Mahmud Tim Kargbo: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 November 2020:
The decision by the Bio government to axe the former government’s Mamamah Airport project was a catastrophic mistake. Some might argue, with justification – based on spotted commentaries on social Media – that regional politics is at play here.
However, many find no justification for the cancellation of the Mamamah Airport deal based on alleged corruption perpetrated by the Chinese and the former APC regime.
It is worth noting that as I write, the Bio regime has failed to produce verifiable data on the country’s economy since last June. Key sources, such as Bank of Sierra Leone and Central Statistics have zero data to report on. Nationals are at a loss to explain why every aspect of the Bio-led government is shrouded in secrecy.
The lack of transparency, secrecy and propagandist tact employed by the government creates unease and uncertainty of the government.
Many are equally concerned about a rising crisis of confidence in the Government, Its leadership, policies and self-doubt as to where this government wishes to lead this nation. Of note, is the government’s resort to tertiary donor streams and development partners; viz: Akon for National Energy Policy; Ghanaian Footballer/Celebrity for Revitalisation of Lungi International Airport, ties with the Turkish Erdogan government, etc.
Last June’s macroeconomic indices had Inflation at 16%, Interest rate at a staggering 24% and youth unemployment at over 70%. It is against this backdrop that the government made the announcement without offering a replacement economic development package to arrest the downward trend of the economy.
We are deceiving ourselves if we buy the Bio government’s argument that the former APC regime forged a corrupt Mamamah Airport project deal with the Chinese – such hogwash!
Right minded nationals believe that this Bio-led government has the capacity to force the Chinese to the drawing board and set the new ‘African Gold Standard’ on how to negotiate and do business with the Chinese. Experts believe that a win-win deal can be hammered out, with the right people at the table.
Revitalisation of the existing Lungi airport and construction of a bridge across from Lungi to mainland Freetown is a bad option. It will not yield immediate economic dividend for the country.
First off, to construct the bridge will run into Billions of Dollars, due to the fact that it has to be a sophisticated draw bridge to allow passage of freight vessels to and from the mines – a bridge with an archway may prove a challenge due to the distance between Lungi and Freetown.
Lungi is also a flood zone. At present, to navigate the road network around and in the airport, during the rains is quite a challenge. Furthermore, the whole area lack basic infrastructure and social amenities – making costs prohibitively high to transform the area to an economic power house.
Right minded nationals know that consideration must have been given to address concerns from the IMF and xenophobic rants from within Sierra Leone and donor partners. But as a nation, we must be prepared to face the future and global politics with firm conviction and bold ideas as to who we are and the strategic role we carve for ourselves in the region.
We must not hesitate to face a new world with China as the new superpower replacing America. To the East we must turn and build a new bridge based on lessons learnt from our travails in the West.
We must prepare our leaders and our people for the task ahead. A clear determination to succeed and virtue in hardwork must be wired into our DNA. These are qualities that don’t come cheap and easy.
We need a leader that recognises honesty of purpose with a capacity to sell the country well, and motivation of the people to move mountains. We do not see these qualities in our current leadership; hence our proclivities in questioning the so-called Bio-led “New Direction”.
As far as Mamamah is concerned, right minded nationals believe, the loan can be structured to ensure that the Airport pays for itself.
There is nothing stopping the Bio government from renegotiating the said contract and use it at his government advantage to transform the corridor spanning Mile 38 right through Mile 91, into an Economic Free Zone; built on partnership with Sierra Leone and Chinese expertise.
It can be structured to house Industrial manufacturing complex to satisfy the newly minted ‘Middle Income’ economies we find in Nigeria, Angola, Kenya and South Africa. These countries are bubbling with a tech savvy middle class with insatiable demand for high end consumer products such as: Flat Screen TV, Washer/Dryer, Refrigerators, etc.
Why can’t we produce these products locally to satisfy the African market? The Airport can serve as a freight conduit to meet this demand.
Bio, short sighted and a bad negotiator, that he is, must recognise that the IMF and the very donor partners promised both the Kabba and Koroma Administration billions in fresh investment and development support. But they failed to deliver.
So, when you hear that former president Ernest Bai Koroma refused to give out fresh PIN numbers to pay teachers, it was the very IMF that was behind it all. They restricted budget allocation to education and key social services. These are the principal reasons why Kabba and Koroma had major fall out with the IMF.
Thus far, the refrain from the average voter is hardship and poverty: we boku way hangry, dee suffer boku! Unar hep we…!
In about three years, Bio will start to feel the IMF pinch. Then and only then will he realise that ‘Ching Chong’ is not only a sweet sounding song, but it is also good food to eat when you suddenly find out there is no *saki tomboi* in your household.