Chinese African loan takeaway – will Koroma get his new prestigious airport?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 June 2016

president koroma in china - briefing

It is disheartening and a crying shame to read that; president Koroma of Sierra Leone is still determined to have his new prestigious international airport, built by the Chinese at a cost of $400 million, only to serve as his legacy, despite the country’s rising debt and poverty. (Photo: President Koroma dozing off at a meeting in China).  

This is what the government’s newspaper Cocorioko reported yesterday: “The State House Communications Unit wrote also that; ‘….during a stopover meeting with traditional leaders at Masiaka, Port Loko district, President Koroma assured the nation that the Mamamah International Airport project is not dead as being perceived by detractors, but is still very much alive and will soon be transformed into reality’.”

So, While the World Bank is struggling to feed millions of people across the country, through its unsustainable ‘safety net – cash distribution scheme’, Koroma is busy discussing his prestigious vanity project with the Chinese. How duplicitous and dishonourable?

The Chinese are awash with ‘dirty cash’ from exploiting the natural resources of poor African countries.

China Jin ping in ZimbabweAnd they have set up a takeway loan shop with a capital of $60 billion, for daft, gullible and undiscerning African leaders like president Koroma, who are willing to put their country into debt for vanity projects, rather than tackle poverty.

This is what the Chinese Economic Counselor to Sierra Leone – Shen Xiaokai told local reporters in Freetown last week (Source: Awoko):

“With this link road, directly connecting to the Regent Youyi Road and the Wellington-Masiaka Highway, it will only take around half an hour to travel from Mamamah New Airport to Hill Station in Freetown.

“This road is one project Sierra Leone will benefit from the $60 Billion announced by President Xi Jinping during the 6th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) held in South Africa in December 2015.

“On behalf of the Chinese government, President Xi Jinping announced at the summit to upgrade the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership and to implement ten cooperation plans on industrialization, agricultural modernization, infrastructure development and public health with African countries.

“To ensure the successful implementation of these ten cooperation plans, China decided to provide a total of USD60 billion funding support, which includes USD5 billion of grant and interest-free loans; USD35 billion of loans of preferential nature with more favorable terms and export credit line; an increase of USD5 billion to the China-Africa Development Fund; the special loan for the development of African SMEs respectively; and establishing the China-Africa Fund for Production Capacity Cooperation with an initial contribution of USD10 billion.

“Sierra Leone could benefit from the USD60 billion loan funding support.”

Poverty in salonePresident Koroma has less than two years before he leaves office and he is desperate to get his name into the country’s history books by all means necessary, despite failing woefully to look after the interests and needs of his people.

Two years ago, he vainly wanted the new Freetown peninsular road to be named the Ernest Bai Koroma Highway. But this proposal was pooh-poohed by the opposition, who claimed that all of the road construction projects in the country had been their brainchild, before being ousted from power in 2007.

President Koroma is now desperately looking for his own personal legacy capital project, at the expense of the poor tax payer and future generations who will have to repay the Chinese.

salone poverty2He is determined to have his prestigious international airport, built by the Chinese who are just too happy to give him the $400 million loan, despite over 4 million people living without access to clean drinking water, electricity, healthcare, and proper sanitation.

Every level headed economist, including the World Bank and the IMF, have warned president Koroma not to go ahead with his prestige project.

But egged on by the Chinese  –  the ‘new paymaster’ in Africa, it seems Koroma will after all get his brand new “Ernest Koroma International Airport”, financed, designed, managed and built by the Chinese.

That’s what in it for president Koroma – prestigious legacy. But what about the Chinese?

Ebola dead buried in disused waste dump site at kingtom freetownHow are they going to benefit from this massive capital project, in one of the world’s poorest countries that has just seen more than 4,000 of its citizens needlessly killed by a preventable disease, simply because of a broken healthcare system that desperately needs fixing?

Firstly, the Chinese regard Sierra Leone as part of their wider African geo-political and economic conglomerate, through which they can exert their global power and influence at the UN.

china2Secondly, China is desperate for cheap raw materials to continue to build its industrial success, amid falling GDP.

Thirdly, African countries like Sierra Leone represent safe haven for the Chinese to launder their dirty cash, generated from exploiting African natural resources.

