Tackling Sierra Leone’s economic meltdown with resilience

John Baimba Sesay – China

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 October 2016

Sierra Leone Agriculture

 

Sierra Leone has had a fair share of commendation for the framework of government’s performance. By 2008 downwards, it had leaned towards promoting socio-economic rights, and simultaneously maintaining macroeconomic stability, with huge investment stepped up in public services, infrastructure and other priority areas, eventually ensuring a paradigm shift from overwhelmingly depending on donors to being able to fund our own development.

Despite the global finance crisis that came immediately after the election of President Ernest Koroma, the country’s economic growth was robust. In fact, the country’s ‘change’ trajectory for growth, according to President Koroma was focused “on investment and reform in the key strategic sectors which are most critical to unlocking the full productive potential of our economy.” (President Koroma, Trade and Investment Forum, 2009).

Overall, Sierra Leone was doing well. In a work, titled ‘Ebola In Sierra Leone: Economic Impact & Recovery’ Dr. Peter Davis, submits, convincingly, that few years prior to the ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone’s economic performance had been good.  “The expansion in iron ore and cash crop exports”, he said, “had resulted in GDP growth accelerating from 6% in 2011 to 16.7% in 2012. Tight monetary policy had led to a 6.9% drop in inflation (from 18.5% in 2011 to 11.6% in 2012)”.

This was it; an enabling environment that had been ensured by the government, with the framework provided for investors and investment opportunities until ebola struck, added to other global factors. Ebola, I must hasten to state, left a telling effect on almost all sectors of our growth potentials, not least the economy.

ebola sierra leone222Of the three hardest hit nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, ours was the worst hit in economic terms; a large portion of our mining sector, which accounted for 16% of GDP in 2013, contracted.

Much as reasons could be linked to Ebola, the decline in the global price of iron ore is another factor.

The drop in price of commodities had an adverse effect on a number of economies. Few instances; Nigeria at one point, wobbled from the drop in oil prices, whilst Zambia, known for copper, also got hit by falling commodity prices, and same with Australia-for iron ore.

In essence, Sierra Leone has not been an exception and as such its government should not be blamed for such challenging moments. The post-ebola economic challenges are daunting but government never relaxed in fixing those challenges left by the virus.

The recent measures taken by government are indicative of its commitment to tackling those challenges and for which the government should be given credit.

Resources are needed for country growth. Where those resources needed are not available, efforts should be taken to get them. This is more about country driven efforts than relying on support from outside.

A decline in revenue would therefore mean, stepping up efforts in ensuring a revenue surge. By that we are bound to meet our commitment to poverty-related programmes and the implementation of post-ebola recovery priorities.

It therefore comes as welcomed news that government has announced expenditure rationalization measures in a bid to addressing the existing challenges.

Few things to also pursue; tax and revenue mobilization, ensuring a bang in tourism and paying attention to agricultural productivity are vital in this drive.

Domestic revenue plays an integral part in our growth process. The National Revenue Authority is our country’s lifeblood. That institution has been impressive in the last close to a decade, in terms of performance. They should be encouraged to do more.

It should continue embarking on robust mechanisms in its revenue collection efforts, such as ensuring strict compliance and enforcement strategies; the intensification of its field audit; distress actions like the sealing of offices of business places of defaulters; imposition of penalties on tax defaulters.

Beauty of Sierra Leone2Tourism can be a strategic industry for the future of our country. We should work towards making it labor-intensive thus creating employment.

The country largely offers high-end ecotourism experiences like bird watching, sport fishing and climbing in nature preserves such as Outamba-Kilimi National Park, Lake Sonfon, Gola forest and Tiwai island sanctuary among others.

With hundreds of kilometers of prime beaches, it can account for considerable percentage of youth employment and revenue collection, when fully exploited. The country has a unique landscape, scenery and cultural heritage desperately waiting to be explored.

Tourism challenges in Sierra Leone

The sector itself is faced with several core challenges. They include, but not limited to; creating the needed incentives for the internal market so as to patronize the industry and inducing greater local private sector investment in the sector. Greater international awareness of the touristic potentials is needed.

As I end, I boldly would say, the government should be commended for taking the recent bold and tough steps in salvaging our challenging era. This is what leadership is all about- rising up to a challenge and facing it head-on.

Nigeria is an economic power in West Africa. It has had its own share of hard economic meltdown. The effect of such on the Nigerian economy and its implications on employment, argued Bimbola Oyesola, in a piece titled, “The Economic Meltdown And Nigeria’ was so devastating that “from the banking sector to the manufacturing, oil and gas, and the informal sectors, none is insulated from the problem. Most companies trying to find a way out, or around the logjam, have tried outright retrenchment, downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing etc.”

What the country did was to introduce measures aimed at addressing the huge existing challenges. By November 2015, Nigeria introduced a number of austerity measures, scaling down its crude oil bench mark for its 2015 budget.

The cut in revenue projection Dr. Ngozi Okonj-Iweala had said was to maintain economic stability, “…boost non-oil revenues further, plug loopholes and waste, as well as cut unnecessary expenditure in order to cope with the situation (www.vanguardngr.com/2014/11/fg-introduces-austerity-measures).

South Africa is another case in point. In February 2016, the country’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan said, South Africa’s economy was ‘in crisis’ as it “was struggling with shrinking growth, 25% unemployment, and widespread poverty.” The government had to ensure “spending cuts, a civil service job freeze and some moderate tax rises.” (bbc.co.uk/news).

With our resilience, we shall win.

About the author

John Baimba Sesay is the government’s information attaché at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Beijing, China.

