Sierra Leoneans are desirous of a country built on real needs – not the dictate of outsiders

Raymond Dele Awoonor-Gordon

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 August 2016

Poverty in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

When national discourse deliberately uses soft words to hide hard crimes or impunity, then you know that as a society, you are up the proverbial creek with no paddle.

This is what manifests as corruption and the evolution of a country of hustlers per excellence.

Right now, our politics is constitutionally immoral and unbelievably depressing, simply because some of the utterances emanating from our leaders and supposed guardians of our moral values and the sentries of social justice, only confirm that what we have in place is indeed a leadership of the most unprincipled and the very worst among us.

Little wonder that despite their insistence and efforts to make us believe that all is sweetness and light, even in the darkest recess of our current realities, not much positivity has emerged from the dead man’s footsteps that we have been trailing.

Instead, it is now pitiably borne out that, like history shows, most leaders don’t get it until it is too late.

Reading the finance minister’s emphatic declaration that the much-maligned Mamamah airport project will definitely go ahead, irrespective of the feelings of the majority of the people of Sierra Leone, I realised that our current delinquent pipe and slippers political leadership are unwavering in the determination to napalm the future of our nation.

Finance Minister Kargbo and J B Sesay

No fable writer could have invented the men and women who waste their country’s time and resources on such farcical thinking, and who prefer to jump in bed with negative forces that are hell bent on feeding on the carcass of a famished nation, so long as their bank balances swell beyond the everlasting needs of any sane human being. (Photo: Finance minister Kargbo – right, talking about the new airport project).  

In their ignorance, they forget to appreciate the fact that if wealth is the secret to happiness, then kids of the rich should be dancing on the streets. But only the kids of the poor do that.

Blindly driven by insatiable lust for personal gains, and of course, the grinding wheels of the submissive and ignorant majority, their obvious failure of judgment and crass display of selfish greed and vanity in the midst of national calamities and widespread opposition, is an indication that they care less about whether the people are hungry, or about the several areas of our lives that are not fit for purpose.

poverty in salone slumsIf in the midst of inexcusable social inequality and the pervasive poverty level, the irredeemably corrupt, conscienceless, kleptomanic ruling elites believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people, then the only way forward is for the Almighty God to wipe the slate of Sierra Leone clean, so he can start afresh to create the honest and innovative human beings that a good country needs.

It confirms that whether it’s APC or SLPP, it’s you and me who can change our beloved nation by changing ourselves.

It leaves the nation’s future where it belongs – in our very hands. It is to the progressive and radical elements whose number is rapidly increasing, that the tomorrow of our illustrious country belongs.

My God! Where are the big personalities with the balls to effectively check the worst excesses of those in power? Where are those who usually fill the gaping holes of our disastrous politics and governance?

It is clear that the lack of real depth or consistent philosophical or strategic ideological underpinning to deliveries have been exposed.

President koroma and victor foh at APC conference 30 april 2015The current batch of leadership cannot even clean a dusty carpet at the moment; talk less of being able to clean the socio-economic mess that its action and inaction have created; which is why it believes that an airport is better in the long term than a bridge; even if the people say that is what they want.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong in arranging and rearranging the fire wood to let the flame flare. But poking the fire unnecessarily, invariably kills the flame.

So far, rather than quickly dousing the ignitable flames of the national embarrassment they have caused, our leaders have proceeded to walk in dead man’s footstep.

Our society which I initially thought had a small flame flickering in the global economic breeze that can hopefully grow into a blazing inferno, now feels like something verging on pity when I survey the ruin that is now Sierra Leone.

It reminds me that there was a country indeed in my youth. That country died in my adulthood.

Most nations suffer simply from mismanagement. In our case, we couple that to mindless stealing and corruption. And every passing day, makes it look like we have passed the point of no return in our breakneck advance to the deepest depths of impunity and mediocrity that humanity has ever seen.

Then, when I hear the underlying howl of pain in the chorus of the ‘Hebrew slaves’ that have become the standard feature of our society, I realise that I am as guilty as all of us to have let this happen.

All the sectors are falling apart… religious, education, health, political, security, etc. I can go on and on. Yet, I feel we all have become powerless and thoughtless; our country is gone because we all are not speaking out in unison.

