Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 July 2019:
After last Friday’s inflation bursting award of Le66 Billion (Sixty-Six Billion Leones) in end of service payment to former president Koroma, his ministers and senior government officials by president Julius Maada Bio, the debate as to whether his decision is prudent continues, and may well come to define his image and leadership, as the 2023 elections approach.
While these end of service benefits are without doubt legitimate, what many are questioning is the timing. Sierra Leone’s economy is on the edge of bankruptcy.
Without financial bailouts by the IMF and World Bank, as well as foreign aid, the economy would have long collapsed.
Most Sierra Leoneans are struggling to make ends meet, with those in employment earning an average daily wage of less than $1.50.
Inflation is running high at over 17%, with unemployment constantly rising, and economic growth struggling to rise above 3%.
Life for the average Sierra Leonean is very tough. There is abject poverty everywhere in the country, which has been presided over by successive government.
This is why many are today calling into question the timing of the payment of these massive end of service benefits to the former president and his ministers, who in the first place had wisely not made any provision for these payments in the 2018 government budget, because of the difficult economic circumstances facing the country.
By honouring these payments at this time, critics say that president Bio is giving confused mixed messages.
On the one hand he says that the former government left nothing in the public purse to meet the cost of delivering vital public services; and yet last week, he managed to find millions of dollars to pay off the former president and his ministers, thus betraying his much touted image of a tough financial disciplinarian.
In any properly run economy or organisation, when there are financial difficulties, it is the interests of tax payers and creditors that must come first, not those of former managers and employees that are accused of bankrupting the economy or organisation.
Their benefit payment must always be considered after the needs of tax payers and creditors have been satisfied.
So what are the newspapers in Sierra Leone reporting on today?