Fourthly, the new Ernest Bai Koroma International airport will not come cheap at $400 million. But with the Chinese waving a $60 billion loan at gullible African heads of State, such as Koroma, they will be charging a whopping 40% interest on the loan – possibly repayable over 25 years – long after president Koroma would be dead and gone.

china in AfricaFifthly, the Chinese will use their own labour force imported to Sierra Leone to build the airport.

Few Sierra Leoneans would be employed as labourers for peanuts.

Hence, the bogus economic argument by the Koroma government that the project will significantly increase the circular flow of income in Sierra Leone, does not add up.

Not even local businesses will benefit from the presence of the massive influx of Chinese construction workers into the country. They do not eat the country’s local produce or use locally made goods. They will import their own from China.

Sixth, By designing, building and managing the project themselves, the Chinese will be paid millions of dollars in management fee by the poor Sierra Leonean tax payer for the next one hundred years.

Seventh, the Chinese will be using the new international airport as a duty free import and export zone, through which they will bring into the country, their cheap and shoddy manufactured consumer goods, which will flood the local markets, adding more pressure on the falling value of the Leone.

They will use the airport to fly out precious high value-low volume minerals – like gold and diamonds out of Sierra Leone, without declaring these to the Sierra Leonean authorities.

Last but not least, the Chinese built Mamamah airport will serve the Chinese as their new military base in Africa.

China’s political and economic grip on Africa is growing. One day, there would be a local uprising against Chinese domination by Africans, yearning to be free from their new colonial masters.

The Chinese would need the military capability present locally in Africa to quickly respond to any such upheaval on their turf.

Senior members of the ruling APC party of Sierra Leone, do not hide their Chinese communist credentials, despite their corrupt pursuit of western lifestyles.

Many are investing their ill gotten wealth in Chinese enterprises to launder their dirty cash, instead of spending public money on developing the country’s healthcare system.

children lined up for water in Freetown April 2016Millions of Sierra Leoneans are without electricity and water, simply because the government itself has failed to borrow and invest in improving these vital services.

Four hundred million dollars could pay for the rehabilitation of the capital’s only source of safe drinking water – the Guma dam, which is shrinking at an alarming rate, and is now looking like a pond.

So why borrow $400 million from the Chinese to build a new prestige international airport, only so that president Koroma can have his name written boldly on the entrance of the airport?

Let common sense and the voice of the international community – especially the IMF, the World Bank, and the British international development agency – DFID prevail, because the poor people of Sierra Leone and the media, are incapable of preventing this bogus vanity project from going ahead.

There is nothing wrong with the existing Lungi International Airport. What it needs is good management – not corruptly micro-managed by State House. It needs improved road network, from the airport to the Lungi Ferry Terminal; and a reliable ferry service.

Even better, why not invest the $400 million on building a bridge across the river from Lungi to Kissy or Cline town in Freetown? This will be far more cost-effective than constructing a new airport.

Millions of poor people including farmers, will then be able to take their fresh produce to market to earn their living, as well as serve the needs of commuters and airport arrivals.

What the Sierra Leone Telegraph says to those ‘who see no evil and hear no devil’, is that they should leave economics to those who know the subject; and save their bogus and faulty economic development sermon and platitude for the pulpit.

President Koroma promotes his Agenda for povertyThis is how the government’s own newspaper – Cocorioko reported this story yesterday:

“Nothing Will Stop President Koroma From Signing Off With Success

“Those who want to see socio-economic and political progress in the nation will be delighted this morning to hear that a Chinese delegation is in Sierra Leone to negotiate with the government on the construction of the Mamamah International Airport and that President Ernest Koroma has reiterated his commitment to continue the project.

“For detractors of the government and the nation who do not want to see progress because they do not want President Koroma and the All People’s Congress(  APC ) Government to eternally enjoy the credit being the ones who developed the country, this is bad news.

“They thought all along that the project was dead and some may have even  been even gloating.

“For partisan politics and negative competitive spirit, some opposition zealots and their journalists  do not mind seeing their whole country overtaken by backwardness, sterility,  stagnation and even disaster , just so that the APC  does not enjoy any credit. Well, they will be disappointed this morning.

“The State House Communications Unit wrote also that “….during a stopover meeting with traditional leaders at Masiaka, Port Loko district, President Koroma assured the nation that the Mamamah International Airport project is not dead as being perceived by detractors, but is still very much alive and will soon be transformed into reality.”