APC gone communist4Like me, there are many who are beginning to despair about the future of our great country.

All they can see is a country, a people and a leadership that no longer question its values, nor weigh them against the realities of today and our tomorrow. (Photo: Vice president Foh).

We keep pretending that this Hustlers’ Paradise is actually a managed society, even when it has been revealed that all that has happened, especially following the promises of the last eight years is to enter the race, even though we are unable to keep the pace.

I guess that’s what you get when faith becomes the centre of your strategy in anything, rather than a determination and belief, on top of hard work.

Even God knows when to dodge a problem like Sierra Leone, because of our penchant for hypocrisy.

Because of our poverty-mentality, our insensitivity, our tribalism, our religious fanaticism, loss of identity, fear, greed and lack, we have sat down and accepted an Olympian display of management ineptitude, ignorance of any iota of to think strategically, and complete callousness as well as blatant disregard for us – the very people of Sierra Leone in general and to the plight of the majority in particular.

The brutal ideology clash between the leaders and the ‘led’ is a testimony to what is essentially a depressing and grotesque set of values, that is painfully struggling to accentuate national aspirations.

When we look at the summary measures for assessing long-term progress in the three basic dimensions of human development, there is nothing to write home about.

Poverty in saloneCurrent Sierra Leone’s HDI value is 0.413— which puts the country in the low human development category—positioning it at 181 out of 188 countries and territories, while the most recent survey data that were publicly available for Multidimensional Poverty Index estimation, indicates that 77.5 percent are multidimensionally poor, while an additional 14.6 percent live near multidimensional poverty.

The breadth of deprivation (intensity) in Sierra Leone, which is the average of deprivation scores experienced by people in multidimensional poverty, is 53.0 percent.

The three key areas of long-term healthy life, access to knowledge and decent standard of living, paint a parlous picture of pure deprivation of the long-suffering masses.

That’s our news – one and a half decade into the 21st century, and eight long years into the promised journey to change and prosperity.

The statistics are simply scary. Yet, we have become a people who wallow in the scandal that we have become. Like a television audience of a reality show, our failures and mistakes have become the butt of our amusement, even when they impede our progress.

Sierra Leone diamondSierra Leone is now a country of many ironies. But perhaps the crudest one of the very many problems we’ve accepted over time is that of impunity, which seeps in the manner of an anesthetic, dripping slowly into the very sinew of our society.

While it has left all forms of joy absent from our canon of emotions for so long, it has left us unconcerned, excited and confused in the same breath.

All we do is to sit back and enjoy the numerous tales of our national shame – corruption, impunity and dishonour.

The leaders and the followers have become so detached from each other, that neither side stops to question the correlation between our collective acts of omission and commission, and our current socio-political and economic predicament.

We are each guilty and ineffectual as much as the leaders who rub our noses in the penchant of their outstanding incompetence and disregard; as well as the willful obscurity of a plan for true progress.

We cannot keep throwing money into infrastructure development with nothing to show for it – no matter how golden the intentions of the current government.

Where is the economic logic in building a new airport, whose very thought to many, is at variance with those caught up in the deep class and social divide, and who are at the brunt of the hellish hole that we now find ourselves?

Surely, the aspiration should be to provide a plausible and sensible road map to moving faster to breach the gap in a way that makes public infrastructure formidable enough to bear the weight of the dreams of millions of Sierra Leoneans, and not the desires of a minute few and a legion of foreign hawks.

parliament sierra leone2The truth is that for Sierra Leone to truly move forward, those in power should realise that they need to display an epitome of a determination to chisel out a mark that will never fade; as well as possess the huge incisors of a big beast of the jungle, that will show the leadership intent to regain Sierra Leone’s lost glory.

A child on a farm sees a plane fly overhead and dreams of flying. But the pilot on the plane sees the farmhouse and dreams of returning home.

Sierra Leoneans are desirous of having a country that is built on their needs and not the dictate of outsiders.

My prayer is for the leadership of our country to invest serious efforts in making our country united with happy and contented citizens.

Right now, nothing is working well for most Sierra Leoneans who lack the good things of life and even the basic necessities. Why should things that benefit a few take priority over that which the majority would be the happier?

Let those in power realise that nothing lasts forever.