8 Comments

  1. John Sesay you should be residing in Sierra Leone when writing this article. You know that the amount of money you are making now in hard currency in China as a press Attache and mouthpiece of the APC party, will be quite minimal and negligible, if you were working in Sierra Leone.

    That’s why you and the editor of Cocorioko newspaper migrated out of the country – you to China and Kabbs Kanu of Cocorioko newspaper to the USA, in order to enrich yourselves by being paid in hard currency with tax payers money of Sierra Leone, only to brainwash Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora and the international community, instead of exposing the gross economic stagnation, massive corruption, bad leadership and abuse of power our party is inflicting on the masses.

    Mr Sesay any objective and rational individual who can discern good from bad, black from white, can tell if the Ernest Koroma led government is doing the right thing in terms of socio-economic development, since coming to power in 2007.

    After over 9 years of this incompetent, corrupt APC led government, there is nothing we can boast about in terms of human development, standard of living, etc, which are the benchmarks for telling if a government is going in the right direction.

  2. This is absolute mockery! It clearly reveals the work of a paid journalist. A defamation of a noble profession beyond belief. Can someone with their five senses intact buy all these gimmicks?

    Only visit Sierra Leone for a week and you will disqualify the fallacies set forth by this so called diplomatic journalist, who has compromised the moral values of this fine profession for a political post.

    This APC is the worst government Sierra Leone had ever had in all its existence as a nation, only equal to the Momoh APC government. A government labelled for its inherent culture of corruption and mediocrity in duty performance.

    You may laugh out your guts if it does satisfy you!

  3. The above comment from John Baimba implies that he was shocked to see a Sierra Leonean newspaper giving readers an opportunity to express their opinions. Instead of laughing, you should be commending and applauding The Sierra Leone Telegraph.

    You should also use your influence as a diplomat to make recommendations to your boss to promote freedom of expression for Sierra Leoneans, so that all Sierra Leone internet newspapers can have a comment section.

    My advice for the president is to take a ride to a humble citizen who currently lives in Grafton by the name of Valentine Strasser, who according to the Guinness book of records showed that he was the world’s youngest leader in recent history.

    And I believe he is the only African leader who left office after 4 years without any foreign bank account, which explains his current predicament.

    Valentine Strasser can advise president Koroma about how to transform the darkest city in Africa to the brightest city, the filthiest city to the cleanest, from unaccountability to accountability, from indiscipline to discipline; and most of all to have a purpose in life. Strasser achieved all that within four years before he was stabbed in the back by his best friend.

    Lastly, our pride needs to be restored again as the “Athens of Africa”. And in my country, l believe what unites us after religion is soccer, and the only time Sierra Leone has won an international trophy (Zone 2 trophy) was under Strasser’s leadership which boosted the moral of all Sierra Leoneans.

    Mr. John Baimba, please at your leisure time just Google “NPRC chairman Valentine Strasser – 30th April 1992”, then probably you will realize that we are heading in the wrong direction, which l believe the president has an opportunity to change immediately.

  4. The thing that annoys me is when i see the SLPP taking credit for another man’s job.

    The only thing we as a nation can credit to the SLPP, is the peace president kabbah brought, but when it comes to roads, electricity and economic boom, it is president Koroma.

    Stop this kind of politics, it is not helping you. We know the truth and we’re not stupid. No matter what happens now, we praying for God to help us get out of it.

    Under the leadership of president Koroma, we have seen things in reality that we never thought they would happen. Thanks to him and his government.

    Please Mr. president continue the good work, it will go in the history books. Don’t listen to those detractors; that’s all they good at.

  5. This post – ” Tackling Sierra Leone’s economic meltdown with resilience” – by Mr. John Baimba Sesay, Press Attache at the country’s Embassy in China clearly shows that he is not diplomatic material. A trained diplomat will not use the words economic meltdown in reference to the economic situation in his country. He would have been best served by seeking the advice of the actual diplomats at the Embassy on the appropriate language for the topic of his post. Newspaper editors/journalists are fond of such sensational language (economic meltdown) but, of course, that is what Mr. Sesay is.

  6. What a whole lot of rubbish from this information attache. Does he really understand development economics? Does he know anything about the factors that attract and promote inward investments in a country?

    Sierra Leone has been reliant on foreign donors and multilateral support (IMF, World Bank, etc) for its survival by as much as 60% of government spending. Your president is either lazy or does not have a clue about what to do improve the lives of his people. He is a disgrace to the people of Sierra Leone who really deserve better.

    The increase in the country’s GDP in 2011 was the result of the resumption of full-scale iron mining by African Minerals. It had nothing to do with the Koroma government’s hard work and initiative. This surge in iron ore mining would have gone ahead, irrespective of who was in power.

    The only infrastructure development we have seen from the Koroma government, are the handful of road networks which had been in the pipeline for funding before Koroma came to power. Even these have been proven to be nothing but shoddy and poorly constructed because ministers and their agents have creamed off the funding instead of paying the full cost of the works.

    Go and take a look at Wilkinson Road and you will see what I am talking about. You people have no shame.

    There had been only one test for the Koroma government since he took office in 2007, which by all indicators they have failed woefully. Has Koroma succeeded in reducing poverty, adult mortality, child mortality, maternal mortality, corruption, unemployment, and the country’s dependency on mining?

    Has the Koroma government succeeded in widening the taxation base by diversifying the economy? How much inward investment has Koroma brought to the country since 2007? How many jobs have been created as a result of this investment?

    You mentioned GDP growth, but you cannot tell us how it improved the lives of the people of Sierra Leone.

    Please Mr Baimba. Your article is nothing other than sticky plaster on a rotten sore. I would suggest you tell your president that he has made a mess of his term in office.

    The only people that have benefitted are his ministers, family, business associates and APC party henchmen. And of course himself.

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