Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2017
Sierra Leone’s economy is in serious trouble, after the ruling APC government of President Ernest Bai Koroma jettisoned its own fiscal ‘good house-keeping’ policies, amid rising borrowing and falling tax receipts in anticipation of general and presidential elections set for March 2018. Ministers and senior public officials are now being accused of lining their pockets with government funds meant to save lives and protect the poor.
The government’s reckless ten-year policy of ‘buy now and pay later’ is hurting the delivery of vital public services and measures previously aimed at cushioning the poor from abject poverty.
In October last year, the president was forced to impose what he referred to as ‘economic austerity measures’ by curtailing departmental spending, as a result of the decision of the international community to cut foreign aid by almost 40%. The ruling APC party’s obsession with the construction of a new international airport costing $400 million, is said to be the trigger for this massive cut in foreign aid.
But critics say that these measures have at best failed to achieve their desired results, while poverty continues to rise, and death toll from poor healthcare and malnutrition grows.
The government is currently using as its 2018 electoral propaganda, its misplaced prioritisation of road construction, after borrowing over $500 million to pay for infrastructure programme, whilst its own people are dying needlessly from poor sanitation, malnutrition, lack of clean drinking water, disease – such as Ebola, typhoid and malaria.
There is evidence that over 70% of the government’s spending on the road construction programme put in place by the previous Tejan Kabbah government in 2007 that is now being implemented by the ruling APC, cannot be accounted for. It has either been poorly spent or misappropriated.
Those well off in society and well connected to the ruling APC party are the beneficiaries of the government’s so called austerity measures, at the expense of the weak and vulnerable.
Watch the government’s electioneering propaganda here:
The Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has today written an open letter to president Koroma, calling on him to end the unnecessary suffering caused by his government’s imposition of its so called austerity measures.
This is what CHRDI says:
Dear Mr. President,
We in Campaign for Human Rights and Development International-CHRDI are writing to you out of the concern that your Government’s policy on public finances continues to dominate public debate, largely based on the conviction that your government’s policy measures put in place to tackle the economic slowdown has failed.
His Excellency sir, 409 days ago, you established a Cabinet sub-committee, which comprised of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President, Minister of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED), Minister of State 1, MoFED, Secretary to the President, and Governor and Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, in order to facilitate the full implementation of the austerity measures or expenditure rationalisation plan.
His Excellency sir, we are aware that so far, the majority of Sierra Leoneans have said and are still saying that they are not seeing a recovery.
Therefore we would be grateful if your office could provide us with information on the success of the six-month expenditure rationalization and domestic revenue mobilization plans that your government has implemented.
Sir, we would also like to bring to your notice the fact that during the implementation of your expenditure rationalisation plan, health and social care services in Sierra Leone have encountered huge challenges.
We have information that services are being reduced, targets are missed and people are struggling to get the vital health and care support that they need in care centres and hospitals across the country.
We also understand that many Ministries, Departments and Agencies are failing to comply with the austerity measures. We in CHRDI strongly believe that Sierra Leone needs a stable macroeconomic environment.
To achieve that, the country needs to focus on making the most out of the Structural Funds and significantly increase support for pro-poor initiatives.
We believe that the Government of Sierra Leone should be thinking seriously about creating the conditions to exit the austerity measures or expenditure rationalisation plan, and focus on strengthening the livelihoods of poor Sierra Leoneans once and for all
To conclude, we would like you to seriously consider the fact that austerity measures often lead to retrogression in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, because cuts to public spending on programmes that benefit the poor can impact rights to education, health, food, water and social security.
Economic and social rights are as much a part of human rights as civil and political rights.
We in the CHRDI are looking forward to hearing from you on the concerns we have raised above at your earliest convenience.
Counting on your usual cooperation
Abdul M. Fatoma