Focus on Sierra Leone’s economy

Yankuba Kai-Samba: 5 December 2020:

Sierra Leone is in a bigger mess now than ever. Don’t fall for the party political jamboree that took place in the capital Freetown this week, with up to 50 Russian donated rubbish collection trucks in a convoy, parading the  streets and accompanying the president on his visit to various towns and cities to deliver his political message.

A government presiding over hyper-inflation in a country with a worthless currency, cannot talk of progress. No way. And they know this to be an irrefutable economic fact.

I have never heard of elected politicians in Sierra Leone going on strike over salaries, despite awarding themselves high salaries and money flowing into their bank accounts every month, whilst  other public sector workers and society in general struggle to make ends meet.

Teachers are undervalued and exploited. Salaries are very low, and many don’t receive their salaries for up to 7 or 8 months. I know a retired teacher in Kenema, who taught in government secondary school for 25 years. He is receiving a monthly pension of 700,000 Leones, which is never paid on time. 700,000 Leones is £60.

A member of parliament who served only one five years term in parliament can get a pension of £2,000 a month or probably more. Being an MP is not a pensionable job. But in Sierra Leone, the only job that pays very well is politics.

The former president has no fewer than two dozen state security personnel for his protection, as well as house boys and drivers – all paid for by the State. Not even George Bush, Tony Blair who waged an illegal war on Iraq have more than two state provided securities, respectively. And so does Barack Obama.

The entire political structure in Sierra Leone is a conspiracy that is configured to benefit the political class, rather than encourage and bring out the best of the country’s productive human resources.

Nurses are undervalued and exploited. Like teachers, many don’t receive their salaries for 7 to 8 months. A newly qualified teacher or nurse can work for 2 years without pay, whilst they wait for what the government refers to as ‘pin-code’ to be issued before they are officially enrolled to begin to receive their salary.

After grievances narrated by these suffering nurses and teachers in a video interview recently, the government decided to pay one-month backdated salary after 8 months of working. So what happens to the 7 months’ pay.

Why pay one-month salary and not pay their full 8 months’ salary? And why the delay in paying money they are owed? How does the government expect a teacher with wife and children, and his mother – all depending on him to survive?

And yet, is this not a government that wasted millions of dollars on expensive unnecessary overseas trips and increased salaries for ministers and their political appointees?

How reckless and callous are those we elect, turning a blind eye and giving deaf ears to the plight of their fellow citizens languishing in abject poverty and deprivation? This needs to be thoroughly and judiciously investigated by the ACC because it borders on corruption and criminality.

Not paying workers is a violation of their human rights, an assault on human dignity. But does our government care? The evidence doesn’t demonstrate empathy or concern.

Many of our elected politicians and their party’s public sector appointees award themselves high salaries, which makes it easy for them to afford private medical care in Sierra Leone or fly abroad to receive extremely expensive medical attention in Europe, America, Ghana , South Africa and Lebanon.

In just six months of the Bio government coming to power, MPs passed a bill increasing their salaries by up to 300 percent along with ridiculous benefits such as wardrobe allowances.

The salary of the imposed Paopa  speaker  of parliament – Dr Abass Bundu is a man with a history of dishonesty and corruption, a man who was recently secretly filmed naked in a room with a young lady, earns more than the speaker of the British Parliament.

Sierra Leone’s economy is underperforming, and the government relies significantly on donors, loans and international budgetary support. Yet the government recently purchased 30 SUV jeeps for its ministers to fight COVID 19, when it was reported that the government hospital in the second largest city of Sierra Leone – Bo , did not have a single oxygen to treat COVID 19 patients.

It was left with a popular female activist in Sierra Leone, who announced this to raised funds for the hospital.

Right now, university exams have been put on hold because lecturers are demanding better conditions and pay. What pains and disruptions visited on the anxious students after they had put everything aside to prepare for their exams. I feel very strongly about this because I am sponsoring two university students.

Many commentators have described Sierra Leone as an “animal farm society”. It is true.  A former fearless Sierra Leonean journalist, who is now with the United Nations has described Sierra Leone as “not a normal country”.

The former British high commissioner to Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold who was instrumental in returning the country to constitutional order after the violent coup that temporarily exiled the democratically elected government of president Kabba, described Sierra Leone as “a tragedy in which the country is one of the richest in the world but remains the poorest in the world.” He added that only few people are responsible for the suffering and miseries of the vast majority of the people.

I have described Sierra Leone as a dystopian society where few criminals enrich themselves through corrupt means, with poor fellow citizens begging to put food on the table.

There is no change or future for Sierra Leone until people of all political parties and regions reject mediocrity, tribalism, regionalism and elect a new political leadership with a clear vision, different from this perennial paralysis created by the two party system.

10 Comments

  1. Honestly I don’t have time to read through the end…but many of your statements are hyperinflated. Teachers and nurses going 7 months without their salaries? No way my brother. As long as they have their pin codes and fully employed by the government they are paid monthly. Worst case scenario is around 6th of the new month.