8 Comments

  1. Mr. Lansana Bambay Kamara,

    While I do appreciate your last statement that: “We must be positive to gain the Goodness of God and elevate Sierra Leone.” However, I don’t understand your logical reasoning in mentioning a mishap, ‘Sierra Leone moves one place up the human development index but inequality and multidimensional poverty still very high, published Jul 25, 2014,’ that took place over two years ago as if recently or today. Are you kidding me or what?

    Below is what I just found out on the construction of the Mamamah Airport in Sierra Leone:

    “Mamamah Airport is an airport development project which will serve the city of Mamamah, Sierra Leone. In Aug-2013, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Transport and Aviation stated the construction of the new airport at Mamamah Mile 38 will commence soon along with a sea port in Sulima. In Oct-2011, China agreed in principle to ‘partially’ finance the construction of a new airport for Sierra Leone through ‘a loan from ExIm Bank;’ the other ‘contributor is the Government of Sierra Leone,’ according to a 2011-2015 budget annex. The government of Sierra Leone said that ‘USD190 million would be needed to complete the project.’ The airport will be located in Mamamah, a small town on the outskirts of the capital and will be accompanied by infrastructure for an “airport city” that overall ‘will take four years to complete.’ China International Railway Group was officially awarded the contract in 2012.”

    See “Profile on Mamamah Airport | CAPA – Centre for Aviation” to confirm this piece of information.

    If the project will take “four” years to complete, then when is it going to begin in the first place? End in what year? 2020? Or beyond that? Certainly, its completion will NOT be under the Leadership of President Ernest Koroma. NO WAY!

    Mr. President, I ask that you abort this aviation project proposal and be at peace with yourself and countrymen. Amen.

    Additionally, did the GoSL do any feasibility study on the construction of the Mamamah Airport? If yes, then please provide us the readers with the report.

    Lastly, here is the ONE line or sentence that President Ernest Koroma made on Mamamah Airport with the headline “SPEECH BY H.E. DR. ERNEST BAI KOROMA PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE AT THE STATE OPENING OF PARLIAMENT 11 DECEMBER 2015,” published on Global Times under ‘Transport’ on Saturday, December 12, 2015, by Amadu Daramy.

    “At the same time, my government will continue to engage the contractors for the new Airport at Mamamah and development partners to agree on a viable way forward for this flagship project of our administration.”

    Is President Ernest Koroma really a serious human being? I don’t think so. Thiefy thiefy janko liko. Shame on him! Please let me know your thought on this and go on from there.

  2. A well written article that said it like it is. What another setback and wasted eight years of the Koroma Administration full of the same old, same old corrupt political leaders that Africa is notoriously known for. They started out like a beacon of hope. But recent developments have shown how they have evolved into a gigantic national wrecking ball of destruction.

    We must try to stop them civilly and in no way violently, before they wreck further damage to the country that will take many, many years to rebuild.

    Victor Foh was with Siaka Stevens. Those who know what that means know what am talking about. Now he is part of the present administration. It is a disaster that needs to be avoided.

  3. Thanks to Dr Raymond for your inspirational article as stated above. You are what I called the socio-economic Jeremiah of Sierra Leone – as Jeremiah the prophet was in the nation of Israel in the old testament. There are two books written by Jeremiah the prophet in the old Testament: One bearing his name Jeremiah, and the other Lamentation.

    Jeremiah is called the weeping prophet by Biblical scholars because of his utterances about the spiritual decay among his people of the nation of Israel at that time, that has cause the moral, socio-economic, political and military decay and defeat of the people of Israel that resulted in them being arm-bushed and captured by their enemies and taken as prisoners and slaves to a foreign country whose culture, beliefs and religion were different to theirs.

    In Sierra Leone what are we seeing now is not military invasion but foreigners who are exploiting our resources and dictating their own mandate and authority to us with our leaders concurring and supported them just for their selfish financial ends.

    It is a shame reading the interview with the Minister of Finance, stating that the economy was growing at a rate of 21% before the Ebola crisis and declined rapidly during the Ebola crisis.

