerce.

In the circumstance where the government fails to deliver on these promises to fulfil their own side of the bargain and contract, the people have the right and liberty to vote them out of power and replace them with other actors and political parties.

This is exactly what the people of Sierra Leone did in 2007. They showed their dissatisfaction with the then SLPP government, by giving them the boot, and relegating them to the opposition.

The Sierra Leonean electorate elected the APC government in 2007, with the hope that the new face of the party, presented in the person of then opposition leader and current president Dr. (Honorary) Ernest Bai Koroma will be a better alternative to vice president Berewa who ran under the SLPP ticket to replace late president Tejan Kabba.

Nine years into his ten years term of office, he has proven to be the worst leader the country has ever elected into the presidency.

This article is the first in a series of articles that will highlight the failings of president Koroma and his APC party and government in managing the economy.

It is in support of the call made on Monday, 3rd of July 2017, by Dr. Kandeh Yumkella – for Sierra Leoneans of all backgrounds and persuasion to join him in the fight to take back our country Sierra Leone from the decadence, backwardness and antiquated policies of the Koroma government.

This decadence is the result of the twin forces of incompetence and corruption – driven by tribal and ethnic hegemony which underpin the actions of the APC government and party.

This article will start with the unconscionable and poor monetary policy that is contributing to the run-away inflation and weak purchasing power of the national currency – the Leone.

Let me remind my readers that when president Koroma took office in 2007, the Leone was exchanging for Le 3000 to one U.S. dollar. The current official exchange rate is Le 6000 to one dollar, and the Black-Market rate is Le620,000 and Le640,000.

Simply put, Sierra Leoneans need more Leones today to purchase goods and services than in 2007.

This is what economists call devaluation of the Leone; and this is set to continue at an astronomical rate, if urgent intervention is not put in place to stop it.

The whole conundrum started when president Koroma removed the then Central Bank Governor Dr. Rogers from office in violation of the constitutional mandate provided by the Sierra Leone constitution.

This is because the central bank controls monetary policy, and one of the key issues about Central Banking and Monetary policy is that the central bank controls money supply, and has responsibility for keeping the value of the currency stable, and stabilize the exchange rate.

This responsibility engenders a social contract between the people and the government. Therefore, when the government decrees a piece of paper by fiat as currency, the people accept it as money, and use it in carrying out their day to day activities. Economists call it “fiat money”.

The responsibility of the government in this contract, is to keep the value of the currency stable. If the government fails to carry out this responsibility, they must be removed from office as they have failed to keep their part of the social contract. This is the situation in Sierra Leone today.

It is one of the reasons why all modern economies ensure that the central bank has autonomy, that is, it is independent from the central government so that when the government is inflating the economy (printing money without the goods and services to support the currency), the central bank should stand up against it and get the government to change course.

In line with this thinking, the bank of Sierra Leone Act prohibits political control of the central bank, and thus, the governor should be independent of political control.

However, to continue controlling the central bank and its activities, president Koroma has side-lined competent technocrats to head the central bank. Instead he has appointed political loyalists even though they do not have the right qualifications and experience to head the bank.

Current developments in the Bank of Sierra Leone will buttress my point. Just last week, The Global Times Newspaper reported that Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh has been nominated to head the Bank of Sierra Leone as Governor.

Dr. Patrick Conteh (Photo) has his PhD in Management and Finance from Walden University, an online University in the United States. He is also accredited with FCCA and an MBA.

Dr. Conteh also has a controversial banking career, as he was removed or fired from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank as Deputy Managing Director for fraudulent reasons as reported by The Global Times Newspaper.

On the other side of this coin is the current Deputy Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ibrahim Stevens. Dr. Steven has his PhD and MA in Macroeconomics from Queen Mary University in London, after graduating with a B.Sc. Economics degree from Fourah Bay College University of Sierra Leone.

Dr. Ibrahim L. Stevens has been the Deputy Governor and Director at Bank of Sierra Leone since July 24, 2014. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the Bank of Sierra Leone.

According to the Bank of England website, Dr. Stevens (Photo) worked as Senior Economist in the Monetary Analysis area of the Bank of England. He was also an adviser at the Bank of England Center for Central Banking Studies.

He also provided policy relevant research and analysis to support the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England. He worked on quantitative easing and large-scale asset purchases at the Bank of England before returning to join the Bank of Sierra Leone a few years ago.

