Counting the gains of Sierra Leone’s New Direction government

Cyril Barnes: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2019:

About a year ago the people of Sierra Leone decided to vote for the Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio as president, making him the fifth democratically elected President of the small mineral-rich West African nation.

Dubbed the ‘actualization of a dream too long deferred’, the people’s faith in Maada Bio rests on the belief that he will serve his country patriotically well, by healing the wounds of decadence inflicted by the defeated Koroma led APC Administration.

Maada Bio’s electoral victory as president of Sierra Leone came as a result of the wide range of policy promises outlined in his election manifesto.

A year down the line, President Bio has shown remarkable signs of re-branding the blemished image of Sierra Leone.  He is delivering what he promised.

The defeated All People’s Congress (APC) party, had provided outlandish leadership which, as their Agenda for Prosperity implied, was wired for enriching those connected with the leadership of the party, leaving the average Sierra Leonean in paucity.

Amidst their lofty promises, former ministers and heads of parastatals were never convinced that their party’s Agenda was ever going to shape or promote the development of the country.

Funds meant for national development disappeared into the personal bank accounts and off-shore investments of political kingpins. As they fastened themselves to public funds, like ants to sweets, donor funds became the source of amassing massive personal wealth.

Many had expected nothing much to be achieved by president Bio in his first year because the process of acclimatising to governance could be somewhat difficult, especially after inheriting national leadership from the porous hands of the APC.

President Bio’s job has been made all the more difficult, after inheriting a country whose economy hit rock-bottom in 2017/2018 – the worst since Independence, yet there is plenty of evidence he has made great strides in putting the country on the right development footing.

A review of a range of development activities president Bio has undertaken so far, is likely to give him a performance score of 60% after barely a year in office.

President Bio has prioritised education, health, energy, agriculture, tourism and sports. Though the challenges seem overwhelming, many believe that if he continues to be consistent in delivering his policies, he will soon be labelled the harbinger of the great Sierra Leone that the people have always envisioned.

EDUCATION (BIO’s FLAGSHIP AGENDA)

By improve the country’s education sector – thereby increase literacy rate, president Bio is pinning his mast on the country’s human capital development as a driver for economic and social progress. He believes that mineral resources can be exhausted with time, but with an enlightened, skilled and educated human resource, Sierra Leone can become prosperous. Using the Singapore Model, he realizes the urgent need to push Sierra Leone away from an unflattering 65% illiteracy rate, by launching the Free Quality Education Programme.

The Free Quality Education Programme provides access to quality education from elementary level to senior secondary level with a surfeit of learning materials and school feeding.

President Bio’s irreversible decision to reclaim the “Athens of West Africa” glory has seen his government investing 21% of budgetary allocation on education (the first and highest budgetary allocation on education in the annals of Sierra Leone).

The New Direction Government has also embarked on improving standards by reviewing schools curricular with civic education intended to be reintroduced. There are plans to improve schools’ infrastructure across the country.

In addition, tertiary education has also benefited from this resurgence with free tuition for girls studying sciences, free university application forms. There is also the recent turning of the sod for the construction of a state-of-the-art Eastern University in Kono District.

ECONOMY

Stabilizing the economy is the stiffest challenge facing the president in this his first year in office. His government has implemented all the recommendations of the IMF and World Bank aimed at turning the economy around.

He has also met their requirements by instituting fiscal management policies in the form of Treasury Single Account (TSA) which was rebuffed by former President Koroma.

In addition, the government through the effort of the National Revenue Authority (NRA), has increased revenue generation to over Le30 billion a day, helping the government to pay salaries and wages of public sector workers without resorting to international begging, bank overdraft and domestic borrowing.

CORRUPTION

President Bio has made the cost of engaging in corruption in Sierra Leone very high to the extent that offenders of his own administration are not spared. In the past twelve months, the anti-graft body e ACC, has focused on recovering stolen monies from past and present officials.

There has been a huge gain in the recovery of the country’s stolen public funds from officials of the former Koroma led APC government. There is accountability.

The three Commissions of Inquiry established by president Bio are providing additional gains in the fight against corruption.

These financial recovery processes have shoved Sierra Leone into the international limelight, thus re-branding the nation from a corrupt-stricken society to one desperate to eradicate graft.

Today, President Bio stands as an example to other African Heads of State as a purveyor in the fight against corruption, with a 71% scorecard unmasked by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

ELECTRICITY

The past administration bragged about their delivery of uninterrupted electricity across the country, with Bumbuna Hydro up and running. But after spending over $500 million, the so-called uninterrupted electricity vanished the moment they left office. One would be tempted to ask what happened to all that money.

The current Minister of Energy renegotiated a better deal with the Turkish karpowership brought by the Koroma Administration without kickbacks in the agreement process. As it stands, the government is set to save $10 million each year from the deal.