    Mr Minister in your economic growth calculations your focus was purely on the iron ore mining activity that was going on; and if you include the other mining activities such diamonds, gold, rutile, etc; agriculture, and the other service industries that are inputted into the calculation of economic growth, then you will realise that it was between 7% to 10% in real terms.

    it’s like saying that Nigeria for instance during the increase in oil revenue that account for over 90% of its revenue earning was growing at a rate of 90%. Based on your 21% growth rate Mr Minister we should have sustained ourselves during the rainy season or Ebola crisis period.

    And do you know that the current government in Nigeria is accusing the previous government of not doing enough governance and economic speculation for the long term, during the increased oil revenue boom for the socio-economic good of the nations, as compared with decrease in oil prices and the revenue the government is gaining.

    As Dr Raymond said in his last article, this current APC led administrations are dealers and hustlers that lack the basic tenets of good leadership and good governance. Sierra Leoneans are desirous of having a country that is built on their needs and not the dictate of outsiders.

  4. Greetings ladies and gentlemen, let us please avoid the urge to satisfy personal gains from purging our views and hope for progress in our beloved country. In the first place, there are many factors taken into consideration in considering the construction of a new airport.

    Let me inform my fellow Sierra Leoneans that there is more to the story and I am delighted to give you the analyses, where it is stated that “Sierra Leone has moved one place up in the latest Human Development Report from 184th to 183rd, the highest among the Mano River Union (MRU) and G7+ countries, according to the latest report launched in Tokyo and later in Freetown last week.” You will find that reasons for the inequality that the writer mentioned are highlighted in the report.

    Let us try to understand what Multidimensional Poverty is. Oxford Poverty and Human Development Index states, “A person who is poor can suffer from multiple disadvantages at the same time – for example they may have poor health or malnutrition, a lack of clean water or electricity, poor quality of work or little schooling.” It is not the lack of money that is the major consideration, but the factors indicated above.

    We must not lose sight of the fact that the war led to disruption in the school systems around the country. Consider 11 years of such disruption in an educational system? It will definitely contribute to a part of the Multidimensional Poverty.

    But what are the government, fellow Sierra Leoneans and NGO’s doing to correct that? They are constructing new schools, providing Teacher-training programs to name a few.

    The war also led to disruption in health services. Electricity is being worked-on, health facilities are being built, agriculture is being encouraged in multi-faceted ways. After the abruption in all aspects of Sierra Leonean life, it is worthy to understand that things will grow gradually. We must not lose hope.

    Let me humbly summit that the idea of crying-down the Mamama Airport project as a doom for Sierra Leone or irrelevant is incorrect.

    Theses are the benefits I believe the project will provide:

    1. Mamama Airport will result in more convenience for Tourists, others and Sierra Leoneans who travel in and out of Sierra Leone. Instead of landing at Lungi, having to drive to Targrin and then Freetown, or boarding a helicopter to Freetown, it would be wise for some planes to land in an area that is not more cumbersome to reach the capital, if hotels are not constructed at the area by the completion of the project.

    2. it will be cost effective or supplemented to Lungi Airport in many ways, easing congestion and delay.

    4. It will create employment for people of the area and other Sierra Leoneans.

    5. It will be safer considering the many accidents across from Lungi to Freetown road. These accidents have caused many lives over the years. We can go back to the 70’s’ 80’s and to the present.

    I was particularly interested in the writer’s evaluation of how building another airport would be detrimental to the economic growth and the mentioned disparities among the various classes in the nation. But he fell short of expectation.

    It is important that when we read, we make effort to understand the facts about the situation before digressing to lay blame when in fact, the factors responsible for our scolding are clearly stated in the very piece we read or the analyses made.

    Let me refer you to the subject the writer is hyping our blood about. It is stated that, “Sierra Leone moves one place up the human development index but inequality and multidimensional poverty still very high Sierra Leone has moved one place up in the latest Human Development Report from 184th to 183rd, the highest among the Mano River Union (MRU) and G7+ countries, according to the latest report launched in Tokyo and later in Freetown last week.

    However, multidimensional poverty and inequality remains very high despite recent high economic growth. The report noted that, while income poverty is 52.9%, 72.7% of Sierra Leoneans are multidimensional poor, among the highest in the world. The report is launched amidst the potentially devastating Ebola health shock.

