Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 November 2017
Julius Maada Bio – the presidential candidate for the opposition SLPP party delivered a policy speech at the Radisson Blue Mammy Yoko Hotel in Freetown yesterday, 18 November 2017, about his vision for Sierra Leone, which as in his 2012 campaign for the presidency has once again referred to as ‘The New Direction’.
His policy speech focused on the areas of governance which he believes his SLPP party will take forward if elected in 2018. The Sierra Leone Telegraph is serializing Maada Bio’s speech in four parts. This is Part Two of Bio’s 27 pages Policy Paper, which has set the tone and tenor for a big national political debate on the things that matter most to the people of Sierra Leone:
Improving the Management of Mineral and Petroleum Resources
Managing of our mineral and petroleum resources for the benefit of the nation constitutes one of our development challenges. Mining transactions are not transparent. The agreements for mineral exploration and production are at times inconsistent with the laid down laws and policies.
To date, the public does not know how much was raised from sale of oil blocks and how the resources were used. Reporting of revenues and other contributions from the mining companies has come under scrutiny by the public. Environmental Impact Assessment (EPA) and Resettlement Plans for displaced persons have not been enforced, and our people in mined-out areas continue to wallow in poverty. Overall, corruption has plagued the sector.
Reports on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiatives (EITI) indicate that the government could not account for a significant amount of revenue from the mining sector.
In the New Direction, the next SLPP administration shall improve on the management in the sector. In particular, some key policy measures will include (i) reviewing the Mines and Minerals Act as well as mining agreements in accordance with international best practices and with a view to attracting investment and increasing national and community benefits (ii) reviewing the relevant law to allow for the establishment of a natural resources account for all revenue generated from extractives (iii) ensuring full transparency in the sector through complying with the EITI standards, make all contracts public, and provide updated and validated information on tax and other contributions from the mining sector to the government (iv) put in place policies and mechanisms to support value additions to our mineral resources with a view to generating jobs and additional income to Sierra Leoneans (v) enforcing the implementation of acceptable environmental mitigation and resettlement plans and programmes by mining operations
Although, the sector is important and large, it is y characterised by small scale subsistence farming. The sector faces challenges that continue to limit food production and the achievement of food self-sufficiency. Sierra Leone continues to be a net importer of rice. Recent estimate put total import of rice at US$150 million out of US$540 million representing 27.7% of total import bills.
According to the 2015 Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis study conducted by World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 49.8% of households were food insecure in 2015 compared to 45% in 2010. That is, they consume limited or insufficient food to maintain a healthy and active life.
The major problems in the agricultural sector and the fight against hunger include the absence of a robust food security policy, limited access to finance to enable farmers acquire farm inputs such as improved seeds and technology, poor management of agricultural land, limited value addition to farm products, poor roads, limited market information, limited capacity, inadequate research, low investment in agriculture and recently, the use of land for biofuel instead of food production.
In the New Direction, the overall goal of our agricultural policy is sustainable production of food, including crops and animals on a scale sufficient enough to feed the growing population as well as providing gainful employment while maintaining the natural resource base. Specifically, in the New Direction, the SLPP Government will (i) increase local and foreign investment for both food and cash crop production as well as increase in livestock production (ii) improve on land and forest management (iii) improve governance in agriculture and promoting research (iv) developing critical infrastructure needed to boost agriculture
Improving on the Management of Marine Resources
Sierra Leone’s fisheries are worth over 100 million dollars annually. It provides direct employment to some 200,000 persons and indirect employment to some 600,000 persons (almost 10 percent of the population) along coastlines in Freetown, Kambia, Port Loko, Moyamba and Pujehun.
Some major challenges in the sector are illegal fishing by foreign trawlers estimated at U$29m each year, absence of critical infrastructure such as fishing harbor ad standard bureau that would improve on standards compatible with European requirement, poor governance and leadership in the sector and corruption.
The overall policy objective of the fishery sector is to create a profitable fisheries sector contributing significantly to socio-economic development through sustainable management and utilization of fisheries resources while conserving the environment. To this end, the SLPP government will focus on (i) promoting good governance in the sector (ii) reducing illegal fishing (iii) improved handling of fish and fisheries products (v) improving on marine infrastructure including establishing fish harbor, landing sites and cold chains as well as standard laboratory services
Sierra Leone is endowed with rich natural features conducive for tourism. Some of these include over 350 km of unused white sand beaches. It has 18 national heritage sites linked to Sierra Leone’s rich past in the slave trade and as home for returning slaves. Location wise, Sierra Leone is only 3 hours to Nigeria, Africa’s most populous city, 8 hours from the US and 6 hours from Europe.