Other Turkish power providers have been contracted for the supply of electricity to the east end of Freetown. Temporary electricity strategies have been sound, as they substitute Bumbuna until Phase two is completed.

SPORTS

Organising Sporting events has been a huge challenge over the past five years for Sierra Leone. In football, all hope was lost for both players and sports loving fans as the Sierra Leone Premier League went into oblivion.

After rekindling the spirit of the game with a Three Billion Leones government funding (the highest government has ever provided to the Premier League Board) as a start-up fund, many youths have had their talents resuscitated; businesses are now booming, footballers are now yielding dividend from their labour and football loving fans are happy.

HEALTH

The “Thank You” tour gave president Bio the opportunity to identify regions that are without proper health care facilities. It was also an opportunity for the government to distribute state ambulances to different regions of the country.

The ambulances will help reduce maternal mortality rate with swift facilitation of women in labour; it will also save those who are in other emergency situations.

Furthermore, the Bio led administration has increased the salaries of health workers in addition to a 15% pay increment across the board. An addition of three thousand health workers will be recruited with pin codes.

There are several other policy areas which a single article cannot exhaust: from securing funding for the construction of a state-of-the-art cancer treatment centre, improving healthcare, attaining food sufficiency, promoting tourism, boosting investor relations, linking MIT with Njala, increasing pensioners monthly benefits, constructing major roads – to providing free tertiary education for  students whose parents are teachers.

These huge strides made by president Bio in just less than one year in office have received great admiration and support from Sierra Leoneans both home and abroad, and have also brought renewed hope that Sierra Leone will rise once again.

9 Comments

  1. Mr Bilal Coleman

    First of all I shoud make it clear that I don’t normally respond to criticism of my inputs on this publication. But since you have been somehow civil in your criticism, I think I owe you a response.

    I will endeavour to quote you so that I don’t create further misunderstandings. I will also like you to have a thorough understanding of the title of the story, which says: “Counting the GAINS of Sierra Leone’s New Direction government”.

    Try to put some thought on the word ‘gains’, and also bear in mind that the present SLPP government has been in power for a year; and presumably, the gains the writer of this article was implying to are those achieved within this period. It is also important to be able to differentiate between ‘gains’, ‘initiatives’ and ‘promises’.

    You asked me to tell you how the Bio government has created profound divisions in the country, “when it is the premier league board that regulates the premier league in Sierra Leone, and when it is the Bio government that funded the premier league in the tune of almost half a million dollars and when two premier clubs are based in the North – Bombali and Port Loko?”

    Tell me, Mr Coleman, out of a total of 16 districts in the country, to only have 6 districts (37.5%) participating in the premier league; is this representative of a NATIONAL PREMIER LEAGUE FOOTBALL? What about the remaining 10 districts (62.5%); do they play chicken football?

    You also asked me “to reflect on the fact that an audit conducted by Tanzanian, Kenyan, Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean auditors has just revealed that $1 billion was stolen by APC crooks from the telecoms, roads, and social security sectors between 2015 and 2018”.

    What has that got to do with my comment? Perhaps, you should go back and read my comment again. And, try to understand it this time around.

    By the way, do you think it is coincidental, or a political move by the SLPP, to come up with such allegations, just a couple of days after the former President – Earnest Bai Koroma – declared his intentions to come back to mainstream politics?

    It is high time regional or tribal war dumped to the gutter!

    Sierra Leone will be a better place one day when there is a level playing field in the political landscape. When presidents are chosen for their merits; irrespective of their tribe or ethnic origins. That will be the day when the likes of Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, Dr Sylvia Blyden or Mrs Memunatu Pratt are President.

    What do you think about that prospect, Mr Bilal Coleman?

    • Indeed Alimamy, the day will surely come when the likes as you rightly said of – MAYOR YVONNE AKI SAWYER, Dr. SYLVIA BLYDEN, Mrs. MEMUNA PRATT, the present ATTORNEY GENERAL and many more of our capable women will become PRESIDENT. It’s going to happen by GOD’S GRACE. INSHALLAH. AMEN AND AMEN.

    • Mr. Alimamy Turay,

      When the writer of the article being referenced used the term “gains”, he went on to itemize the areas where the SLPP government has been successful. There is nothing to say that a government that has been in power for only one year could not record gains in governance.

      For example, education. There is a free quality educational system in Sierra Leone that allows children attending government schools and government-assisted schools to do so for free.

      Additionally, students studying the sciences at public colleges and universities no longer have to pay tuition. I have nieces and nephews in the educational system, and I am thankful to the SLPP government that I no longer pay tuition for them. If these are not gains in education then I wonder what is.