The question that comes to mind when one reviews the qualifications and work experiences of these two gentlemen is: If you were president of a country running an inflation rate of 16.50 percent and trending to 17.40 in 12 months, who will you appoint to head the institution that formulates Monetary Policy?

Any sane leader will appoint Dr. Ibrahim Stevens to handle such a challenging task because of his stellar qualifications, and work experience. However, Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh is the current nominee for the job.

The reason for this type of leadership is at best based on the incompetence of the leader, as well as political party affiliation. At worse, it is due to tribal reasons, as Dr. Patrick Saidu Conteh is Limba from Kamakwe and Dr. Ibrahim Stevens is Mende born and bred in Freetown.

As Dr. Yumkella rightly said in his speech on Monday, we need to “Put Sierra Leone first”, and move away from this type of primitive and parochial leadership that will take Sierra Leone to the bottom of the development index.

We must therefore continue to fight for a Sierra Leone that will respect the education and qualifications of hard working and competent Sierra Leoneans like Dr. Ibrahim Stevens, and speak up for them when their inalienable rights are trampled upon and violated in such a manner.

I must confess that I have a lot of respect for the hard work Dr. Conteh has put into his career and education to get to where he is now. I wish he had been appointed as head of the budgetary department of the ministry of finance or even minister of finance, as his dissertation is on the budgetary process in Sierra Leone.

Bank of Sierra Leone

The Central Bank Governorship is however not a good fit for him as I will bet my last dollar that Dr. Conteh will have problems understanding the inflation targeting models with their intricate and complex dynamic systems and stochastic models.

Based on the above analysis, I urge every progressive, honest and peace-loving Sierra Leonean to join forces with Dr. Kandeh Yumkella to remove this corrupt outfit and cankerworm from power through the ballot box in the 2018 presidential and parliamentary elections.

This naked tribalism and wilful neglect of competent Sierra Leoneans for far less qualified ones for sensitive positions like the Central Bank Governorship has no place in a modern state. We can do better.

A caveat is warranted here. I last saw Dr. Ibrahim Stevens in 1992 when I left Sierra Leone. I have not talked to him since then; neither have I communicated with him. He therefore has no role in putting this article together, and has not asked me to write this piece on his behalf.

I therefore express my profound apology to Dr. Stevens for putting him on the spot. However, it is incumbent that we stand up for hard working people such as Dr. Stevens, whose hard work and honest contributions to the development of our country is being marginalized and stepped, without due regard.

This must stop and we will work very hard to change it.

9 Comments

  1. I don’t understand why some people think that Dr. Kandeh Yumkella is being marginalized in our political process. He was allowed to contest for flag bearer for SLPP. He decided to suspend his candidacy. Was he suspended or expelled by the SLPP? No.

    If Yumkella does not want to return to the SLPP, then he has every right to join another political party in the country or form his own party. In a democratic political dispensation, citizens are not offered the presidency on a silver platter.

  2. NORTH/SOUTH RECRIMINATIONS.WHAT’S THE WAY FORWARD?

    When ever A.P.C. are in power the south/easterners accuse them of nepotism and ethnicism/tribalism. Likewise whenever S.L.P.P. take over,the northerners are up in arms with the same accusations. Those of us who are not quick-witted have trouble discerning the true nature of the game these two major parties are engaged in over the decades,which is to constantly fool everybody into allowing them to take turns in siphoning the nations’s wealth into their pockets and foreign bank accounts. They don’t even spare a little change to clean up the capital city of Freetown where most of them live.

    Sir Milton Margai shall always remain the leader who was a true unifier. During his leadership,all ethnic groups were represented in the Sierra Leone Peoples Party – a true people’s party. Being a charismatic and visionary leader,he ensured that power was evenly shared among the various ethnic groups – it was the glue which held the party and government together.

    The epitome of his vision came in his death bed when he urged the party to allow John Karefa-smart,a northerner, to succeed him should he pass on. As a trained medical doctor, he must have known that the chances of surviving his illness were extensively questionable.

    It was really his goodbye wish which,if followed,would have forestalled all the accusations and counter accusations which have been going the rounds essentially since 1964 between the two major parties. The overall retardation which it has visited on us is a whole subject matter by itself.

    The bright future of Sierra Leone,the Athens of West Africa,evidently went with Sir Milton. In the turmoil that followed his passing, Siaka Stevens emerged; he turned out to be an anathema, for under him our dear country lost its spark economically,educationally,socially etc,etc.