    The Report also positioned Sierra Leone among the least equal countries in the world along with Nigeria, Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Central African Republic.

    UNDP Resident Representative and Resident Coordinator, David McLachlan-Karr said that the report comes in the wake of the current health shock in Sierra Leone making the recommendations for addressing vulnerabilities in the Report particularly relevant. He said that “The Ebola virus epidemic, a health shock is most destabilizing to households and the society at large. It requires some of the recommendations from this report and in particular a holistic approach since it is both trans-boundary and multi-dimensional.”

    David Mclachlan-Karr said at the Sierra Leone launch of the Report entitled: Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, “Sierra Leone’s achievements in human development, especially since 2005, are notable. Human Development Index (HDI) increased from 0.329 in 2005 to 0.374 in 2013.” He added “Its rank in the 2013 Index – 183rd out of 187 countries – is one place higher than last year, which translates to 1.84% increase- the highest in the Mano River Union and G7+ member countries That said, there is lot more catching up to do… Sierra Leone is lagging behind in gender equality and multi-dimensional poverty, which is 72.7%.”

    Mclachlan-Karr noted that the 2014 Human Development Report highlights the need for promoting people’s choices and protecting human development, adding that for the first time the report underscores the view that vulnerability threatens human development and that unless it is systematically addressed, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable.”

    You can read further in the link bellow:

    http://www.sl.undp.org/content/sierraleone/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2014/07/25/sierra-leone-moves-one-place-up-the-human-development-index-but-inequality-and-multidimensional-poverty-still-very-high.html

    As noted, the findings indicate that at the time the survey and analyses was conducted, Sierra Leone was being attacked by Ebola. Thank Goodness the Ebola has been under control to give chance for the recommendations made to be put in place to deal a blow to the Multidimensional Poverty.

    If there is continued educational growth, health is improved, the Agriculture sector is developed, poverty will not be multidimensional. Instead of a multidimensional poverty, there will more incentives for our fellow countrymen to engage in trade and become, instead of a donor generate nation, it will lead to a partner in International Trade.

    We must be positive to gain the Goodness of God and elevate Sierra Leone.

    • Mr. Lans Kamara,

      Here is a simple reason why the Mamamah Airport is not a strategic and economically viable project at this time in the socio-economic development trajectory of Sierra Leone. The opportunity cost is too high, i.e., the cost of the forgone alternatives- namely; an effective healthcare and delivery system, good pipe borne water, electricity, housing and schools for the populace.

      These are the drivers of socio-economic growth, and once these are developed, they will lead to a healthy and educated populace, after which consideration for luxurious projects like another airport should be considered.

      Secondly, the net present value of the project, i.e, the expected cash flow that the project will bring in for it to be viable is negative, based on all the projections and forecasts that have gone into this project.

      The discounted cash flow methodology is one of the most effective measures financial economists and project analysts use to measure the viability of a project, and the discount rate used to discount such a project is the weighted average cost of capital (WACC), i.e,. both equity investment and debt is taken into consideration in deciding how to discount the expected cash flow.

      All these measures and metrics clearly point out that the project will not generate enough revenue to sustain, not to talk about paying for it in both the short and long-run.

      What does that mean? It means our economy will not generate enough revenue to repay the loan, not to talk about sustaining the airport. There will not be enough traffic to harness revenue to pay the loan. So this is an APC white elephant to accrue more debt on the country that we do not need.

      Moreover, countries like our should not be mortgaging our future and the future of generations yet unborn by compromising our corporate governance mechanism by allowing China to continue raping our fishing, mining and other strategic resources because we want them to offer us loans that are not based on economic but ideological and political reasons.

      Based on the above strategic reasons Mr. Lans Kamara, the Mamamah airport is not a good project for Sierra Leone at this material time in our nations development path, and must be abandoned.

    • Mr Lans Kamara,
      The challenges we are grappling with today, started in 1980 when we ignored, like we are doing now, the wisdom not to host the OAU because of its financial implications and debt burden.

      It was the same advertised impunity and brilliant defence of foreign dictates, personal greed and socio-political sentiments that led to our journey to disaster; and the over forty years of structural adjustments that has remained an albatross round our necks, as well as the stagnation in a permanent state of mediocrity.

