Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 February 2019:
The diplomatic community, international agencies and eminent Sierra Leoneans were guests of president Julius Maada Bio and the first lady – Mrs Fatima Bio, at a state banquet held at State Lodge, Hill Station in Freetown last Tuesday, where the president spoke about his government’s priority programmes and achievements.
Welcoming guests to the dinner, Mrs. Fatima Maada Bio said she felt honoured by the turnout of members of the diplomatic community, particularly those who do not reside in Sierra Leone.
Addressing president Bio on behalf of the diplomatic community in Sierra Leone, Mr Guy Warrington – the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone said: “We followed your campaign messages before you became president. We also followed your government’s priority areas as stated during the Cabinet Retreat. We welcome those steps as we have seen tremendous progress in just ten and half months of your leadership.
“We have seen fiscal discipline and financial management; most importantly we have seen the fight in combating corruption. We have also seen good governance and the rule of law. We congratulate all of them, we will support those principles laid particularly in economic diplomacy because we have seen a lot of gains in that direction.”
Mr Guy Warrington (Photo: Above), said that as head of Diplomatic Missions in Sierra Leone, he is very pleased with the manner in which President Bio is governing the country, especially the president’s prioritisation of Human Capital Development.
Mr Warrington affirmed that the diplomatic community welcomes president Bio’s key priority areas, and promised to continue to support the government of Sierra Leone in achieving those priorities.
He said that the diplomatic community will work with the government to ensure that Sierra Leone continues to move in the right direction and looking forward to deepening dialogue with the government.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Nimatulai Bah-Chang, told the guests that the essence of the state dinner was to strengthen bilateral partnerships to foster national development.
“We are here this evening to reflect on where we took this country from, to know where we are as a government and what we have achieved in just ten months of leadership under the New Direction of President Julius Maada Bio,” she said.
President Julius Maada Bio thanked resident, non-resident and eminent personalities, on behalf of his government, for their diverse contributions to the development of the country, as he told his guests that he inherited the worst economic situation since independence.
“This worst economic situation is characterised by double-digit inflation, low domestic revenue mobilisation, high domestic debt burden, unsustainable external debt and huge arrears to contractors,” he said.
But the president assured the international diplomatic community that his government is pursuing a disciplined economic management policy, by tackling leakages and streamlining revenue mobilisation.
He added that his government’s achievements are ensuring that there is prudent public finance management, characterised by aggregate fiscal discipline and resource allocation on strategic priorities.
“Despite all the economic challenges which I inherited, I have prioritised investment in Human Capital Development as the bedrock for my administration. It may interest you to know that I have coined a new definition for Human Capital Development. For me, Human Capital Development means three things: feeding the brain through Education; feeding the stomach through Agriculture and taking care of the body through Healthcare,” he maintained.
President Bio said that before he launched the Free Quality Education Programme, he had committed his government to allocating a historic 21 per cent of the national budget to the education sector, because the standard of education in Sierra Leone had fallen sharply, for a country that was once known as the Athens of West Africa.
“Therefore, the role of the diplomatic community here and those accredited to Sierra Leone towards the success of this flagship programme, cannot be overemphasised,” he said.
“As part of our government’s commitment to Human Capital Development, we are also scaling up investment in healthcare infrastructure services this year. My government is focusing on constructing well-equipped Peripheral Health Units, expanding free ambulance services to all districts of the country, rehabilitating healthcare facilities, providing healthcare personnel. Again, I encourage the diplomatic community to support us in ensuring that we make quality healthcare delivery both accessible and affordable to all Sierra Leoneans,” President Bio urged.
He assured the international community of Sierra Leone’s readiness to welcome business opportunities, especially foreign investors that are credible and transparent.