    In the middle of it all, Siaka Stevens shoved a one-party form of government down our throat,executing some of his opponents along the way.The army and all institutions became politicised. Hiring and promotions in almost the entire society were no longer done on merit-one had to be associated directly with the pressure group ‘EKUTAY’or A.P.C.

    When S.L.P.P. eventually emerged after the coup of 1992,they fell into the same phenomenon which had seen Sir Albert upstage John Karefa-smart in 1964 causing the break up of the party along tribal lines,with the crest being the label which the party has not been able to shake off in years, that it is a Mende Man Party.

    Now we have an opportunity to give ourselves a new beginning in which there will be no A.P.C. or S.L.P.P. who are one and the same. Grief is all they have visited on us.

    Let us give Kandeh Yumkella a chance whatever his short comings as a person are. Who is perfect anyway? By pushing S.L.P.P. and A.P.C. out,hiring based on this Mende,Limba, Temene,Loko,north/south etc thing won’t go away but it will be minimised. Only then can the country move forward,starting with the cleaning of smelly Freetown.

    It is not about PhD,it is about common sense

  3. “The two officials whose offices were padlocked on orders of Hon. Minister Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden are not Mendes”??

    Kooooo, Daarkay!! Thanks to the ministry official for correcting the mistake. I hope this is just a misunderstanding by Paul Thomas!!

  4. “In Sierra Leone today, the reality is that to be a Mende is a grave sin. Just ask Minister Sylvia Blyden whose dislike of Mendes is turning her into a senile dictator instead of the human champion she had portrayed herself to be few years ago.” Paul, your sense of what is reality is awful.

    You are way off the mark on this one, and there are many Mendes who will be shaking their heads in disgust at your comments.

    You must be living in cloud coo-coo land, not Sierra Leone, to write such nonsense about minister Dr Blyden, who is one of the most hardworking and diversity conscious ministers in the country. She is definitely not a tribalist and has never discriminated against the Mendes or any other tribe for that matter.

    I am not a fan of hers, and disagrees with many things she says and writes on her newspaper Awareness Times. But no one can accuse her of being anti-Mende.

    You should be ashamed of what you have written, after this robust response from a ministry official, setting the record straight. You got your facts wrong big time man and you ought to apologise.

    Next time you should check your facts before sending rubbish to any newspaper for publishing. Its people like you that can easily propagate hate against an individual by simply spreading rumours.

  5. THIS IS HATE SPEECH BY PAUL AGAINST HON. MINISTER DR. SYLVIA BLYDEN and it should be deleted as it is untrue and wicked.

    The two officials whose offices were padlocked on orders of Hon. Minister Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden are not Mendes.

    The two are both Northerners with strong APC roots who felt they were untouchables because they are APC. 

    The head of the HR Unit Mrs. Rebecca Saffa is a Limba woman from Bombali whose father Manika Conteh served as an ADC to President Siaka Stevens.

    Her deputy whose office was also padlocked is Mr. Osman S. Kamara, a Temne from Port Loko who also is from an APC family in Kaffu Bullom.

    Because the two of them are pure APC breeds, they were challenging the directives of the Honourable Minister thinking they can get away with it as the HRMO Boss Mr. A.R. Bayoh was encouraging insubordination by such APC civil servants.

    The honourable ministers drastic orders fitted perfectly for such drastic situations. By treating them so, they know their APCness of Bombali and Port Loko should not make them feel they are above the direction the Minister wants for her ministry.

    About the transfers, you are also mistaken. Right now the two provinces of North and North-West are led by two Mendes from the South who were transferred there by Hon. Blyden because they are competent to run those provinces. 

    Only one Mende was transferred from Eastern Province to the more productive Planning and Strategic Directorate. Why that person is refusing the transfer is surprising. What is in the East that makes it difficult for her to obey civil service rules and honour the legitimate transfer? The question must be asked.

    So everything you have written is just based on false grounds and a recipe for spreading HATE against Sylvia Blyden. This is very bad. Very very very bad.

    These are evidence of possible international crime based on Hate Speech. Very bad.

  6. John Mannah, you have just put fine grain sands in the poor Man’s (Dr. Stevens) food. In Sierra Leone, Ernest Koroma is seen as a god to his Supporters and all those who want to have their own share of the loot.

    So calling him out for doing the wrong thing is tantamount to a death wish. Unfortunately, the only victim here will be Dr. Stevens as you are far away in the USA.

    In Sierra Leone today, the reality is that to be a Mende is a grave sin. Just ask Minister Sylvia Blyden whose dislike of Mendes is turning her into a senile dictator instead of the human champion she had portrayed herself to be few years ago.