      Secondly, domestic revenue mobilization has improved tremendously under the SLPP government. Unlike under the moribund APC where competing Anyampis ripped off the country with impunity, the SLPP government now collects millions of dollars a week. Would this not be counted as gains in the tax sector?

      Relative to football, the less you have to say the better. But let me endeavor again to explain to you how the football sector works in Sierra Leone. The highest stage of football in Sierra Leone is the premier league. And there is also a division one league that runs concurrently with the premier league.

      Contrary to what you may believe, politicians have no say in who plays in the premier league or any other league whatsoever. And as I have explained earlier, teams that are currently playing in the premier league were in that league when the moribund APC was in power five years ago. The APC let the league die due to incompetence and greed.

      President Bio revived the premier league with a $500,000 cash injection. This allowed the premier league board to resuscitate football in Sierra Leone. Thus, your question as to how representative the premier league is should be addressed to Mr. Emmanuel Saffa-Abdulai, the chairman of the premier league board. President Bio and the SLPP have nothing to do with the day to day running of football in Sierra Leone.

      Yes, I asked you to reflect on the fact that a credible audit report has revealed that the crooked APC stole $1 billion from the suffering masses of Sierra Leone. Such a reflection, I believe, may temper your outlandish public support of a crooked organization that masquerades as a political party in Sierra Leone. Perhaps more importantly, there is ample evidence that you must consider relative to APC unpatriotic, abominable and amoral governance – that APC powerdom has always been characterized with wars, viral diseases, mudslides, and armed robbery.

      Lastly, let me make it clear that I hail from a minority ethnic group. I have never voted in Sierra Leone and have never been a member of any political party. However, while I believe that the APC is not fit to govern even the North where it seems to have its base, my support for president Bio is sacrosanct. Give the man a chance and he will transform Sierra Leone.

  2. This story carries the hallmarks of a good and experienced writer, who inadvertently found himself in uncharted territory and then resorted to superfluous in an attempt to accomplish the intended or preconceived emotions. This is evident to the abrupt ending of the story as the writer struggled to find suitable material to upload the predetermined capacity of the story.

    The title of the story says: “Counting the gains of Sierra Leone’s New Direction government”. However, there are hardly any tangible gains in Maada Bio’s one year of tenure as President of Sierra Leone; apart from the constant echoing or reverberations of fanciful initiatives and promises that are yet to be realised by a seemingly frustrated and hungry nation.

    The much chanted Free and ‘Quality’ Education initiative, which is the flagship programme of the Bio led Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) government should be applauded by each and every citizen in the country; though yet to be counted as a gain, as there are no instant outcomes in education.

    And, the word ‘free’ (in the true sense of its meaning) is never associated with ‘quality’, thus, it is deceitful to think that the present educational set up will achieve the lost glory of the country as the once acclaimed ‘Athens of Africa’. Education without the requisite facilities and environment is a lost cause in totality.

    On the economy, Bio’s “government has implemented all the recommendations of IMF and World Bank aimed at turning the economy around”. However, the implemented IMF and World Bank policies have not yielded any gains, and on the contrary, they have created hardships in the business community and hunger and desperation to the masses, as witnessed in the fight for a loaf of bread in the capital, Freetown.

    Overall, these policies have suddenly created a spike in inflation, making it more difficult for ordinary households to be able to afford their daily bread-and-butter requirements.

    The almighty fight against corruption is yet to show real dividends after taking into account the cost of establishing the three commissions of Inquiry; and the approach, which is filled with rhetoric and propaganda, might be seen in certain quarters as a tool designed to occupy the vacuum of competence demonstrated by the present administration in their one year of stewardship.

    And, in a country where corruption is a way of life, there is a high-pitched element of doubt resonating in people’s minds whether the unprecedented exercise to combat corruption is a disguised effort to disrupt the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party.

    Health, which is one of the priority areas of the present government, the writer found himself in a dead-end road, because the performance in this sector is almost negligible; apart from speculation to build a state of the art cancer diagnostic centre in the capital from the proceeds of the ongoing commissions of inquiry. This makes the whole project a laughing stock.

    How can the President gamble on the health of the nation as he extravagantly wastes tax payers money whist paratrooping with his entourage around the world? At least a fraction of the money used in his exorbitant hobby would have laid the foundation for such an important project.

    In sports, what the New Direction government has demonstrated is a manifestation of the profound divisions it has created within the country. The ‘National’ Premier League consists of 13 teams and about 75% of these are found in the capital, Freetown. The rest are from Kono, Kenema and Bo districts.

    What about teams from Port Loko, Kambia, Western Area Rural, Karene, Bombali, Moyamba, Tonkolili, Koinadugu, Pujehun, Bonthe, Falaba and Kailahun districts? Is the government with the impression that the youths from these districts only play chimpanzee football?

