Is the President (“the Pa”) really working as his supporters would like to have us believe?

Yusuf Keketoma Sandi

18 April 2012

In a country where the recent 2012 US Embassy statement on ‘Sierra Leone Investment Climate’ estimates that over 72 percent of the country’s population live on less than $1 per day – and in extreme poverty, you can laugh your head off whenever you hear APC government supporters shout: “Di Pa Dae Wok”(The President is working).

What is obvious is that while the APC government apologists keep singing “Di Pa Dae Wok”, ordinary families up and down the country – continue to struggle at the mercy of economic hardship.

Therefore, to evaluate how seriously ordinary people have been suffering – for almost five years under President Koroma’s APC, I sent two of my researchers in Freetown to find out the prices of the basic commodities, which really matter to ordinary people.

In this report, I have compared the current market prices to what they were in September 2007 – when the last SLPP government handed over power to President Koroma.

During the 2007 elections, the opposition APC exploited the high cost of living to their political advantage, by promising anxious voters that: reducing the prices of basic commodities will be their first priority if they won the elections.

In fact, in several interviews, Victor Foh – the APC Secretary General, boasted that an APC government will establish a “bread and butter economy”, and that the SLPP government had failed the people of Sierra Leone.

We also remember APC’s famous campaign song by a local musician, titled: “ejectment Notice”, which the opposition APC used for their campaigning message, meaning that;  the SLPP government should be given an “ejectment Notice” because the price of a 50kg bag of rice was being sold at Le60,000.

Even our President could not withstand the temptation of playing politics with the high cost of living.

In his 2007 manifesto, President Koroma stated that the topmost economic objective of his APC government would be, “to revive the economy and improve the standard of living of every Sierra Leone – in line with an APC Agenda for Change and the Millennium Development Goals”.

In that same APC manifesto, the President promised to achieve “fiscal discipline and financial prudence to achieve low inflation, low interest rate – resulting in long term economic stability”.

But after almost five years in power, our suffering people would like to get ANSWERS to the following QUESTIONS: What has happened to the improved standard of living that was promised?

What happened to the fiscal discipline and financial prudence that was promised?

President Koroma campaigned for the people to give the SLPP government an “ejectment notice” because a bag of rice was being sold at Le 60,000.

So why should they not give the APC government an “eviction Notice” from State House on 17th November – since the same 50kg bag of rice is now sold at Le 180,000?

According to a recent BBC TV report of a visit to Kroo Bay, by the renowned British Celebrity – John Bishop, who has been working very hard to raise charity funds for the BBC Sport Relief 2012, there were about 10,900 people living in Kroo Bay – with only 18 toilets for those people.

Shockingly, this is equivalent to one toilet for every 605 people living in Kroo Bay.

If President Koroma’s APC was really serious about improving the standard of living of ordinary people, why did they have to spend more than $ 5 million purchasing arms and ammunition in preparation for the forthcoming elections?

Just a fraction of that amount could have been spent on construction of toilet facilities for a community like Kroo Bay.

On the burning issue of fiscal discipline and financial prudence, promised by president Koroma, we still remember that in 2007 John Benjamin (then Minister of finance) rightly confirmed that the SLPP left Le 542 billion in the government coffers for the APC government – a claim which has now been grudgingly confirmed by the present APC minister of finance, Dr. Samura Kamara.

However, in 2012, for a government that would like to regard itself to be ‘fiscally disciplined and financially prudent’, it has run out of cash – not even a penny to pay government workers.

Our country’s debt liability stands far higher than when SLPP left in 2007; our inflation rate is in record double digits; our budget deficit is at a record high and the value of our currency has been declining since APC came to power.

In fact, the APC government has wasted so much money through unnecessary expenditure, that even the IMF Mission’s recent visit to Sierra Leone could not hide their frustration with the APC government.

The IMF told president Koroma that; “….it was important to CONSTRAIN non-priority expenditure in the remainder of 2012 and to enhance expenditure and cash flow management”.

But, ah yah, the APC apologists would still say ‘Di Pa Dae Wok’.

A table of retail prices of basic commodities as they were in September 2007 is compared to April 2012, so that people can make up their own minds whether  “Yesterday Betteh Pass Tiday” (Yesterday was better than today). 

From the table below, it is clear that Mr. Aruna, who lives with his wife and one child, but earns a monthly income of Le150,000, in 2007 would have been able to buy a bag of rice at Le60,000 and still have enough for different soups – plus other family needs.

Today – 2012, Mr. Aruna would not be able to buy even a bag of rice, which is being sold at Le 180,000 – let alone have money for soups or other family needs.

Also, a single mother, Fatmata, with three children used to go to the market with Le7,000 to prepare a decent meal for her family in 2007, will now in 2012 need more than Le15,000 to cook the same meal.

Sadly, in 2007, Mohamed, a young mechanic used to take Le 2,000 to a cookery shop or restaurant to have a decent meal – even with extra meats. In 2012 the same Mohammed will need at least Le 5,000 to buy that same plate of meal.

But, ah yah, the APC apologists would still say “Di Pa Dae Wok”.

Yet, despite this appalling standard of living, the APC’s spending spree and the alarmingly high costs of living – one of the highest in West Africa, President Koroma’s praise singers will still look those suffering people in the eyes and tell them: “Di Pa Dae Wok”.

But at least now the SLPP will respond “Di Pa Dae Wok – But Di Mami Nor Dae Cook –  En Di Pikin Den Nor Dae Eat”.

Take a look at these prices:

 COMPARATIVE RETAIL MARKET PRICES OF ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES:
NO.                   ITEMS SEPTEMBER 2007     (Leone) APRIL 2012 (Leone)
1. RICE (one butter cup)         300     1,000
2. RICE (50kg bag)        60,000    180,000
3. VEGETABLE OIL (one pint)        1,200     2,500
4. VEGETABLE OIL (one batta)       70,000     135,000
5. PALM OIL (one pint)         800        2,000
6. PALM OIL (one batta)       60,000       120,000
7. MEAT (one pound)        6,000       12,000
8. FISH (kinny, Medium size)         2,000        5,000
9 SUGAR (one butter cup)        500        1,500
10 SALT (one butter cup)        300        500
11. CASSAVA LEAF (one tie)        300        1,000
12. JUMBO MAGGIE (one cube)        100          500
13. ONION        200        1,000
14. KEROSENE (one gallon)        12,500        18,000
15. SOFT DRINK        1,000  (coke)2000 (vimto)2,500
16. STAR BEER        1,500        3,000
17. GUINESS STOUT         2,500        5,000
18. TAXI (one way)         500        1,000
19. PODA PODA (one way)         500        1,000
20. EXERCISE BOOK (80 pages)         500        1,000

 

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