      We really don’t have an economy as we hardly produce anything. So exactly what policy is going to be implemented that will generate enough resources to meet our needs and pay our debts.

      In trying to justify our plight, you clearly avoided from the report in the link that you attached to your response, the submission of the UNDP Senior Economist, Moses Sichel, who told the audience in Sierra Leone that “people’s vulnerability is influenced by their capabilities and the society they live in and that failures to protect people against vulnerability are mostly a consequence of inadequate policies and poor or dysfunctional social institutions”.

      Our circumstances are mostly the result of our policies and such unwarranted deviation from the path of sanity like we are about to do again.

      You might be limited in your aspiration for Sierra Leone, but I believe our country which was way ahead of others in the Mano River Union before our descent, should not be seeing 1% growth over Liberia and Guinea as worthy of garlands.

      Nowhere did I mention money as the major consideration of the poverty level. But instead I emphasised the absence of those basic necessities needed for a society worthy of its name.

      One of our problems is clearly shown in your very first line, in which you have tried to make the world believe that my writings are personal. Maybe. But what I wish to gain is to see a leadership more interested in Sierra Leone than its pocket. One that is thinking about the future of the people and not stuck in the backside of any Joe Smith that comes with juicy and tantalising gifts that is not in the best interest of the majority of Sierra Leoneans who have a stake in the country as well.

      We always find excuses for our failures. From the colonialists, to the SLPP; to the one party state, to the APC, to the war, to Cholera, to Ebola, to bad luck, to global economic situation; but never to our inability to carry out what is needed for the long term future of our country. Rwanda was in a similar situation as us, but today that country is miles ahead and they never built a new airport for them to re-engineer their economy and society as well as make a better life for their people.

      I believe your submission is contemptuous of those who do not have the benefit of the run of the corridor of power like you; as it confirms the fact that our leaders see comfort for JJC’s far better than the long term fate of the majority.

      Would it not be wise and pleasant to drive straight home on a bridge from an airport that is currently under-utilised and to which millions of dollars have just been expended on its expansion?

      How on earth can a debt burden be more cost effective? Please let the world know.

      Similarly, are you saying the people of Lungi and its environs as well as by implications, other Sierra Leoneans, don’t deserve employment and development? Only those around Mamamah? Are you saying the expanse of land between Tagrin and Lungi is not more desirous of national expansion than an area that is so close to an already over burdened Freetown?

      All the accidents reported and which you cite, are the result of leaving undone what we should have done. It is because our leaders have focused on other things rather than developing efficient networks in the scope of effective development and this may be no thanks to people like you who want them to believe other wise. Even then, accidents are not area conscious. You can have one as you leave Mamamah and never have any at Lungi.

      Building an airport would be detrimental to us in terms of the debt burden, the inability to tackle urgent social inadequacies; and above all, because less that 1% of Sierra Leoneans use and want an airport in comparison to their and the overall societal needs.

      As long as we continue to think that contrary opinions are frontal attacks on our leaders, we will remain as backward as we are.

      And by the way, Ebola was from 2014, most of the facts and figures in the Index report are pre-Ebola.

      The happiest people don’t have the best of everything. They make the best of everything.

      Mamamah is a Chinese fantasy sold to our leaders who have been padded, and which is why they cannot make a rational decision in the light of our economic realities.

      All that the Chinese are interested in, is our resources which we will end up using as indefinite payment for the debt that will be imposed on us. Remember, President Koroma’s election pledge was to build a bridge and not an airport.

  5. Mr. Awoonor-Gordon,

    As long as there is life we should always remain hopeful for a better tomorrow and not be discouraged at all. Certainly, Sierra Leone, like Benjamin, son of Jacob, will not die but live to declare the goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. For these political shenanigans that have ruined our fortunes beyond belief or human comprehension will soon be over with.

    The days of the wicked, including hypocrites, liars, witchcraft, ungodly, sexually immoral, etc. are clearly numbered.

    Please keep on praying for the divine intervention of God into the affairs of the people of Sierra Leone. Amen.

  6. Thanks for your advice to the so- called leaders of sierra Leone. But they will never listen. They are morally deaf.

    They only care about donor funds. One day, they will ripe what they sow. They will give account of their stewardship to either the people of this country or their maker in heaven.

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