    Maada Bio has instilled FEAR to the happy-go-lucky people of Sierra Leone as he gradually changed the country into some kind of a Police State. There is constant abuse of human rights, complete disregard for freedom and the rule of law, and the degradation of the country’s constitution.

    The most vivid grains that the SLPP government has achieved in the past year are: divisions, hardships, and tensions. The danger is, these tensions are now creeping into the core of the armed forces, as seen in the recent brutal murder of an army officer by his bodyguard.

    After a year, the New Direction government of Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio is yet a worrying situation.

    • Mr. Alimamy Turay, criticizing governments in democratic political formations are a welcome development. However, criticizing while being oblivious to the truth or the objective reality of what holds on the ground is at the very least scandalous and fraudulent.

      The Julius Maada Bio government does not have a magical elixir to wave away Sierra Leone’s multi-dimensional problems in just one year. These problems are deeply entrenched in the country’s social, political and economic fabric. Moreover, it is common knowledge that it took the profligate and unscrupulous APC regime eleven years to bury the fortunes of Sierra Leone in a cesspit of profound underdevelopment and despair.

      Should one expect president Bio to resolve in one year problems that your grossly incompetent and scandalously floundering APC regime created in eleven years?

      In case you didn’t know, government policies, especially fiscal policies, do not always have an immediate impact on the economy since they are subject to time lags. But every Sierra Leonean, including Mr. Alimamy Turay, must take courage in the realization that under president Bio, domestic revenue mobilization has improved drastically from the depraved years of Ernest Koroma and the APC. Thus, there is hope that better days lie ahead for Sierra Leone.

      It is also laughable that in your desperate and languid effort to characterize president Bio as a divisive leader, you display your utter ignorance of Sierra Leonean football.

      The premier league is the highest stage of football in Sierra Leone. Currently, it consists of thirteen football clubs that earned their way to that apogee of national football. They were not chosen by president Bio as you seem to insinuate. In fact, these clubs were already in the country’s premiership when football collapsed in Sierra Leone five years ago due to the incompetence of your APC government.

      The current premier league consists of eight football clubs from the western area – Mighty Blackpool FC, Kallon FC, East End Lions FC, Central Parade FC, Old Edwardians FC, Ports Authority FC, Anti Drugs FC and Freetown City FC. There are also two clubs from the Northern Province – Eastern Tigers Stars based in Lungi, PortLoko district and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces FC (RSLAF FC) based in Makeni, Bombali district. Additionally three clubs are based in the Southern and Eastern provinces. These are Bo Rangers FC, based in Bo, Kamboi Eagles FC, based in Kenema and Diamond Stars FC, based in Koidu, Kono district.

      So, tell me Mr. Turay, how has the Bio government created “a manifestation of the profound divisions it has created in the country” when it is the premier league board that regulates the premier league in Sierra Leone, and when it is the Bio government that funded the premier league in the tune of almost half a million dollars and when two premier league clubs are based in the North – Bombali and PortLoko?

      Lastly, I would like to implore you that the next time you decide to criticize the Bio government, please reflect on the fact that an audit conducted by Tanzanian, Kenyan, Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean auditors has just revealed that $ 1 billion was stolen by APC crooks from the telecoms, roads, and social security sectors between 2015 and 2018.

      But president Bio is fighting hard to make Sierra Leone a place that the Alimamy Turays of the world would once again be proud of.

  3. Thanks to Allah for giving us such a president like Bio. May Allah continue to bless and guide him and his administration. Job well done for this first one year.

  4. I as a person has gotten to develop more interest in president Bio’s national governance formulas in making sure that Sierra Leone at large is resuscitated. And this is obvious by the IMF $325 million support to the government agenda, daily food care support for primary schools, proper implementations to the rule of laws, abilities to distance ideas from corruption in public offices, with more to be mentioned.

    Nevertheless, African leaders are no different from the westerners in governance, so with a vibrant and transparent system in dispense of democracy, African leaders can make a difference.

  5. Kudos and thumbs up!!! for the New Administration headed by Prezo Bio and others. Sierra Leoneans are stepping up to call for duty with the knowledge that working for your government is not to get rich. Working for our government should be “a self sacrifice”. One has to deny their own interest over the interest of the country and her people. That is what is called “Loving and putting Kontry Fos”.

    I pray that Sierra Leoneans will continue to assist the government by doing our own part to development. When the nation is economically and socially well developed, everyone will partake of the PIE, not just the few elites. Let us support our President whether you like him or not. You are not compelled to like him, but for GOD and our Kontry sake let do our part to send that spirit of corruption to a place in hell and bind it forever.

    Can We do it? Yes, We can.

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