“When a man knows where he is going and is determined to get there, nobody can stop him, except God. President Ernest Koroma, the crusading reformer, who in only eight years has transformed Sierra Leone from a stone age country to a modern nation through his massive infrastructural developments ( Never mind the discouraging attacks by the stone age men in our midst who want our country to continue wallowing in backwardness ) knows where he is going and is determined to get there and so nobody can and nobody will stop him, by the grace of God.

“President Koroma will sign off with tremendous success and will hand over to his successor a Sierra Leone that everybody will be proud of, by the grace of God.

“The new Mamamah International Airport plan is not a prestige project. Rather, as we at COCORIOKO  and the experts have all said, Mamamah will be an economic game-changer for Sierra Leone.

“We therefore commend President Koroma for his resilience and determination in pursuing the project and may God crown his efforts with success.”

4 Comments

  1. There is no possibility that Sierra Leone’s new airport will be built by President Earnest Bai Koroma. For me, I think it a good idea to have or build an international airport in Sierra Leone, but it will depend also on how it will affect the poor people; and how the government intends to generate the money to build the said airport.

    Its nice for any president to set his legacy. But we don’t want a legacy like the one we have already that has set Sierra Leone backwards after hosting the O.A.U conference in 1980.

    The government of Sierra Leone needs to know that we have more pressing beneficial projects in Sierra Leone that will generate money for the country and directly benefit the poor people.

    Lastly I say thanks to the government that has been in power since 2007. I do appreciate it because some of their projects directly benefit the poor people in the country.

    I pray we have a president that will continue the development in the entire nation, and try to put our natural resources to good use; or learn from other nations that have developed their countries by using their natural resources.

  2. We all have different opinions on this; whether a new Airport is good for us or not, only the future can tell, but is good for us as a people and our fledging democracy. We cannot have the same opinion on issues bordering our country for obvious reasons. bBut what I do know is that, the new mainland Airport will be built because the people we elected to rule us have made that decision and the majority of us trust their argument.

    Ernest Koroma and his APC government have genuine plans to continue transforming Sierra Leone. Some of you making these vague comments and opinions on the proposed new airport, please, take a look at the current state of Lungi International Airport and compare it before 2007 when APC came to power.

    I don’t know what your answers will be, but mine is, a lot has been done in terms of compliance with European standards. It is a complete transformation to restore our dignity as a nation.

    The people who are against this vital project, which if completed as planned, will put us on the road to recovering our lost glory, do so because they don’t support the APC party. Otherwise, how can you say building an Airport of such magnitude is economically pointless?

    It is because you are looking at short term economic prospect. The new Airport will provide significant boost to our local economy, it will also spread economic benefit and extend significantly our local tax base, in terms of new settlements, new hotels, bars and restaurants. Because of its close proximity to South American countries, it will also be a transit hub.

    The road to opportunity lies openly before us and we have to stop playing the kind of politics that is inimical to development and support our leaders on vital economic projects like this to achieved our national goals.

  3. Alim, you are myopic and biased as stated above. During the reign of the SLPP Party in government from 1996, we were at the height of the civil war in Sierra Leone.

    In May 1997 the Sierra Leone Armed Forces forces overthrew the civilian government of the SLPP and joined the rebel forces who were the enemies of the people, that they (the soldiers) had taken an oath to defend.

    With external help, the Junta forces were eliminated and the civilian government of the SLPP was reinstated, to undo the undo the mass created by the previous APC government.

    Alim, you seem like is one of those people who are only interested in luxurious items including your new Airport, without thinking of the economic benefits, and the impact on the masses.

  4. Thanks to the author of this article. Besides being well written, it is also quite informative. As a Sierra Leonean American, it saddens me that priorities have been misplaced.

    I agree with the author that the amount mentioned in the article could better serve my countrymen and women where it to be invested in education, agriculture, and healthcare.

    What good is a so called modern airport to people who are eternally hungry and laden with healthcare issues that cannot be cured because of chronic lack of good healthcare facilities?

    What good is one’s legacy, if the citizenry that you serve or is supposed to serve see no value in that legacy? Mr. Siaka Stevens and ministers of his time sort to promote their legacy by building big mansions and the like.

    Present citizens see no value in them and, sadly, they lie in ruins. Could someone learn from this? If one does not learn from history, one will live to repeat it.

    May God bless our motherland and help current leaders to see beyond themselves and their needs.
    Samuel King

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