  2. The big question – how to pull out a few good apples in a pile of hopelessly rotten ones. In Sierra Leone my only home, everyone and everything is tainted, contaminated and totally corrupt to its innermost core – there are demons and devils everywhere but pious saints, holy angels and advocates of truth are missing. A strange creature our beloved Sierra Leone truly is.

    She aptly resembles a giant fish that cannot swim even though it is surrounded and drowning in the depths of vast expanses of water, and who wouldn’t agree that she is a defeated eagle that possesses the abilities to soar out of sight, unrestrained towards unreachable heights yet never raises her wings or lifts her head and eyes towards the magnificent skies.

    Sadly, she has convinced herself that her intrinsic and essential nature is not to fly, but to crawl like Sea turtles with heads hidden, and locked tightly inside their protective shells.(lol)

  3. President Bio inherited the worst economy since independence after former President Koroma declared Austerity due to massive theft by him and his cohorts. Even financial institutions like the IMF and world bank withdrew from our country because of 11 years of misrule and corruption and within a year of the New Direction government, they decided to return and based on their financial expertise, there is tremendous economic progress even though there are still challenges.

    Spending time hating President Bio will not solve any economic issues but probably positive economic advice will help, based on economic qualifications or background. Let’s continue to pray for our President for saving lives and livelihoods during this trying time even for the greatest countries in the world, instead of engaging in negativity.

    • Your excuses for this government’s incompetence would carry some weight had this government not engaged in reckless and wasteful spending. They made an election campaign promise to fix the economy within six months in office. It is now going to three years and the economy is worse now than when they came to power. Blaming the worsening economy on the past administration is an admission of failure.

  4. Is the Economy stupid? Or the people entrusted to run it, can’t bring themselves to admit they lack the foresight, knowledge and the responsibility of how to govern a rich/poor country like Sierra Leone, and transform it to an oasis of land of plenty with equal opportunities for all. Where its citizens can finally say, I am proud of what my government is doing for my country. Surely if the late Ghanaian leader Jerry Rawlings can lay the foundation stones for Ghana’s development, we Sierra Leoneans must have that “MOSES” amongst us to lead us to the promise land.

    So far Bio have shown he lacks the leadership skills to deliver on the promises he made to us. What is needed in Sierra Leone is a combination of a Mandela mentality, one of forgiveness for your opponents and a Jerry Rawlings, no nonsense approach in tackling corruption and waste. Two personalities in one, if you like. Unfortunately for us, Bio is none of the above. In my estimation, he is someone that personified, a drill sergeant. He might have left the army, but the army never left him. He is finding it difficult to make that transition to civilian life. Clearly, his politics, and decision making process is out of sync with the way a country should be run.

    This so-called one direction government of president Bio, he couldn’t have picked better words to describe his government’s lack of commitment to lift our country out of the wretchedness and economic hardship facing us in Sierra Leone. The sheer pointlessness of some of the pet projects his government has so far undertaken, makes you wonder why our international partners like the IMF and other financial institutions, continue to dish out free money to Bio and his acolytes, who have clearly demonstrated they cannot even be trusted to organise a birthday party. Unfortunately, public sector workers are bearing the brunt of this government’s lack of foresight and misguided policies and lack the sense to think outside the box, about how to move our country forward. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  5. Sierra Leone’s economy is bad and it has been like this since the 80s. We have had the SLPP and APC changing the seat at state House. Yankuba Kai Samba, one time UK secretary General for the SLPP and at another time member of the APC, PMDC and now a strong NGC member wants us to vote for a neutral party. I hope he does not think that the NGC is the solution to Sierra Leone’s problem. The chairman Dr. Bright was Minister of Youth in the first SLPP government after the restoration of multi party election in 1996.

    By 2000, the Youth and Sport ministry received millions of dollars to rehabilitate the Youths. Unfortunately, there is nothing good to write about what he did in the combined Youth and Sport ministries that he headed. Andrew Kailie the second in command, was trusted with ensuring Freetown gets electricity, by president Kabba. Millions of dollars were paid to his company CEMMET to give Freetown electricity. The only thing that one can remember is that Freetown became the darkest city in the world. The money was not accounted for.

    So you see, Mr Kai-Samba the NGC that you are advocating for indirectly, has members that have graduated from the SLPP and APC with the same mentality.
    You are an NGC member because of your cousin Mr Andrew Kailie and not because of ideology right?

    • I ask you to withdraw your statement. I have never been a member of the APC or PMDC. It’s true that I supported Charles Margai to become president of Sierra Leone but I was not a member of his party. I officially registered with the NGC on 13 March 2018 at the party’s headquarters in Freetown. I challenge you to show that I was a member of APC or a supporter.

  6. Dear Yankuba Kai-Samba, I enjoyed reading your piece. The country is going no-where in economic development. The problem people like you have is how to improve the economic management of the country. The challenge you face is that the current governors of the country are not implementing any coherent programme that will help rapid economic development of the country. Their deepest obstacles are corruption and tribalism.

    In other words, even if there are some technically capable people in the governance team, they have little or no power or they are afraid to criticize the most powerful in the governance group, because they want to be Ministers and Governors within the system. So, in my view, the country will, for at least the next 50-60 years make very little progress in economic development, unless a radical change occurs in the governance system.

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