Sierra Leone has 31 protected areas with unique wildlife including pygmy hypos, chimpanzees, jungle elephants and different species of birds. The gains made to develop the tourism industry were all erased during the rebel war. Despite the fact that the war ended in 2002, the country is yet to recover to the pre-war level.
The critical challenges in the sector include poor infrastructure and public services, perception of Sierra Leone as a conflict zone and disease-prone area, poor and expensive accommodation facilities and the lack of political will to develop the tourism sector.
In the New Direction, the next SLPP Government will (i) review and upgrade all tourism related laws, regulations and policies to ensure ongoing consistency with global best practices (ii) develop a Master Plan for the Tourism Sector (iii) rehabilitate historical and cultural sites geared towards domestic and international tourist and business travelers (iv) develop the capacity of actors involved in the management of tourism (v) develop tourist resorts and infrastructure
Developing the Private Sector
A vibrant private sector is critical to economic growth, income generation, employment and ultimately poverty reduction. A competitive, fast growing and liberal economy led by the private sector is envisaged. The private sector can substantially assist in building the capacity and capability of Sierra Leoneans.
Overall, the Sierra Leonean private sector is characterised by foreign dominance, high cost and risk of doing business, limited access to finance, poor infrastructure, weak legal and regulatory frameworks, poor macroeconomic environment and corruption.
The problematic factors for doing business identified by the Global Competitiveness Report are accessing financing, corruption, inadequate supply of infrastructure, inflation, tax rates and foreign currency regulations, crime and theft, poor work ethic in national labour force, inadequately educated labour force, poor public health, inefficient government bureaucracy, insufficient capacity to innovate, policy instability, tax regulations, restrictive labour regulations and government instability.
Evidence from both the World Bank Doing Business Report and the Global Competitiveness Report, Sierra Leone is relatively uncompetitive. According to World Bank Doing Business Report, Sierra Leone dropped in ranking for ease of doing business from 140 out of 185 in 2012 to 145 out of 190 in 2016 and further to 148 out of 190 in 2017.
The Global Competitiveness Report ranked Sierra Leone 133 out of 134 countries surveyed in 2012. Its ranking did not change substantially. It was ranked 132 out of 138 countries surveyed.
In the New Direction, the SLPP policies and actions in the private sector will include (i) increasing access to finance (ii) reducing the cost and risk of doing business through establishment of one-stop-shop for all business registration, among others (ii) promoting local entrepreneurship (iii) capacity building and (iv) developing the Infrastructure
Human Development – Education
Investing in quality education – primary, secondary, and post-secondary (including technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and university) will help turn Sierra Leone’s natural and mineral resources into sustainable development. Education helps lift people out of poverty, and creates vast new opportunities to reduce unfair income distribution and increase choices. It creates awareness and helps to sustain democracy and peace.
Overall, only 2 out every 5 adult Sierra Leonean can read or write English. Access to education is low and quality is poor. Only 13.7% of children between 3 and 5 years are enrolled in pre-primary level. According to the Annual School Census 2016, gross enrolment at the primary level is 130.2%. This indicates that 30.2% of children in primary school are over aged (exceed 11 years old). At the Junior Secondary School, gross enrolment is 65.5% meaning 34.5% of children between 12 and 14 years do not attend school.
At the secondary school, it was 29.5% meaning 70.5% of children between 15 and 18 are not enrolled in secondary school. Most of the children who are enrolled at the various levels do not complete the required years of schooling. About a quarter of children who enroll in primary school do not attain Class 6 while 35.5% that enroll in Junior Secondary School (JSS) do not attain JSS 3 and 27.6% of those who enroll in Senior Secondary School (SSS) do not attain SSS 3. School performance at public examinations have not been impressive.
This poor performance in the sector can be ascribed to the low priority accorded by this Government sector as reflected in the low budgetary allocation and disbursement. In 2016, only 16.1% of total budget was allocated to education which was less than the Education for All (EFA) target of 20%. Due to the economic challenges, actual disbursements are usually less than the allocated amounts.
This low budgetary allocation and disbursement are manifested in the forms of poor infrastructure including physical facilities and furniture, limited learning and teaching materials, poor school management and supervision, low morale and productivity of teachers, limited focus on early childhood education and limited number of qualified teachers.