    If she is not chasing and padlocking the doors of senior Mende employees in her Ministry, she is busy transferring them from their post to less relevant post even though she is not the Head of the Human Resource management in the country or Permanent Secretary in her Ministry.

    Ironically, all of these anti-Mende bashings are taking place under the watchful eye of the selected vice president of Sierra Leone Mr Victor Foh who is also Mende or so he claims to be.

    Is it because Mr Foh is in a position that he does not merit or he was not elected to, and therefore can only maintain his position by putting up with the status quo?

    Do you see why we need an elected official and not an appointed officer for certain positions including the post of VP?

    • Paul,
      I can empathize with your concern for Dr. Stevens, as he is living in a difficult political environment that feeds on worshiping politicians and treat them like demi-gods. However, life is full of uncertainties, and challenges. It is therefore better for Dr. Stevens to accommodate some inconvenience now, because of the bitter truth I just revealed, rather than continue to be marginalized and work under people whose intellects are far below his for another 10 years of potential APC one party rule.

      This short-term inconvenience will create the environment for removal of the APC from power come 2018, and the opportunity cost is not as high as the alternative.

      Moreover, the battle that Dr. (Honorary) Ernest Koroma and his APC apologists have waged on competent law-abiding Sierra Leoneans is a battle we should not shy away from. For if we don’t stand up now and fight for Sierra Leone, we will not be around to fight the ensuing civil war that is going to engulf Sierra Leone soon

      To avert the pending calamity therefore, we must confront the current dismal situation with ideas, as the pen and word is mightier than the sword is the wise saying.

      So, Paul Dr. Steven will be okay, as it is for moments like this that he went all out to acquire a terminal degree. His education will take him through this difficult but necessary moment.

      There could also be another side to this story. We can assume that Dr. Ernest Koroma did not have all the required and pertinent information at his disposal when making the decision to appoint Dr. Patrick Conteh to the Bank Governorship position. Here is an opportunity to change course and appoint Dr. Patrick Conteh as deputy Bank Governor so that he can understudy Dr. Stevens, while Dr. Stevens take the mantle of running the Bank because he has expert knowledge in monetary policy.

      Once the appointments are approved by parliament, these two gentlemen can be given the free hand to run monetary policy to the point where inflation will be reduced to single digits.

      By reducing inflation to single digits in Sierra Leone, say to 9%, Sierra Leone would have satisfied one of the clusters to benefit from the Millennium Challenge Corporation sponsored by the United States.

      As according to the July 3rd, 2017 edition of the Awoko Newspaper, the Chief Executive Officer of the MCC Ndeye Fatu Koroma postulated that the Sierra Leone government stands a chance of qualifying for the forth coming November run of the MCC if they can improve their score from just six the last time to all 20 of the clusters countries are being graded on. This is another opportunity to fight inflation while at the same time going to bank with $300 million from the U.S.

      The question again is: Will Dr. Ernest Koroma seize the opportunity to do better for Sierra Leone? The answer is no! It is not in his best interest to improve on governance, the rule of law, fight inflation etc.

      As for the grief, the Mendes are going through in Sierra Leone, we cannot absolve them from the blame of the national rot and decay the country is going through, as they have been given two great opportunities at governing this country. They failed at both. One in 1967, and another in 1996.

      Maybe after all the anguish this time, the next time they gain the trust of the Sierra Leonean people, they will do better.

      This battle is however not about tribe this time around, but for the soul of Sierra Leone, and it is going to be won, whether president Dr. Koroma like it or not.

  7. Thank you so very much Mr. Mannah for bringing this to light; and I support you 100% in heaping pressure on the current administration to consider Dr. Stevens for such a job, given his outlined litany of qualifications.

    And I hope the authorities listen to your suggestions. Thank you.

  8. Interesting analysis, Mr. Mannah. The modus operandi of Ernest Koroma since he assumed power has been to surround himself with sycophantic tribesmen and regional bootlickers.

    As for Dr. Patrick Conteh, the only reason I could envision someone doing a doctorate online in the United States is his lack of qualification to apply to a traditional brick and mortar university.

    Christiana Thorpe, the former electoral commissioner also has a doctorate degree from a useless online university called St. Clements University. It’s a shame that these folks are referred to as Ph.Ds and are given jobs over real Ph.D holders. What a travesty in leadership that Dr. Ibrahim Stevens would be sidelined due to his ethnicity.

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