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.
What is wrong with you people? How can any African country escape the gripping powers of China. Former president Koroma was trapped. He couldn’t do proper negotiations on the so-called toll road. We are still paying from our hard earned tax payers’ money.
Right minded people like us did not see any sense in building a new airport when we already have one that only needs renovation. Lungi community would have been deprived of revenues they collect to develop their community. It will cost more to build a new one. It will take longer time to build a new one and many other disadvantages attached. So, in my opinion, Bio is a better negotiator than Ernest Koroma.
Brilliant article: now people can appreciate to have in their midst journalists with guts and a sense of prudence and patriotism. Journalists should, as part of their functions, act as an interface between government and the people; a conveyor of enlightenment from the complexities of government to the simplified language of the people. Unless one is still living in the doldrums of inconsistent thinking, after nearly three years of his stewardship, it is abundantly clear that Maada Bio is far from being a good negotiator, because there is always an ulterior motive tied to his shady dealings – whether to have advantage over his opponents, preserve his tribal or regional sentiments, aspire to have a bigger slice of the pie – thereby relegating the national interest to a secondary issue.
It is so ridiculous to attempt to say that Sierra Leone is building a NEW international airport, within the confines of the old international airport. Why not simply say that the country is modifying its old international airport? At the completion of this project, where will the old, or obsolete, airport going to be? What will be the name of this so-called ‘new’ airport? The Maada Bio International Airport, or the New Lungi International Airport? Goodness gracious! What a silly and trivial trick. Further, what will be the total cost of this new airport? Is it going to be the projected value of US$270 million, or more than the US$300 million abandoned Mamamah Airport project? What is the logic or economic prudence of not having two airports for a mere difference of US$30 million? And, what about the complementary US$2.5 billion Lungi Bridge needed to put the new airport into full and adequate use?
The questions surrounding this ‘new’ airport project are endless. Even the fancy design of this new airport raises a lot of doubts. The outline is like a toy that a kid will be excited about at first sight but get bored with at the end of the day. Whoever dreamt of this idea needs some maturity infused in him. When it comes to the utilization of a public good, durability is paramount – fantasy is out of the question. This ‘new’ airport project should go back to Parliament and be comprehensively reviewed. Don’t waste or squander taxpayers money for vanity.
Some people like to take an easier route to fulfil their desire or dreams but not knowing what lies ahead of them in taking such route. With reference to that, I mean the Sierra Leone government and the Chinese going into partnership in infrastructure. I advice people opposing President Bio’s approach regarding not doing business with the Chinese to be the wrong move. Please check out on Youtube about the former African Ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Arikana Chihombori – Quoa, with reference to the Chinese in Africa.
I will throw light on what is currently happening in Zambia whereby the Chinese are taking over the country’s infrastructure and mandating the government to do as they say simply because Zambia is in huge debt with the Chinese. This is all down to bad contracts signed by the government. What we fail to realize is that, there are good and bad contracts. So it is good practice that President Bio is leading our beloved country Sierra Leone in the direction of signing good contracts that will benefit the country. Why incur debt when there are other alternatives to progress Sierra Leone infra structurally.
China’s engagement with Africa in the last few decades has been more beneficial than many of our western partners will tend to agree, and accept. China and Sierra Leone established diplomatic relationship in 1971. In that same year Sierra Leone became one of few African countries to vote the United Nation general assembly resolution 2758, recognising the people’s republic of China as the legitimate representative of China.
We can’t compare apples to apples, but from my own perspective China has done more in terms of changing the physical infrastructure in our country, like stadium and Youi building, and the newly installed toll road, and hill side by pass in Mount Aureol, than our western partners have done for us in the last 50 years. There are countries like Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, Tanzania, Liberia, Djibouti, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Morocco, Kenya, and many others that are negotiating good deals with Chinese companies in infrastructure projects, and are seeing changes in their countries.
Now I am left wondering why does president Bio thinks he is smarter than all these other leaders, by denying our country much needed Chinese investment? I think the IMF and other international financial institutions are holding us back, because our government is over reliant on credit. And we can’t transform our economic prospect on the back of more debts. The future is China. The US and the European union are becoming more protectionist in outlook.