There are limited number of qualified teachers at all levels. Only 55% of teachers at pre-school level, 42% at primary level, 35% at JSS level and 49% at SSS level are qualified to teach. Number of pupils for any qualified teacher varied from 35 at JSS level, 44 at SSS, 48 at pre-primary and 69 at the primary level.
Perhaps the most appalling situation of our educational system is the almost total neglect for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET). Government is yet to finalise the National TVET Policy and there is no clarity on which institution actually leads TVET in the country. The curriculum for TVET is not standardised and the National Council for Technical Vocational and other Academic Awards (NCTVA) is faced with serious challenges notably funding, irregularity in the conduct of examinations and the poor perception by students.
The few Government funded TVET institutions are very few and restricted to provincial capitals. Most districts lack permanent institutions pursing TVET programmes. In the few instances, TVET is provided by private sectors and short-term vocational training by NGOs.
University education is in dire strait. It is characterised by poor condition of service for lecturers leading to frequent strikes, inadequate and poor infrastructure, inadequate facilities for research, unproductive structural organisations, accountability and increasing politicisation of employment, promotion, recruitment and provision of grants to students.
The change in the education system from 6-3-3-4 to 6-3-4-4 is challenging. The existing classroom blocks and teachers are inadequate to meet the needs for pupils for additional year of schooling. The 6-3-4-4 has negatively impacted on teenage pregnancy and school drop-outs among girls who consider the number of years of schooling to be too much.
The current educational system remains unsuitable to the development demands of the country in the 21st century. The current education system continues to produce more and more graduates who are unemployed, cannot find relevant jobs, not able to integrate themselves into the labour market and the emerging knowledge-based economy.
Sierra Leone needs a new education model that priorities free education from primary to senior secondary school levels, science and technology education, skills training and development and social enterprise.
The primary objective of the new direction is to increase Sierra Leoneans access to quality pre-primary, primary, secondary, technical and vocational education and training as well as university education that will enable them engage in meaningful productive economic activity. The focus will be on education financing, human resource management, teaching, school management and supervision, TVET and university education.
Accordingly, in the New Direction, the SLPP will abandon the 6-3-4-4 and revert to the 6-3-3-4 system of education with focus on improving learning and teaching and providing for those who cannot pursue university education. Specifically, our policies will focus on
Education Financing and Management
Specific policy action shall include (i) increasing budgetary allocation to the sector (ii) improving coordination and management of resources and (iii) a new policy and legal framework to attract additional donor and private sector investment in education
Increasing the number of Qualified Teachers
In the New Direction, the SLPP will raise the morale and productivity of our teachers. To this end, a Presidential Initiative for teachers will be launched. The Initiative will ensure that matters relating to teachers are treated with utmost importance. Specific actions shall include (i) reviewing and implementing the laws and policies for teacher recruitment, promotions, postings and transfers (ii) putting in place a new incentive scheme for teachers (iii) training
Increasing Access to Quality Education
In the New Direction, some of the specific policies and programmes geared towards increasing access of Sierra Leoneans to education will include (i) promoting Early Childhood Education and Care (ii) introducing free quality education from pre-school to senior secondary school (iii) introducing free university for students pursuing science and technology courses as well medical disciplines (iv) provide sponsorship to students to access higher education through the effective management of the Grants-in-Aid policy and introduce Students Loan Scheme (v) promoting Inclusive Education through improving facilities and free education for the physically challenged (vi) establishing High Schools of Excellence for Science and Technology education in all four (4) regions (vii) commence a national literacy programme that would provide functional education to adults who cannot read or write
Technical and Vocational Education
Some of the specific policy actions shall include (i) establishing in every district capital a modern polytechnic that will be fully equipped with modern tools and equipment for technical and vocational training in areas with high potential for job creation (ii) establishing technical and vocational centres in all chiefdoms that would provide training in areas relevant for the rural sector such as hand-pump repairs, bicycle, motorcycle (okada) and vehicle repairs, fabrication and maintenance of agricultural tools and equipment (iii) reviewing and standardising the curriculum and certification for TVET for government and private service providers (iv) developing a national apprenticeship scheme which will provide internship for trainees of TVET institutes and at the same time provide direct training to youth
In part three, the Sierra Leone Telegraph will publish Maada Bio’s views on: Higher Education; Education Governance; Health; Health Financing; Human Resource Management; Disease Prevention, Control and Surveillance; Service Delivery; and Health Governance.